Cosmos Meet RailHawks In Critical Spring Season Match

The unbeaten and first-place RailHawks visit New York for two sides with Spring Season title ambitions
Jack Bell (@JackBell} | Apr 26, 2016

Photo credit: New York Cosmos

The phrase “must-win” is one of the most overused terms in sports. But on Sunday evening, the New York Cosmos will face a crucial test against the unbeaten Carolina RailHawks as each team reaches the halfway point in the 10-game NASL Spring Season.

The Cosmos’ chances of winning the Spring Season title, and an automatic berth in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament, hang in the balance and nothing short of three points against Carolina are likely to do at Shuart Stadium.

After winning their first two games of the year, both at home without yielding a goal, the defending NASL Champions have lost two straight on the road, giving up late goals in losses at Indy Eleven and last week at Minnesota United - all of New York’s goals allowed have come late in games. By contrast, Carolina, which has allowed four goals overall, has not allowed a score in the final 15 minutes of its games.

At Indy Eleven, the Cosmos led by 1-0 in the 90th minute, but lost by 2-1 on a pair of stoppage-time tailles by Éamon Zayed. The loss at Minnesota United, 1-0, last Saturday was even more shocking since the Cosmos played a lion’s share of the second half with a man advantage, to only see Christian Ramirez score in the 90th minute.

In the goals scored category, Carolina has scored five of nine goals in the second half, with two coming in the final 15 minutes of games. The Cosmos’ six goals are evenly split between the first and second halves, but the club has failed to score once in the final 15 minutes.

The Cosmos have lost consecutive games only three times since the club’s reboot season in 2013, when they capped their return to the field by winning the NASL title after playing in only the Fall Season. Since that reboot, the Cosmos had lost only 13 times in 74 matches. Their record after losing a game was 4-5-2.

A win on Sunday would put the Cosmos back in the conversation, only three points behind the RailHawks with five games to play. A Carolina victory would put the Cosmos in a precarious situation: To win the Spring Season title they would have to win all five remaining games while the RailHawks would have to lose three of five to pull into a tie on 21 points, making the season champion subject to tiebreakers (goal differential being the first).

So Sunday’s match is not a “must-win” game, but anything short of a win for New York would leave it precious little room to stumble.

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