Both the Carolina RailHawks and New York Cosmos had something to play for Saturday night. The RailHawks needed a win to remain a serious contender in the NASL playoff race and the spring champion Cosmos needed a point to keep their hold atop the combined standings.
After the RailHawks netted the first goal of the night to match a solid opening 45 minutes, things were looking positive for them. However, another second half collapse was in the books for Carolina after New York scored three goals in the first 11 minutes after the halftime break, giving them a 3-1 lead that would hold for the rest of the match.
Left unmarked on a corner kick, Daniel Scott recorded his first goal of the year for Carolina (5-7-7, W-D-L), heading a Tiyi Shipalane cross into the bottom left corner in the 16th minute.
The Cosmos (9-8-1, W-D-L) came out of the dressing rooms with all the momentum, scoring in less than a minute.
Hunter Freeman opened up the offensive barrage with a cross that skipped around the six-yard box before Leo Fernandes was able to poke the goal in past a defenseless Akira Fitzgerald.
“We conceded bad goals as individuals, and as a team,” RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said. “Goals change games; we concede one and we go flat.”
Nine minutes later, the Cosmos again as Fernandes’ cross found the right boot of Lucky Mkosana on the one-timer finish.
“We lost our confidence and we lost our belief,” Clarke said.
Things continued to get out of hand, with Adam Moffat’s goal in the 56th minute coming after two consecutive saves from Fitzgerald, tripling the Cosmo lead.
“The second half we adjusted some things that ended up working out,” Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said.” We moved the ball faster, broke their lines of pressure, and had more guys running to the box to get the end of crosses.”
Nacho Novo was the lone bright spot of the second half, repeatedly challenging Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, but ultimately failing to narrow the deficit.
Shipalane was unable to return after being the victim of a dirty slide tackle in the 45th minute, completely slowing down the RailHawks’ attack in the second half.
“I think Shipalane is a very important player,” Savarese said. “He’s very fast and creates dangerous situations. It was our advantage to not have him on the field”
They said it
“It wasn’t one side of the ball, not offensively or defensively … we have to work harder, something we’ve all talked about,” RailHawks captain Connor Tobin said. “It’s something we have to put into action … we’ve got to get 11 guys on the field who, regardless of ability, are willing to work for each other.”
Three who mattered
Akira Fitzgerald, Carolina: Despite letting up three goals for the third week in a row, Fitzgerald was a stud in goal, making a plethora of acrobatic saves to keep the scoreline from becoming disastrous.
Adam Moffat, New York: Moffat controlled the midfield offensively and defensively for the full 90 minutes. His goal in the 56th minute put the nail in the coffin for the Cosmos, giving them a two goal gap.
Jimmy Maurer, New York: Maurer routinely shut out Novo from getting anything past the goal line.
▪ Shipalane’s role as a playmaker might be hard to fill for the RailHawks. His five assists lead the team, with no other player amassing more than two.
“The referees did not give (Shipalane) protection,” Clarke said. “He had four or five (fouls) on him in the first half.”
▪ Last night was New York’s first-ever win at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Cosmos came into the night (0-1-3, W-D-L) all-time in Cary.
The comeback was an unlikely one for New York, who were (0-4-1, W-D-L) when conceding first this year.
▪ UNC graduate Tyler Engel made his RailHawks debut tonight, coming at at halftime.