Despite outplaying North Carolina FC for long stretches on Saturday, New York found itself on the wrong end of the scoreline heading into halftime. With the clock winding down, it looked as if a second straight defeat was on the cards.
Enter super-sub Kalif Alhassan.
The 22-year-old came off the bench and made a stunning impact, scoring the game-tying goal in the 84th minute to salvage a 2-2 draw for the hosts against North Carolina FC.
Alhassan’s skill set was the main reason why coach Giovanni Savarese decided to call on the Ghanaian.
“We know that Alhassan has flair and creativity,” he said. “He came into the match and tried to bring that into it. He found a fantastic goal, a beautiful goal. Every time he steps on the pitch, he can bring magic to the game.”
Just like Wednesday night, the Cosmos came out playing well and were creating chances from the moment the whistle was blown. Irvin Hererra continued to show signs of finding his form. The energetic El Salvadorian international striker tallied in his second straight match, showing tremendous control and touch before striking deftly with his left foot past North Carolina FC goalie Brian Sylvestre in the seventh minute.
“I think [Hererra] looked a lot better today,” Savarese said. “He looked like the player we want to see in our team. He was busy, he was creating opportunities, he was strong.”
Unfortunately for the Cosmos, the visitors replied with an emphatic goal almost immediately. After a corner was cleared, North Carolina striker Billy Schuler fired an inch-perfect right-footed volley from well outside the box that rocketed past Jimmy Maurer to get the away side level.
Unlike their loss Wednesday night, the Cosmos were able to shake off the equalizer and continued to turn up the pressure. Hererra remained the focal point of the attack and looked as if he gave New York the lead again in the 26th minute. But the assistant referee ruled the play offsides and nullified what looked to be a deserved goal.
“Referees make mistakes,” Savarese said in his post-match press conference. “That was a goal, but it happens and it’s part of the game.”
It turned out to be a cruel blow, as North Carolina delivered a sucker punch in first half stoppage time. After a foul committed by Ayoze just outside the box, Lance Laing stepped up and delivered a rocket of a free kick past Maurer. Like Wednesday, the Cosmos found themselves behind despite having the better of the overall play.
Content to sit it defensively for the second half, North Carolina allowed the Cosmos to have possession. Chance after chance went by until finally, Alhassan came up with the tying goal. With using little backlift, Alhassan was able to chip it past the goalie and brought MCU Park to its feet.
While some may have been taken aback at the skill needed to score such a goal, Alhassan backed himself and had the confidence to give his audacious attempt a try.
“When I got the ball, I knew what I was going to do,” he said. “The guys knew it was going in and I wasn’t surprised when it went in because I’ve done it a ton of times in training.”
The Cosmos even had a chance to win in the second half stoppage time with a free kick from Javi Marquez just outside the box, but Sylvestre was able to deny Marquez’s venomous left-footed blast with an outstretched hand.
Despite only getting a point, Savarese was encouraged with his team’s fightback.
“We had a ton of opportunities to win the game,” he said. “But I think we have to find the positive side and the positive side is that we found a goal that gave us a point today.”
- Maurer made his return in net for the first time since the Cosmos’ U.S. Open Cup loss on May 17 after being sidelined with an ankle injury. While there wasn’t much the Cosmos’ No. 1 goalie could do on the goals, he was able to make five saves, including an important sprawling one-on-one save on Laing in the first half. The 28-year-old was thrilled to be back in net. “It felt amazing just walking out for the national anthems,” he said. “You get that rush of adrenaline again. I was only out for a couple of weeks but it feels like months and months.
- The Cosmos’ next match is Friday, June 16 against Puerto Rico FC. Live coverage gets under way at 7:30 PM on MSG+.