Cosmos Move Up Standings with Win in North Carolina

Juan Guerra battles North Carolina FC Captain Captain Nazmia Albadawi. Image, Rob Kinnan.

By JAKE NUTTING

The New York Cosmos (4-1-4) held on to capture a 1-0 result over North Carolina FC (4-4-2) on Sunday, securing their third road win of the season and moving from fifth to a tie for second with the Jacksonville Armada in the Spring Season standings in the process.

Scorching afternoon heat for a 4 p.m. kickoff at Sahlen’s Stadium didn’t impede the Cosmos from starting with a higher tempo compared to a North Carolina team that was playing its third match in eight days.

Making only his second start of the year up top, Irvin Herrera nearly put the Cosmos up in the first minute of play. A giveaway by North Carolina caused the ball to fall in awkward spot for keeper Bryan Sylvestre, who came off his line punch the threat away only to be beat in the air by Herrera. However, Herrera’s attempt had little force behind it as it deflected off his shoulder and sailed toward the net slowly enough for Christian Ibeagha to calmly trap it off the line and clear.

The match had an extended delay shortly after the 20-minute mark when North Carolina’s Lance Laing took a knock to the head, though it was Cosmos Coach Giovanni Savarese that ended up going to his bench when the stop was over. Spaniard Javi Marquez exited the match with an apparent injury and Danny Szetela was inserted into the midfield, which did not miss a beat following the change.

A flurry of activity for the Cosmos early in the second half culminated with them grabbing the lead. Sylvestre answered the call on New York’s first two chances of the half, denying a one-timed strike by Ayoze on the left post in the 50th minute and then smothering a shot from Herrera on the opposite side of the box a minute later.

North Carolina’s keeper came through with another stop on New York’s next charge down the field seconds later when he extended to his right to thwart Andres Flores’ attempt from outside the box, but the Cosmos kept working to earn another chance. Sylvestre’s save bounced along the endline, where Ayoze collected it and crossed to Walter Restrepo. While North Carolina’s defense was standing around, Restrepo chipped the ball to an unmarked Juan Guerra, who chested the ball down before smashing it through Sylvestre’s legs for his second goal of the year.

New York’s goal opened up the match as North Carolina’s urgency picked up and it began to find more space in the offensive third. North Carolina produced five shots after going down, but Matt Fondy’s effort from the edge of the box that flew comfortably into the arms of Brian Holt in the center of the goal was the only one the home team could wrangle on net.

Nazmi Albadawi put a scare in New York’s defense with a rifle that glanced off the right post as the match neared the 80th minute, but North Carolina’s captain had an uncharacteristically quite match thanks to the work of the Cosmos. Albadawi completed 33 of his 39 pass attempts, though he failed to create any scoring chances.

New York looked to eat up as many minutes as it could to ride out the win, leading to Holt and Flores receiving yellow cards for time wasting and the team’s fitness coach Luis Gutierrez being ejected after getting into an argument with referee Younes Marrakchi from the sideline as Ayoze was down on the field close to stoppage time.

The win sets up an opportunity for the Cosmos to make up serious ground on first-place Miami as they prepare for two home matches this week. With five points separating them from Miami currently, the Cosmos could finish the week nipping at the front-runner’s heels if they can win at home against Edmonton this Wednesday and then North Carolina next Sunday.