By DAN KARELL
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — From the early minutes of the match, it was clear to see that the New York Cosmos were a different team than the one that fell 3-0 to the Carolina RailHawks in August.
Facing the only team to have defeated them this season, the Cosmos put in a complete performance on Saturday night, scoring three times in the second half en route to a 4-0 thrashing of the RailHawks in front of 5,409 fans at James Shuart Stadium. The win was the Cosmos’ fifth-straight, and extends their unbeaten run in the league to eight games.
“They performed exactly the way we asked them to perform,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said following the match. “Just pressuring, winning the ball, possessing the ball, making the runs, finding the goal early. Definitely I will say that so far this has been the most complete game that we’ve had this season. We (the coaching staff) are very proud of the players.”
For the first time all season, Savarese went with the same starting lineup in consecutive weeks, and the decision paid early dividends.
Diaz was played into space down the left wing and sent a low left-footed cross into the box. Szetela, making a late run, met the ball and toe-poked a shot home for the opening goal in the eighth minute of the match. It was Szetela’s first goal of the season and his first professional goal since October 18, 2008, when he was with Brescia in Serie B.
“It felt great,” Szetela told reporters following the game on scoring. “We always talk about making our runs from the midfield into the box. Once I saw the ball out wide I just started running. Diomar played a great ball across and I just took it first time and it went in the net.”
The Cosmos continued to create chances on goal, specifically on set pieces. Marcos Senna sent two on goal in the 16th minute that forced RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald to make a couple of reflex saves. Fitzgerald also had to save a rebound shot from Carlos Mendes, who followed the flight of the shot on the first free kick.
For the rest of the half, the majority of the ball stayed in the middle third of the field, but after the halftime break, the home squad played with a renewed sense of energy.
“We just wanted to make sure that we put a lot of pressure on them, that way they don’t have the easy way to come out from the back,” Savarese said. “We knew that if we gave them space and they were able to put in long balls, they have good players up front, so we pressured right away from the beginning.”
Once again, it only took the Cosmos eight minutes in the second half to find their second goal of the night. Hunter Freeman came into the attacking third and sent a long throw-in towards goal. Paulo Mendes flicked on the header and Diaz arrived at the back post to fire the ball into the roof of the net for a two-goal advantage. Diaz’s goal put him at the top of the Cosmos goal scoring charts with five class finishes on the season.
Veteran forward Alessandro Noselli, making his first appearance on the field since September 7 due to a hamstring injury, earned his side a penalty on his first touch after entering the field in the 74th minute as a substitute.
Though he was forced to retake the penalty kick due to encroachment, Senna stepped to the spot in the 76th minute and calmly scored his fourth goal of the season into the top corner on the second attempt, after the first one was whistled back.
“I was very calm and I’m always waiting until the last minute to see if the goalkeeper moves, and where penalty shot goes depends on where he moves,” Senna revealed after the game. “The first penalty he went to one side and the second, he went to the other.”
Noselli added a goal of his own in the 90th minute with a blast just inside the near post that completed the rout to the delight of the home fans.
“I’m very happy because I didn’t play for one month and after one minute (on the field) I earned a penalty, and in the final (minute) I scored,” Noselli said. “It’s the perfect game for me.”
The win gives the Cosmos 24 points from 11 games and a seven point lead at the top of the NASL standings.
Here are the game highlights: