Six goals, a pair of braces, and first place is what the Cosmos wound up with after coming back from an early deficit against the Carolina RailHawks to score six unanswered goals, set a new Cosmos record for goals in a Modern Era match, and take the top spot in the NASL table.
The Cosmos approached the match with a few surprises. The now-familiar duo of Carlos Mendes and Hunter Freeman were back in action while Danny Szetela remained in the holding mid spot with Adam Moffat still suspended. Lucky Mkosana was on the bench as Ruben Bover and Sebastian Guenzatti took the wings and Jairo Arrieta stayed up top.
Akira Fitzgerald was back in the net for Carolina. Matt Fondy started up top but was paired with Brian Shriver instead of Mexican threat Omar Bravo. Tiyi Shipalane was also on the bench to start the match, neutralizing two of the most dangerous options on the Carolina roster from the beginning.
The match started off in favor of the RailHawks as Andres Flores was stripped of a ball in the midfield by Nazmi Albadawi who spotted Matt Fondy wide open in the middle and kept on by Mendes. His pass to Fondy led to a short run by the forward who fired a shot between Maurer’s legs, resulting in his team-leading sixth goal and Albadawi’s league-leading eighth assist.
The lead would not last long. In the eighth minute, Bover crossed a ball into the box finding Arrieta. Arrieta passed to Andres Flores, under pressure outside the six yard box. Flores sent it back to Arango at the top of the penalty box whose high shot beat Fitzgerald and tied up the game.
A pair of disallowed goals would follow. First, Brian Shriver’s strike was called off in the 15th minute, declared offsides. Next would be an Arrieta goal as the Costa Rican nodded on an Arango free kick, but was also called offsides. Both keepers were tested across the remainder of the half as defending seemed to be an option unused by both sides. The visitors missed a golden opportunity in the 42nd when a ball to a wide-open Fondy in front of a wide-open net didn’t connect.
Carolina decided to push, making a halftime substitution for Shipalane, pulling defender Paul Black.
However, the Cosmos would find the net again in the 57th minute. Sebastian Guenzatti penetrated deep into the left side of the box, was able to lose his defender and fired a shot that Fitzgerald went to ground for but couldn’t hang onto. The rebound fell to Arango, directly in front of him, who chipped one over the keeper and off Drew Beckie, who attempted to stop the goal with an intentional hand ball. The goal was Arango’s ninth for the season.
Four minutes later, they were back on the board. Jairo Arrieta chipped a ball from just outside the box as Fitzgerald was on the edge of his six. The ball floated just under the crossbar, kissing it and dropping into the net.
Carolina had a dangerous opportunity in the 75th minute as a break by Fondy resulted in a chance for an open net shot by Austin Da Luz, saved only by the timely slide tackle of Freeman. However, the Cosmos experienced a setback when Mendes injured himself in the course of the same play. He returned soon after, but was replaced minutes later by Roversio after going down again.
Another quick set of strikes followed. In the 79th minute, Bover dribbled across the top of the box, sending the ball to Arrieta at the top. Arrieta put a touch on the ball leaving it in the path of Andres Flores who volleyed it on net. The shot took a deflection of the heels of James Marcelin to drop it in the right corner past a keeper that didn’t move.
The onslaught continued in the 82nd minute as David Diosa, who had just entered as a substitution for Bover, fought to main control of a ball while under pressure from Beckie, then sent a through ball to Arrieta in the box. Arrieta faked a shot to lose Connor Tobin and give himself space outside the six, then finished his chance for his fifth goal of the season and third in two games.
There was no rest to be found for the visitors as the Cosmos poured on the pressure in the final minutes and stoppage. First, came a series of shots that led to Mkosana, a late sub, and Diosa both having their shots go off an upright before Mkosana’s follow-up was cleared away.
The final goal for the Cosmos came in the final minute of stoppage. Flores received a cross from Ayoze in the left side of the box, putting a touch on it to center it to an open Guenzatti who immediately volleyed it past Fitzgerald.
The win over Carolina plus their goal differential did give the Cosmos first place in the table, but they needed to wait on the next day’s results to make sure they held on. With Indy drawing 1-1 in Ottawa and Edmonton held to a scoreless draw at home by Puerto Rico, the Cosmos stayed in first through goal differential, though the Eddies have a game in hand.
The Cosmos next host the Indy Eleven on Wednesday evening. Indy are winless in their last two matches and are also winless in their last eight road games (0-5-3). Posting the biggest win in their modern history, the Cosmos will look for revenge against the team that issued them their first loss of the season.
Check out highlights from the match below.