Preview: New York Cosmos host Carolina Railhawks

Sebastian Guenzatti Cosmos goal Minnesota United

As New York Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese is wont to say, Saturday’s encounter against the Carolina Railhawks “is another final.”

The Railhawks, of course, are the lone team in NASL to beat the Cosmos. Their week three encounter was a sound drubbing for New York as they left Cary, North Carolina with tales tucked firmly between their legs in a 3-0 blowout.

Much has changed since then.

“The group gelled more,” Savarese says of his side, currently on a seven game unbeaten streak. “We understand our responsibilities better on the field. Everybody pushes each other a little bit more because more guys want to step in and play. I just feel that the team is mature. Those are a few of the things we have done better, the team has done better, to be where we are now.”

The Railhawks will be fighting for their season. Carolina is currently in the middle of a four-team dog pile for second place, pitting Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Carolina and Fort Lauderdale at each others throats with 14 points. The Cosmos, meanwhile, can earn some separation with a victory. A win Saturday could set up the possibility for New York to clinch Soccer Bowl as early as next week.

Can they find redemption? Here are some things to look for:

PHYSICALITY

For anyone witnessing the NASL for the first time this season, you have come to learn just how physical it can get. The Cosmos, Railhawks encounter in week three was no different. New York suffered three ejections, including a first half ouster of Joseph “JoJo” Nane, a second half ejection of Sebastian Guenzatti in the game’s dying minutes and the ejection of assistant coach, Alecko Eskandarian.

With a chance at strengthening their Soccer Bowl aspirations and a driven Carolina side looking to stay alive, things may certainly get ugly at Shuart Stadium.

REDEMPTION ON THEIR MINDS

As we covered on EOS Friday afternoon, the Cosmos are out for a bit of redemption against Carolina.

“I don’t know if I’d say revenge but I definitely think everyone should have a chip on their shoulder because that was a pretty tough game down there,” goalkeeper Kyle Reynish said. “We were doing well, but to have things kind of go sideways as they did, we just couldn’t quite catch a break and everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong.

“Having them celebrate like they did, I think if that can’t get you excited or amped for a game to give it back to them a little bit at your home field I don’t know what does. If you can’t remember that feeling of walking off the field that night and how that felt and that can’t get you going, I don’t know what does.”

FILLING IN FOR GORSKIE

With Hunter Gorskie declared out for the season, the Cosmos will likely call on career left back Ayoze to fill his role. In limited time at the position this year, the Spanish veteran has shined. The emergence of Paulo Mendes will also soften the team’s blow in the creative midfield slot while Ayoze fulfills his defensive duties.

IS NOSELLI READY TO ROLL?

Speaking of starters filling in, the Cosmos best striking option, Alessandro Noselli, participated fully in training this week. Stefan Dimitrov has filled in his absence, but has been lackluster when it comes to finding the back of the net. A Noselli return will certainly buoy the Cosmos and their resurgent offense.

ATTENDANCE

This is a “watch for” that comes up regularly for this club. This time, it isn’t because there are other sports taking up the spotlight; it is because the Cosmos are the only game in town. The New York Red Bulls are on a bye-week, football is a day away, and the Islanders are at Nashville.

With everything to play for, there is no reason to expect a bump in attendance come Saturday evening.