CARY, N.C. – It was a fast-paced start to the match between the Carolina RailHawks and New York Cosmos at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday.
However, by the end of it, New York earned a convincing 3-1 victory over an injury-depleted RailHawks squad in front of 5,129 in attendance.
Though Carolina’s Daniel Scott scored his first goal of the season, it wasn’t enough as Leo Fernandes, Lucky Mkosana, and Adam Moffat powered the offense for New York that made the difference during an 11-minute span of play in the second half.
RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald made six stops, but Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer was equal to the task in making seven saves.
The final result continued the trend that each squad was following entering the match as Carolina extended its current winless slide to five games, while New York pushed its unbeaten stretch to six games, and tightened its grasp on first place in the NASL Combined standings.
“We’re in a tough spot right now,” RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke said.
“Goals change games. You look at the game, when we’re up – full of confidence, great passing, moving – great first half. Come out second half, we concede one, we go a little flat.”
Ty Shipalane energized the Carolina offense early with a point-blank shot on goal from the right side in the 12th minute, but put it square on Maurer.
A few minutes later Austin Da Luz tried the same tact from the other post, but Maurer made another exceptional stop.
Transferring the momentum from its defense to its offense, Raul was denied an opportunity to open the game’s scoring for New York as Fitzgerald made a big stop.
Hunter Freeman’s volley nearly made it in soon after, but was placed off-target and the Cosmos remained of the score sheet.
Scott then redirected the ball with a header on a corner kick from Shipalane, and gave the RailHawks the game’s first lead in the 16th minute.
The Cosmos didn’t waiver and soon set on the attack, but Fitzerald made successive diving saves to keep Carolina ahead 1-0.
New York continued to apply pressure in and around the Carolina box, and it was Fitzgerald who made yet another stop on Freeman.
After making successive crosses through the box at the other end, the RailHawks then earned a free kick from 20 yards out, but couldn’t finish with a quality shot on goal.
Moffat challenged Fitzgerald in the 38th minute with a piercing, low shot from just outside the top of the box, but the RailHawks keeper made his fifth save of the half and maintained the RailHawks’ lead.
Just before the end of the half, Shipalane was tripped up, but play continued on as the midfielder writhed in pain with no foul called on the play.
Though Shipalane was able to proceed to the locker room while Carolina led 1-0 at halftime, he did not return to begin the second half as Tyler Engel was subbed into the game in his place.
New York went to work quickly in the second half and evened the score 1-1 when Freeman crossed the ball into RailHawks crease area.
Fernandes nudged the loose ball into the goal past Fitzgerald in the 46th minute while a flustered Carolina backline tried to comprehend what had happened.
“Tough way to come out of the half,” defender Conor Tobin said afterwards.
“We gave up a soft one and where we’re at right now, you know, things are obviously not going well. A soft goal like that, you can feel the wind go out of our sails, and that’s something we’re battling through right now.”
The RailHawks tried to reestablish their lead soon afterwards as forward Nacho Novo threatened with possession in the Cosmos box, but placed his shot from 15 yards out over the crossbar.
Soon after however, Mkosana didn’t miss on a redirect in close, and gave the Cosmos their first lead in the 54th minute.
After Fitzgerald made successive diving saves on Fernandes and Flores, Moffat threaded the ball through the crowded crease to put New York further ahead 3-1 in the 57th minute.
“We won a match that was well deserved,” Cosmos head coach Gio Savarese said.
“I thought that the first half was pretty even – both teams had chances. As usual, it’s always a difficult game here. The second half, we adjusted some things and it ended up working out. I think we moved the ball a lot faster, and we were able to break the lines of pressure in a much better way.”
At the other end of the field, Maurer kept Carolina’s attack in check as he stopped each Carolina shot on goal, including Novo’s attempt from the top of the box in the 68th minute.
The RailHawks maintained their pressure on Maurer, but another Novo shot hit the left post and kept the New York lead at two goals into the 73rd minute of play.
Numerous fouls and injuries resulted in a number of subsequent substitutions for Carolina which changed the makeup of the team’s on-field personnel during the second half.
It made a difference.
“There’s no question Ty Shipalane is an important player,” Savarese said.
“Not having that player in the second half for Carolina, it hurt them. He’s very fast – he creates a lot of dangerous situations. For us, it was a good thing that he wasn’t on the field in the second half, but I think, even if he was on the field, the game plan with the way the guys performed the way they did in the second half, we played very well.”
It went that way until the final whistle, as the Cosmos earned their first victory in five trips to North Carolina.
“Very disappointing result,” Clarke said.
“First half, I thought we were very, very good. I thought we had some better chances to be one ahead. Second half, conceded bad goals, bad mistakes, individually and as a group…We’re havin’ a tough run right now, and the only way to get out of it is to work hard as a group, as coaches, and try to fight our way out of the run we’re in.”
CAR: Fitzgerald; Low (Coleman 74th), Danso, Scott, Tobin; Nurse, Hlavaty (Dell, 67th); da Luz, Albadawi, Shipalane (Engel, 45th); Novo
NYC: Maurer; Freeman, Caceres, Evuy, Garcia; Moffat; Fernandes, Flores, Restrepo (Szetela, 90th); Mkosana (Bover, 85th), Raul
GOALS: CAR: Scott, 16th (Shipalane); NYC: Fernandes, 46th (Unassisted); Mkosana, 54th (Freeman); Moffat 57th (Flores)
CAUTIONS: CAR: Scott (28th); NYC: Freeman (44th)
EJECTIONS: CAR: –; NYC: —