BY J. MIKE BLAKE – News Observer

For the next two Saturdays, the Carolina RailHawks will have a chance to claim the first championship in the young franchise’s history.

The RailHawks, who advanced to the USSF D2 Pro League championship finals against the Puerto Rico Islanders with Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact, have struggled to carve a niche in the Triangle sports scene.

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RailHawks coach Martin Rennie, who has had a say in personnel decisions that have dramatically improved the team the last two years, hopes this can serve as a turning point.

«One of the things I love about when you get to championships is what it does for people in the community, how much they get connected and excited about it,» Rennie said.

The RailHawks ended the regular season by going 4-1-1 to claim the NASL Conference crown and the second seed in the playoffs. They have carried that momentum into the playoffs.

The Islanders are the No. 8 seed, the final team in the playoffs. But their strong play in the CONCACAF Champions League is well-noted, especially after a crushing 4-1 win in July over the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS.

The RailHawks and Islanders met four times in the regular season, with Carolina getting the upper hand and going 3-1-0.

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