Peter Koutroumpis – email@example.com
CARY, N.C. – It was a defining moment for the Carolina RailHawks according to head coach Colin Clarke.
It wasn’t as much winning the game by a one-goal margin against a tough opponent that was impressive, but the fact that Carolina defended its lead and finished the game down two men as a result of a foul-marred second half.
“They showed a lot of character and fight and heart,” Clarke said of his squad.
“It was great to see.”
While the victory continued the the RailHawks’ (2-1-1, 7 points) dominance at home, extending their current unbeaten streak to 18 games, the win ended the Cosmos’ (2-0-2, 6 points) six-game unbeaten streak on the road and gave Carolina a 2-1 edge in the two team’s all-time series.
RailHawks midfielder Ty Shipalane scored his first goal of the season in the 12th minute of play that ended up being the eventual game-winner.
“I think one thing that maybe that people have always questioned about this team is, do they have character?,” Clarke stated.
“We want to play and we like to pass the ball and move it, but what are we gonna’ be like when our backs are against the wall? I think we showed tonight that we’re very resilient, very tough.”
The Cosmos’ aggressive offensive play during the first ten minutes tested Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald early and often.
He eventually earned his first shutout of the season in stopping all six shots on goal, but saw 16 others sail in and around his goal throughout the game.
It was quite simply a one-sided affair in which New York outchanced Carolina with a 69-percent possession game, but couldn’t finish against a tenacious defensive effort put forth by the home club.
”I think there was one team on the pitch,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said of his team’s dominant effort.
“We just couldn’t finish. We couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. We needed to be better in our decision-making inside the box. At the end, Carolina ended up winning a game that when we got the right call I thought would be a little difficult (if) we were able to find ourselves on top, but we couldn’t finish the opportunity that we had.”
After a Cosmos direct kick opportunity just outside the 18 was denied by the RailHawks during the 10th minute, it was soon followed by a threatening corner to Fitzgerald’s left.
However, another strong defensive stand by Carolina’s back four of Toni Stahl, Kupono Low, Daniel Scott, and Connor Tobin allowed Cesar Elizondo to make a key defensive play soon after.
Elizondo turned the ball over, stripping it from a Cosmos midfielder, and dribbled it 25 yards before he passed the center line, looked up to beat another defender before advancing another 20 yards and passing to Shipalane.
Shipalane’s first shot attempt bounced off challenging Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, but as the ball floated in the air the RailHawks forward volleyed it into the back of the net to put the RailHawks ahead 1-0.
The goal changed the game’s momentum for a time as Carolina then continued to hover around the Cosmos goal for the next three minutes.
Shipalane almost scored his second of the game as he got free inside the box and drew a high shot, right to left, that hit the crossbar.
While avoiding another goal against, the Cosmos then proceeded to fend off the Railhawks offensive surge and countered with a systematic progression that it continued for the remainder of the game.
Play continued with rushes from both ends of the field as each team presented aggressive offensive and defensive alignments accordingly.
Fitzgerald continued to be active and made a diving grab on Jemal Johnson’s 10-yarder from inside the right edge of box in the 29th minute that maintained Carolina’s one-goal lead.
While the RailHawks continued to counter the Cosmos’ offensive sequences, they eventually couldn’t further capitalize on quick transitions to push past a dynamic and durable New York back line.
It was an adjustment that Savarese noted was made with that sole intent in mind while New York increased its pressure to tie the game, still trailing Carolina 1-0 at halftime.
As the Cosmos continued to make advances towards Fitzgerald and the Carolina goal throughout the second half, the up-tempo and physical play from both teams led to numerous foul calls made that ended up with referee Jorge Gonzalez flashing numerous yellow and red cards.
By the end of the game Carolina had accrued two red cards assessed to Tobin (63’) and Low (68’) as a result of double-yellows administered previously, while the Cosmos received a red to Sebastian Guenzatti (56’).
The Cosmos forward was removed from the game for punching Low after the two battled for the ball and position near the midfield line on the Carolina side of the field early in the second half.
The RailHawks’ one-man advantage at the time eventually disappeared and turned against them following the red cards given to Tobin and Low.
New York dominated play for the remainder of the game still trying to even the score and having the extra attacker to do so.
Clarke continued to make substitutions to a depleted lineup that was being broken down as the game played on.
With all eyes on the pitch wondering when the final whistle blast would come, Carolina’s Uriah Bentick was hurt and writhing at midfield, putting Carolina down one more defender as New York continued its attempts to beat Fitzgerald which were made to no avail.
The Carolina keeper made yet another save with more injury time added as Bentick was carried off to the locker room, and the RailHawks’ remaining eight players made the final defensive stand that ended the game with the victory.
The critical win moved Carolina past New York into third place in the NASL standings.
“We just had to keep focus,” Shipalane said.
“Whatever the ref does, that’s his job. We have no control over that. We control what we can, and that was us making sure we get the three points today.”
CAR: GK Fitzgerald, D Low, D Stahl, D Scott, D Tobin, M Elizondo (Bentick, 70), M Millington, M Davidson, M Shipalane (Martinez, 83), F Grella (Burt, 65), F Schilawski;
NYC: GK Maurer, D Ayoze (Diaz, 75), D Roversio, D Mendes, D Freeman, M Nane (Dimitrov, 78), M Szetela, M Guenzatti, M Senna (P.Mendes, 46), M Johnson, F Stokkelein
GOALS – CAR: Shipalane; 12; NYC:
CAUTIONS – CAR: Tobin, 7, 63; Low, 56, 68; Millington, 53; NYC: Ayoze, 38; Szetela, 48;
EJECTIONS – CAR: Tobin, 63; Low, 68; NYC: Guenzatti, 56;