By Dylan Butler
Throughout the New York Cosmos magical second half run, head coach Giovanni Savarese has bobbed and weaved to avoid the question, to avoid speaking about what could lie ahead.
Yet, following a thorough 4-0 victory over the Carolina RailHawks Saturday night at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium, there’s no avoiding it – the Cosmos are one win away from booking their ticket to the Soccer Bowl.
“If at the end those points add up to be able to win the championship, then at that moment we’ll be happy,” Savarese said. “At the moment we have our feet on the ground and the next game we need to win another three points.”
Sure Savarese still doesn’t want to talk Soccer Bowl, there’s no denying Saturday’s win, the club’s fifth in a row, was its best performance.
“It was from the first minute that the team came out with the right attitude, completely dominated the game and they performed exactly the way we asked them to perform – pressuring, possessing the ball, making the runs, finding the goal early,” Savarese said. “I would say so far it was the most complete game we have had this season.”
The Cosmos, who extend their unbeaten streak to eight consecutive games since a 3-0 loss at Carolina August 17, raced in front in the eighth minute when Danny Szetela finished a low cross from Diomar Diaz from 14 yards out.
It was Szetela’s first professional goal since Oct. 18, 2008 when he scored for Brescia in Italy’s Serie B.
“We always talk about making our runs from the midfield, making our runs into the box,” Szetela said. “Once I saw the ball go out wide, I just started running. Diomar played a great ball across and I took it first time and it went into the net.”
Ironically, Szetela’s opportunity to play an influential role with the Cosmos came after Joseph Nane was sent off in the loss at Carolina. He hasn’t looked back since, combining with Marcos Senna for one of the league’s best 1-2 punches in central midfield.
“Four months ago, he was playing in local leagues,” Savarese said. “He came into preseason and he’s been growing every week. Today he had a tremendous performance.”
Diaz, who was spectacular for the Cosmos, made it 2-0 with the first of three second-half goals. Paulo Mendes flicked on a long throw by Hunter Freeman to Diaz and the Venezuelan forward slide to score inside the six-yard box in the 53rd minute.
“Diomar was great today,” Savarese said. “He keeps scoring. The more confidence he gets, the better he becomes. There’s a lot of talent there.”
Alessandro Noselli came off the bench for the first time in a month to provide the final punch. First the Italian drew a penalty when he was tripped by defender Henry Kalungi just after coming on for Paulo Mendes.
Senna stepped to the spot and scored his fourth goal of the year in the 76th minute, but not before his first attempt was called back for encroachment.
Then Noselli scored his second goal of the season in the 90th minute, blasting a near post shot in from 14 yards for the Cosmos most lopsided victory of the season.
“I’m very happy because I have not played for one month and after one minute I [draw] the penalty and in the final [minute of] the game I score,” Noselli said. “It was the perfect game for me and I think for the team because the last game against Carolina we lost 3-0 and now we won 4-0.”
The Cosmos maintain a seven-point lead in the North American Soccer League standings and will clinch a berth in next month’s Soccer Bowl with a win against Edmonton in the team’s home finale.
“Now we’re a foot and a half into the championship and I think that boosts the confidence even further,” Senna said. “Everything is coming around.”
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