Barring a collapse of monumental proportions, the Cosmos find themselves on the verge of clinching a spot in Soccer Bowl in their very first season.
In their most complete performance of the fall season, the Cosmos took a giant step toward reaching the North American Soccer League championship game, recording their fifth consecutive win, a 4-0 victory over the Carolina RailHawks in front of 5,409 spectators at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium Saturday night.
The Cosmos (7-1-3, 24 points) can secure the fall title with a triumph over FC Edmonton in their regular-season home finale next Sunday. The Atlanta Silverbacks, spring-season champions, will host the final Nov. 9.
"We're a foot and a half into the championship, so I think that will also boost the confidence even further and I think everything is coming around," said midfielder Marcos Senna, who converted a 73rd-minute penalty kick.
"Every week, we get better and better," Danny Szetela said. "We have a lot of confidence right now."
Diomar Diaz scored and Alessandro Noselli added a goal in his first game back from injury.
The result also avenged the Cosmos' lone loss -- a 3-0 defeat at Carolina on Aug. 17. However, coach Giovanni Savarese, who called the win "the most complete game of the season," wasn't seeking revenge.
"Being able to win, 4-0, and get this kind of performance is satisfying enough," he said.
But Savarese would not count any points before they were in the win column and talk about Soccer Bowl.
"We have a game next week and that's what we will focus on." he said. "We have our feet on the ground."
In contrast, the Cosmos came out flying with a high-pressure attack, pinning Carolina in its area for most of the first half. Szetela, off a Diaz right-wing feed, struck for his first pro goal since he tallied for Brescia in a 3-2 win in Italy's Serie B on Oct. 18, 2008.
"It felt great," Szetela said.
The hosts were relentless. Diaz doubled the lead as he fired home a Paulo Mendes header from 4 yards in the 53rd minute.
Noselli, who scored the game-winner in the season-opener Aug. 3, enjoyed a memorable return. Only seconds after entering, he made an immediate impact after being taken down in the penalty area. After Senna had his first penalty kick called back because of an encroachment, he converted his second try in the 76th minute.
With time running out, Noselli struck with a 16-yard rocket in the 90th minute.
"It was a perfect game for me," a smiling Noselli said.
And a perfect game for his teammates, as well.