In the end, the club from New York, New York left Cary, NC with little town blues, suffering a 3-0 defeat from the RailHawks. It’s the first loss this season by a Cosmos franchise trying to make a brand new start of it; it’s the first competitive loss by a New York Cosmos team since September 15, 1984.
The unexpected star of this show, however, was referee Mark Kadlecik. Like a singer loosening up his pipes, Kadlecik set the tone just two minutes into the match when he demonstrably admonished RailHawks manager Colin Clarke for dissent. By the time the first half was completed, Kadlecik had shown seven yellow cards and sent off two players, New York’s Joseph Nane in the 44th minute and Carolina’s Austin da Luz in the 45th.
The second booking of da Luz, the RailHawks’ team captain, was particularly galling as it came during stoppage time after a hard challenge committed in the Cosmos’ backfield with Carolina holding a two-goal lead and a man advantage.
“There’s no excuse,” Clarke said. “You've got to be smart. We’re up a man with two minutes to go to halftime. Go down to the other side of the field, just get out of the way, don’t put yourself in that position. Do not give the referee any opportunity to pull out his red card.”
Meanwhile, Carolina’s two-goal lead was initiated in the 8th minute. Ty Shipalane, returning to the RailHawks’ starting lineup for the first time since June 16, keyed a break by driving through the Cosmos’ defense before playing a nicely weighted through ball ahead to Zack Schilawski. Recovering from a heavy touch, Schilawski then centered the ball to Brian Shriver, who converted the put-away.
Shriver struck again in the 28th minute, intercepting a wayward Cosmos back pass before rounding New York goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and depositing into the open goal for a 2-0 advantage the RailHawks took into halftime.
After intermission, the match settled into a back-and-forth dance, a surprising turn since games between teams down to 10 men each tend to become wide open affairs. However, the players appeared gun shy from the deluge of fouls and bookings.
The Cosmos squandered a number of promising opportunities, including a 20-yard free kick that Marcos Senna sailed over goal. The lone second-half score occurred after Cosmos defender Hunter Gorskie tripped Cesar Elizondo in the box, drawing a penalty. Second-half sub Brian Ackley hammered home the PK to account for the final score … but not before Kadlecik sent New York’s Sebastian Guenzatti off a few minutes later with a straight red card for a reckless tackle that left Elizondo (temporarily) twitching on the turf like Apollo Creed after getting knocked out by Ivan Drago. And for good measure, the referee also dismissed Cosmos’ assistant coach Alecko Eskandarian for his remonstrance.
Cosmos manager Giovanni Savarese declined to comment on the officiating, but Clarke had no such qualms.
“It was disappointing that [the referee] had to have such a factor on the game, because it wasn’t that type of game," Clarke observed. "He needed to do a better job of reffing.”
The match was a bit of role reversal for the RailHawks, which has made a habit this year of dominating games statistically without converting their copious chances into goals. Tonight, the Cosmos held 59 percent possession, outshot Carolina 11-5, and earned 10 corner kicks to zero for the RailHawks.
However, it was Carolina that netted three goals and goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald who earned his second consecutive home clean sheet. Shriver’s brace gives him a league-leading 11 goals this year.
“We took our chances, something that we’ve talked about from the Spring season to this season,” Clarke said. “We were creating them but not taking them, and that probably cost us the Spring Season title. But tonight, there can be no arguments. We knew we’d create chances, and we got the first goal, which is always big.”
“It was a game in which the team that knew how to capitalize on opportunities ended up winning,” Savarese said. “There were little situations that allowed the game to change, and unfortunately our two mistakes put us in difficulty in the first half.”
The win keeps the RailHawks as A-number-one, top of the list in the NASL Fall Season standings. In the meantime, start spreading the news: Carolina returns to action next Saturday, August 24 when it hosts Minnesota United FC.