The New York Cosmos got second half goals from Raul and Lucky Mkosana to complete a 3-2 comeback win over the visiting Carolina RailHawks before 5,257 fans at Shuart Stadium.
The Cosmos demonstrated strong play early and took control of the match in the opening minutes. This quickly paid off as Andres Flores scored a goal off a set piece in the second minute of the match. Flores’ shot went into the top corner of the net and beyond the reach of Carolina goalie Akira Fitzgerald. Raul earned an assist on the play.
New York dominated the first half for long stretches. They had possession for 57 percent of the time in the opening 45 minutes and were over 60 percent for much of the first half. The aggressive Cosmos offense was also forcing the RailHawks to commit numerous fouls that set up quality scoring chances for the home team.
A few defensive breakdowns in the first half led to a pair of Carolina goals by Nazmi Albadawi. Both tallies were set up by Tiyiselani Shipalane. The tying goal for Carolina came in the 23rd minute off a nice cross from inside the box by Shipalane while Albadawai’s second goal beat Cosmos goalie Brian Holt by hitting the top corner of the net.
“I think we started very well. We created about four clear chances. But we started to lack some things tactically. They created some gaps, they were making very good runs and opening up and they were good on the ball. Unfortunately, we made two mistakes and they converted and it was 2-1.”
But the Cosmos were able to regroup at halftime and once again controlled the tempo and pace of the game in the second half.
“We adjusted to some things,” Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We pressured the ball higher, moved faster and had better runs. In the second half, we were much better.”
“I know we’re never out of it,” Leo Fernandes said. “Even if we’re losing in the 80th minute, we know we can always score. Our fitness is important. Late in the game, we see other teams get tired and we get stronger.”
The Cosmos tied the match on a penalty kick by Raul in the 62nd minute. The shot went just inside the far post and out of the reach of Fitzgerald. The score was 2-2, but New York clearly had the momentum in their favor.
The game grew increasingly physical in the second half with Carolina receiving three yellow cards and a red card. Defender Daniel Scott was ejected in the 66th minute for a hard tackle on Cosmos forward Lucky Mkosana. That left Carolina with just 10 players on the field for the rest of the match.
Raul had another chance to score on a penalty kick in the 79th minute, when Leo Fernandes was taken down hard inside the box. Raul aimed for the same side of the net he had scored on earlier, but this time the ball hit the post.
In the 81st minute, coach Savarese made his first substitution, adding Haji Wright into the lineup. Wright served as a catalyst for the New York offense for the rest of the match.
Wright assisted on the game-winning goal by Mkosana in the 85th minute. His play set up Lucky who scored from close range on a play that Fitzgerald had no chance of stopping.
“He gave us exactly what we needed him to give us at the moment,” Savarese said when asked about Wright’s performance. “He used his speed and gave them something different. He was able to support Lucky (Mkosana) at the right moment. He assisted on the goal on a very good play, taking control, using his body and staying back. He is developing and he is growing.”
The RailHawks had one quality chance late in the match, but Holt, who was making his first appearance of the season for the Cosmos, covered a loose ball in the box to snuff out the scoring chance and preserve the three points for the Cosmos.
“We showed a lot of heart with the guys being able to work together and battle back in the second half,” Holt said.
With the win, New York improved to 5-4-1 (five wins, four draws and one loss) on the NASL’s Fall season and remained unbeaten at home in 2015. The Cosmos return to action on Saturday, September 5 when they visit to Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Both goalie Jimmy Maurer and defender Hunter Freeman were unavailable for the Cosmos due to slight tightness in their hamstrings.
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