Aaron Dennis struck twice in the opening half. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Striker Aaron Dennis connected for a first-half brace and Bledi Bardic added an important insurance goal to lead the New York Cosmos to a 3-1 victory over Chattanooga FC in NPSL Members Cup action at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Saturday night.

The victory solidified the Cosmos’ (5-0-2, 17 points) lead atop the league while Chattanooga FC, which entered the match in second place, dropped to 3-3-2 with 11 points.

Chattanooga FC drew first blood in the 12th minute when Joao Costa ran down the left side and fired a shot from outside the penalty area past goalkeeper Santiago Castano.

In a surreal scene, only 18 seconds prior to the goal, fireworks were started at adjacent Hofstra University and lasted slightly more than seven minutes.

The Cosmos equalized on a pretty play in the 28th minute. Darwin Espinal launched a through ball to a speeding Shavon John-Brown on the right flank. John-Brown, making his Cosmos debut, managed to coax goalkeeper Phillip D’Amico out of the net a just bit before crossing the ball to Aaron Dennis, who slid the ball into the unattended goal for a 1-1 deadlock.

Dennis, a member of the U.S. Virgin Island national team, struck for his second goal in the 40th minute in what was essentially a mirror image of his first score. Darwin again started the scoring sequence, only this time he led Ansi Agolli down the left side. Agolli raced into the area and crossed to Dennis. The Elmont, N.Y. native slipped the ball home for a 2-1 advantage.

It was Dennis’ first multi-goal game for the Cosmos.

After Bardic replaced Dennis in the 70th minute, the veteran striker snapped a long personal scoreless streak by putting home a Pedro Galvao feed from the left side in the 80th minute to give the hosts some much needed breathing room.

With the game still on the line in the 71st minute, Castano made a pair of back-to-back kick saves on Garcia and Juan Hernandez.

The Cosmos next will be in action against the Milwaukee Torrent next Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.

They return home to play Detroit City FC in their final Members Cup match of the season at Mitchel on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.