CARY, N.C. – The New York Cosmos organization is back in the North American Soccer League (NASL), and the famed club traveled to Raleigh, N.C. for its first-ever matchup against the Carolina RailHawks at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday.
The club that began play back in 1971 and possesses five Soccer Bowl trophies captured with the likes of famed world-class players like Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carls Alberto, went dormant for 28 years before returning to play in the same league that it helped put American soccer on the map with decades ago.
The RailHawks hosted the resurrected Cosmos who both came into the game with identical 1-1-0 records as heavy rain came down in front of 4,096 soggy, diehard fans in attendance.
The pace of play increased quickly from the opening touch as each squad sought to establish its defense early on which kept play in the midfield area during the opening minutes of play.
The RailHawks managed to strike first as Ty Shipalane claimed the ball at the midfield area in the Cosmos half of the field and became a threat as he approached the 18-yard box.
With pressure coming, Shipalane pushed the ball forward to Zack Schilawski who almost lost possession as New York keeper Kyle Renish rushed towards him towards the right side, but the RailHawks forward shifted and managed to cross it to a wide-open Brian Shriver.
Shriver one-touched the pass and scored in the 8th minute of play with a shot high into the center of the goal past the lone defender in front of him.
While the rain and pace of play maintained its high tempo throughout the first half, so did the rate of collisions and tackles which eventually resulted in a game that was prolonged with numerous whistles, warnings and 43 total foul calls made.
Beginning in the 24th minute of play, both teams proceeded to put referee Mark Kadlecik to work as he kept busy reaching for his cards and notebook to record bookings throughout the remainder of the game.
In the midst of closely contested play and tensions rising amongst players due to continued stoppages, Shriver managed to tally another goal, unassisted, and put Carolina ahead 2-0 in the 28th minute of play.
Seven yellow cards and two reds and ejections later, one each to the RailHawks’ Austin Da Luz and Cosmos’ Joseph Nane, the RailHawks carried a two-goal advantage into the locker room at halftime.
As both teams returned to the field for the final 45 minutes of play, the rain had subsided and the Cosmos had work to do after playing an opening half in which they held the upper hand in ball possession and missed opportunities on five corner kicks while placing only 1-of-5 shots on goal.
New York continued to dominate play for the remainder of the game, but could not finish on its chances (5 corners, 8 shots on goal) to get any closer to the RailHawks as they extended their home unbeaten streak to 11 games (10-1-0) while keeper Akira Fitzgerald earned his second consecutive shutout of the young Fall Season.
“There were situations that allowed the game to change, and unfortunately our two mistakes put us in difficulty in the first half, “Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said.
“Second half, we completely dominated the game, and we had to put away some of the opportunities we had and we could’ve been back into the game. Overall, the team that knew how to capitalize on the opportunities ended up winning.”
Capitalize on its opportunities is exactly what made the difference for Carolina as it finished the game placing a modest total of five shots on goal, but tallied the markers needed to vault into sole possession of first place.
Still pressing with a two-goal lead while the final minutes of the game counted down, RailHawks midfielder Enzo Martinez was aggressively tackled inside the box and provided an opportunity for teammate Brian Ackley to finish the game’s scoring.
Ackley didn’t miss as he placed a penalty kick ball high into the right corner of the goal and to the opposite side of a diving Reynish in the 89th minute of play.
“New York probably had the more shots and more possession, but we took our chances,” said RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke.
“For me, that was our biggest weakness in the Spring and something we have worked on a great deal. I am pleased with the performance tonight.”