CARY, N.C. – The Carolina RailHawks gained a valuable three points in the NASL Combined Standings when they defeated the New York Cosmos 5-4 in front of a jubilant crowd of 5,593 at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday.
Playing to a scoreless first half, both teams caught fire during the final half, and scored all nine goals combined in a span of 40 minutes.
“There was a never-say-die attitude about both teams and a lot of goals,” RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke said.
“Obviously we made it a lot harder than we should have – we weren’t good defending, but a great response after halftime. Three points – that’s the most important thing tonight.”
Devon Sandoval led the RailHawks with two goals, while Leo Osaki, Enzo Martinez and Zach Schilawski scored singles.
During the first 45 minutes of play, the Cosmos dominated play and presented twice as many attacks towards the goal as Carolina.
While striker Sandoval and midfielders Nazmi Albadawi and Ty Shipalane curled balls towards the goal and kept Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer busy, New York put forth the same effort at the other end towards Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald.
Following halftime, it didn’t take Carolina long to take advantage of an opportunity that Shipalane created from the right top side of the box that set the course for an explosive second half.
Shipalane made a pass inside the box to Sandoval who only needed to strike the ball and put it through Cosmos defender Carlos Mendes’ legs and past a diving Maurer to give Carolina a 1-0 lead in the 49th minute.
A minute later, the RailHawks threatened to push the lead to two goals when Martinez found himself all alone with only Maurer to beat.
However, the keeper got in front of the shot attempt and play continued on.
Then, following a hard foul to Martinez, Osaki curled a ball into the top-right corner on the ensuing free kick from 25 yards out and put Carolina ahead 2-0 in the 58th minute.
“It was two completely different halfs,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said.
“A first half that we did a very good job tactically not to give anything to Carolina. We closed the spaces very well and we were able to go forward and be dangerous. The second half, one little break on a throw-in and they capitalized on a shot of Sandoval that got deflected and ended up going inside the goal. Then it became difficult and we had to push a little bit more forward, and we entered into 10 to 15 minutes in which we got disorganized and Carolina capitalized on it.”
Leading 2-0, the RailHawks kept their offensive pressure on the Cosmos as Maurer was forced to make a spectacular hand save in mid-air on a ball that Sandoval had marked for the upper part of the goal.
New York then caught a break in the 64th minute when RailHawks defender Kwame Watson-Seriboe’s own-goal, via a header that went the wrong way, cut the Carolina lead to 2-1.
A minute later Martinez put in the rebound following Maurer’s save on a Sandoval shot that pushed the RailHawks lead back up to two goals.
Sandoval then was left all alone with time and space with a ball that Martinez got to him 30 yards out in the center-left area with only Maurer to beat.
He pushed the ball to the left past the sprawling keeper, and finished the play with a shot from just inside the top of the box to extend Carolina’s lead further to 4-1 in the 67th minute.
“During the first half, I felt like we couldn’t get out of our half,” Sandoval said.
“I had that one chance which I should have put away, but other than that, we were stuck in our side the whole first half. Second half I thought we came out with a lot of energy, ready to work, and it turned out good.”
A Cosmos corner kick soon after found Jimmy Ockford alone to put the ball into the back of the goal and cut the RailHawks lead back down to two goals, 4-2.
Schilawski then scored the eventual game-winner in the 78th minute in spectacular fashion on a set-up pass from Shipalane.
The striker received the ball inside the box and as he controlled it, pivoted, and in the same motion unleashed a left-footed boot that curled into the top-left corner past an unsuspecting Maurer.
The goal gave Carolina a 5-2 lead and looked to seal the victory, but the Cosmos weren’t finished as Mads Stolkelien (80th minute) and Stefan Dimitrov (89th minute) each scored and brought the score back to within a goal with four minutes of extra time allotted and remaining to play.
Having ended with a tie during the final minute of play in Ottawa two weeks ago, the RailHawks’ key to success according to Clarke came down to maintaining ball possession until the final whistle blast sounded to secure the victory.
“Tonight, when we got into that situation late, with a little bit more experience from Ottawa, and more experience on the field with Schilawski, (Austin) da Luz, and (Nacho) Novo who came on, we kept the ball, we took it into the corners, we killed the game off,” Clarke said.
CAR: GK: Fitzgerald, D: Low, Watson-Siriboe, Scott, Graye; M: Shipalane (da Luz, 79th), Marques-Davidson, Osak (Shlawski, 67th),Martinez (Novo, 89th), Albadawi; F: Sandoval
NYC: GK: Maurer; D: Lade, Ockford, Mendes, Freeman; M: Gorskie (Johnson, 72nd), Nane, Mwanga, Murphy (Senna, 61st), Guenzatti (Dimitrov, 79th); F: Stokkelien
GOALS: CAR: Sandoval (Unassisted) – 49th; Osaki (Unassisted) -58th ; Martinez (Unassisted) – 65th ; Sandoval (Martinez) – 67th; Schilawski (Shipalane) – 78th; NYC: Watson-Siriboe (OG) – 64th; Ockford -69th; Stokkelien – 80th; Dimitrov – 89th
CAUTIONS: CAR: Albadawi – 36th ; NYC: Freeman – 61st
EJECTIONS: CAR: –; NYC: —