New York, get ready for your second soccer derby of the year.
The Cosmos did their part to set up a June 17 confrontation against New York City FC in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup, recording a 3-0 victory over the Jersey Express in a third-round encounter at Belson Stadium on Wednesday night.
Leo Fernandes and Sebastian Guenzatti scored in the first half and Mads Stokkelien added a score on a second-half penalty kick. Goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer registered his sixth shutout this year for the North American Soccer League leaders, who are unbeaten in all competitions (6-0-3).
The Cosmos, who are in position to clinch the NASL spring title with a win over Minnesota on Saturday and if two other results go their way, will host NYC FC, a struggling Major League Soccer expansion team, at Shuart Stadium next month.
It will be the second New York soccer derby of the year as the Red Bulls defeated NYC FC, 2-1, on May 10. Last year, the Cosmos dominated the Red Bulls in a stunning 3-0 cup triumph.
Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese called the NYC FC encounter "a huge game."
"These are the games that shape soccer in the United States and more so in New York," he said. "Now you are getting great derbies in the area. For us to be able to match up with a very good team is a good challenge for us.
"They are going to take it very seriously. It's going to be a very difficult match. We're going to compete and put a very strong challenge to them. It is a big match because we have to respect our fans. It will be a wonderful night."
It was a wonderful night for Fernandes, a Babylon native who tallied his fourth goal on a 22-yard free kick in the 14th minute. Marcos Senna, who has put away his share of set pieces, allowed Fernandes to take the kick.
"I can't really negotiate with Marcos," Fernandes said. "I usually listen to him. He said, 'Leo, can you strike it to the goalie's side?' And I said, 'Yeah of course,' and I was able to hit it well."
Fernandes turned playmaker in the 40th minute, setting up Guenzatti's 10-yard goal before Stokkelien converted an 81st-minute penalty.
Senna's contract runs through the end of the NASL spring season, but Savarese hinted that the former Spanish international will be back for the fall season.
"I think there might be some good news coming along," he said with a smile.