Game action the Cosmos’ 1-0 win over North Carolina FC. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)

CARY, N.C. – The Cosmos moved into a tie for second place in the North American Soccer League as they extended their unbeaten streak to seven games by besting North Carolina FC, 1-0, at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park Sunday afternoon.

They also pushed their road unbeaten streak to nine games, dating back to last season.

Juan Guerra tallied the lone goal of the match in the 52nd minute as goalkeeper Brian Holt recorded his second successive shutout.

The Cosmos (4-1-4, 16) points), who trail first-place Miami FC (6-1-3, 21) by five points, are tied with Jacksonville Armada FC (4-2-4, 16), but have a game in hand.

“It was a good game for people to come and watch,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “I thought that most of the game, we had the ball. We were able to find space and created a lot of chances, so I feel that we deserved this victory. The guys were able to battle and get a very important win.”

His North Carolina counterpart, Colin Clarke, gave credit where it was due.

“I think the Cosmos, if you look back over the game, deserved the result,” he said. “They were the better team on the day, which is disappointing.”

The match started at a quick pace with the Cosmos controlling most of the attacking play. NCFC’s high press and the Cosmos wide play created chances on goal for both teams throughout the match.

Neither team could find the elusive goal in the opening 45 minute.

The Cosmos resumed their attacking play following the break, forcing goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre to make three strong saves within the opening five minutes of the half.

New York took the lead in the 52nd minute. Walter Restrepo’s cross found Guerra in the box, who chested down the ball and sent a strike past Sylvestre for his second goal this season.

NCFC’s attack sparked to life and created chances in the 62nd and the 63rd minutes. Holt saved a strong shot from Matt Fondy and the Cosmos’ defense cleared a threat from Tiyi Shipalane a minute later.

The hosts’ offense continued to make a push towards the NYC goal after the addition of Billy Schuler in the 61st minute. Schuler’s presence nearly paid off immediately, as the forward had a shot blocked inside the box in the 68th minute.

The introduction of New York’s Eugene Starikov in the 67th had an immediate impact. The forward set up a chance for Flores that went off the crossbar, before trying a right-footed shot from the center of the box off a pass from Ayoze.

North Carolina continued to push for a goal as Nazmi Albadawi ripped a shot just wide of the target in the 78th minute and Fondy nearly found the end of several chances in the final 15 minutes.

“I think it was three games in eight days, including mid-week games and afternoon games,” Clarke said. “We had an Open Cup game, which was a big game emotionally and physically, but those are excuses. We didn’t start well. We talked long and hard all week that we needed to set the tempo. We didn’t connect enough passes early on or keep the ball. We were the ones doing the chasing and that’s hard under tough conditions. I think that caught up with us and we looked tired and sluggish.”

The Cosmos host FC Edmonton at MCU Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. They will welcome NCFC at MCU Park Saturday night.
Scoring summary:

NYC: Guerra (Restrepo 52′)

Discipline

NCFC: None
NYC: Szetela (75′), Holt (80′) Flores (90+’)

Lineups

NCFC: Brian Sylvestre; Christian Ibeagha, James Marcelin, Steven Miller (Brian Shriver 88′), Connor Tobin (Kareem Moses 56′); Bolu Akinyode (Billy Schuler 61′), Nazmi Albadawi ©, Austin da Luz, Lance Laing, Tiyi Shipalane; Matt Fondy

Subs not used: Macklin Robinson, Brad Ruhaak, Dre Fortune

NYC: Brian Holt, Jimmy Mulligan, Carols Mendes, Dejan Jakovic, Ryan Richter, Ayoze, Javi Marquez (Danny Szetela 28′), Juan Guerra, Andres Flores, Walter Restrepo (Richard Menjivar 79′), Irvin Herrera (Eugene Starikov 67′)

Subs not used: Jimmy Maurer, David Ochieng, Darrius Barnes, Eric Cavillo