North Carolina Scores Late in Cosmos Third Straight Draw

Andres Flores attempts to close down North Carolina's Lance Laing. Flores kicked of New York's rally with a goal near the hour mark. Photograph by Rob Kinnan/North Carolina FC

Cosmos logoAn impressive rally in the second half of Saturday’s bout against North Carolina FC (1-1-4, 7 points Fall; 7-8-7, 28 points Combined) had the New York Cosmos (1-1-3, 6 Fall, 7-5-9, 30 Combined) a few minutes away from their first win since July. Instead, a lapse in marking the 90th minute left them with their third straight draw and little breathing room in the NASL’s Combined Standings.

Despite holding an edge in possession in the opening half, New York’s attack was nonexistent. They attempted zero shots in the first 45 minutes at Sahlen’s Stadium. Pablo Vranjican had the only glimpse at goal in the 33rd minute when he set his sights on a bouncing ball in the center of the box, but defender Christian Ibeagha timed his tackle well to disrupt the forward.

The hosts did a better job of developing a rhythm moving the ball into the attacking third, though the final touch eluded them. Tiyi Shipalane had a shot in the seventh minute sail wide of the far post, while Lance Laing let a sitter in front of goal roll by his foot moments before the break.

North Carolina put it all together in the first minute out of the break, though. Captain Nazmi Albadawi was the one to take charge, initiating the chance with a pass to Andre Fortune under pressure on the left flank and then receiving the return pass before sending an assured strike into the back of the net.

Albadawi’s go-ahead goal emboldened North Carolina to keep the Cosmos pinned down with a high press, but keeper Jimmy Maurer kept the home side from adding to their lead with two critical saves.

Maurer first put himself in a tough spot in the 54th minute with an abysmal giveaway straight to Fortune inside New York’s defensive third. The veteran made up for his mistake, though, by stretching to his left to deny Fortune’s long-range blast. Only a minute later, Maurer was forced into a kick-save to stop a powerful one-timed shot by Steven Miller.

Four minutes after Maurer’s back-to-back saves, Ayoze and Andrés Flores combined brilliantly to level the match. Staring at a crowd of defenders outside of the box, Ayoze chipped the ball just over their heads for Flores to run onto and power past keeper Bryan Sylvestre.

Substitute Eugene Starikov then helped the Cosmos pull ahead on a bizarre sequence in the 71st minute. North Carolina’s Connor Tobin initially appeared to have killed off a charge from Starikov, but the defender was too casual about clearing the ball out from the edge of the box, giving Starikov time to get back up on his feet and strip Tobin from behind. Tobin went to ground hoping for a whistle that never came and Starikov calmly deposited the ball into the bottom right corner.

Starikov’s tally appeared to take some fight out of North Carolina. In the 90th minute, though, Albadawi acted as the spark with another penetrative run down the left side to rescue a point. Albadawi did all the heavy lifting, running through defenders to get inside the box before having his shot blocked by Maurer. Waiting to clean up the rebound at the back post was Renan Gorne, who Cosmos players protested was offside. Referee Bardhyl Pashaj was unconvinced and the goal stood.

New York had one more shot on goal in five minutes of stoppage time as Ayoze rifled a free kick right into the arms of Sylvestre.

The draw leaves the Cosmos fourth in the Fall Season standings and third on the combined table. The Jacksonville Armada and North Carolina are no longer far off in the combined race as they stand just one and two points back after tonight’s action. Jacksonville travels to New York next Sunday to face the Cosmos at MCU Park.