Preview: New York Cosmos at Carolina Railhawks

IMAGE, NASL.COM

Last season, the Carolina Railhawks dealt the New York Cosmos their first defeat of the “reboot” era — and it wasn’t even close. A rain-soaked Cary Stadium saw the homeside derail a frustrated and bewildered Cosmos team 3-0.

The Cosmos would have their vengeance later in the season, dealing Carolina a 4-0 drubbing at home.

Still, that loss certainly stuck with New York, and the memory becomes more relevant this week after a disappointing result against San Antonio.

The Cosmos clearly held the better of play against the Scorpions, but could not find a finish despite handling the ball for 57% of the match while out-shooting their opponents nearly six fold.

The Railhawks are also coming off of a loss, but theirs was of the crushing variety. Expansion side Ottawa Fury took a 4-0 victory at home against Carolina.

However, it is worth noting that the Railhawks routed the Strikers at home a week prior by the score of 4-1. That victory extended a 17-game home unbeaten streak.

Carolina’s attack is fully focused on two players; Zack Schilawski at forward and attacking midfielder Enzo Martinez. Both players are responsible for the only goals scored this season.

The rest of their lineup is based on two blocks of four in a modified 4-4-1-1 style system. Longtime Railhawk Kupono Low anchors the backline alongside Connor Tobin, Daniel Scott and Jordan Burt, protecting keeper Akira Fitzgerald. Well traveled defender Toni Stahl has also garnered minutes with the club on defense.

Meanwhile, the midfield continues to mold an identity, with former Whitecap Jun Davidson the only constant in the XI.

Here are some things to look for in Saturday’s encounter:

A CHANGE UP TOP?

The Cosmos earned over a dozen crosses into the box, with nary a forward to put in otherwise quality service.

Mads Stokkelien looked as active as ever, and should have the starting spot come this weekend, but who will line up at his side? While a favorite of the technical staff, Stefan Dimitrov contributed little at forward, as did Alessandro Noselli, who seems more apt to come off the bench and make an impact than as a starter.

How will Savarese close the gap?

PLAYING IT SAFE

New York are known as a team that looks to keep consistent pressure. The Railhawks are known as a team that is difficult to beat at home.

Who blinks first in this battle? That may very well be decided in the tactical stance of either side.

The Cosmos have had plenty of success with the pairing of Marcos Senna and Danny Szetela in the midfield. However, they could use another biting force to add some physicality to the away fixture. This can open the doors for Joseph Nane to re-enter the starting XI.

A more physical tone to the midfield can also mean a change in formation. We have already seen the Cosmos resort to a standard 4-4-2 at points this season. If Carolina proves to be as unbreakable as they have been at home, perhaps a 4-5-1 wouldn’t be out of the question, with a triangle of the three players acting as a buffer to the backline.

The idea, of course, is containing Martinez and Schilawski long enough to employ their ground game and break the home team’s stance. Whether they can make that happen depends on their tactical outlook this weekend.

CONFIDENCE

It would be unwise to assume Saturday’s loss won’t have some kind of lingering effect on the Cosmos. After all, they threw everything at the Scorpions, and came up empty.

As defender Jimmy Ockford noted in his weekly blog on EOS, the team’s spirits are high this week despite the loss, encouraged by their overall performance rather than the team’s shortcomings. Nevertheless, negativity has a way of spreading, and any sign of it can tank the Cosmos’ efforts against a strong home side.