Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Reigel/Reading United
It was a very good weekend for Reading United and their goal scoring ace, Deshorn Brown. The temperature at kickoff at Albright College’s Shirk Stadium was 94 degrees, but nothing has been hotter than a Reading team that has re-discovered their scoring touch, thanks in large part to Brown hitting the back of the net four times this weekend. On Sunday, Reading thoroughly dominated a resurgent Brooklyn Knights team to earn a 4-0 victory. Brown led the way with his second brace of the weekend and with goals from Stephen Okai and Ian Christianson, helping Reading climb into second place in the Premier Development League’s Mid Atlantic Division.
With head coach Brendan Burke on the road with the Philadelphia Union in Houston, technical director Troy Snyder was back in the coach’s box for United. After an emphatic 4-0 win over Bermuda on Friday night, Snyder made few changes to his lineup. Brown was joined in the attack by Brazilian Pedro Ribeiro and James Madison University’s Paul Wyatt. Sean Peckham, Okai and Steve Neuman worked the midfield in front of the miserly defense of Matt Baker, Olutolani Ibikunle, Johnny Raj and Greg Cochrane. Fresh off a clean sheet against Bermuda, Penn State keeper Emmanuel Martin was again in goal for Reading.
United started the match aggressively with the first chance of the afternoon falling to Wyatt in the 5th minute, who beat Brooklyn keeper Ed Shone only to be denied by the woodwork. Settling into the match Reading knocked the ball about with some nifty one touch passes, Pedro Ribeiro broke free of the Knights backline only to be called offside in the 18th minute. United and their fans were finally rewarded with a goal in the 21st minute when Baker picked out Neuman, who put the ball in the net to make it 1-o to Reading.
In what looked like a one touch passing drill, United continued to apply pressure to the Knight’s backline. The Knight’s were unable to deal with the constant assault of United’s tactics which resulted in a Brooklyn defender hauling down big man Ribeiro inside the penalty area. No one in the stadium had any complaints when referee Michael Piercy pointed to the spot. Okai stepped up and sent Shone the wrong way to give United a 2-0 lead 25 minutes into the match.
United took a page from European Champions, Spain and began working the ball around the field tiki-taka style for the remainder of the first half. When Piercy blew the whistle for halftime, there was little evidence from the first 45 minutes that showed Brooklyn was capable of mounting any sort of comeback. United outshot the Knight seven to three, with Martin making easy work of his three first half saves.
Buoyed by their impressive first half performance, United emerged from the locker room early, ready to cap off the weekend with a solid showing in the final 45 minutes against Brooklyn. United opened on the front foot, but three minutes into the second half, Wyatt pulled up and hobbled off to the sideline. His replacement, Ian Christianson, scored a late goal versus Bermuda on Friday. He made his presence felt in the 59th minute when he picked his head up and found Okai in space on the right. Okai drove at Shone and chipped the Knight’s keeper only to see his effort go just a bit high.
In the 63rd minute, Okai was in the middle of United’s next goal when he found his University of Mobile teammate Brown. United’s leading scorer took Okai’s through ball and lost his mark with a nicely weight touch and cooly slipped the ball past the on rushing Shone for his 8th goal of the 2012 PDL season. With a 3-0 lead, Coach Snyder was able to get minutes to some of Reading’s bench players. Lucas Baldin came on for Neuman in the 66th minute following a rash challenge on Okai that earned Brooklyn’s Andre Berenzon a place in the referee’s book.
Brown would put an exclamation point on his weekend in the 68th minute when he took a give and go from Ribeiro and again found the back of the net to earn his second brace of the weekend and 9th goal of 2012. The four goal outburst should have United’s hitman on everyone’s radar for PDL Player of the Week honors.
United never took their foot off the gas over the final 22 minutes. Reading outshot Brooklyn eight to one in the second half. Substitute Julian Cardona could have made it five for United in the 83rd minute. Under little pressure, Baker cruised up the right side of the field and unleashed a filthy 40 yard pass that found Cardona streaking through the Knight’s defense. Shone denied Cardona in a one-on-one challenge in the box to keep the scoreline 4-0 and deserves mention for his eight save performance as he was resolute in the Brooklyn net under United’s barrage of twelve shots on goal.
With the 4-0 win over Brooklyn, Reading United pulled ahead of the Jersey Express and into 2nd place in the Mid-Atlantic Division with both clubs sitting on 26 points. United have now run off a three match unbeaten run and have built a seven point lead over fourth place New Jersey Rangers FC.
Stephen Okai expressed his pleasure with United’s return to form when he said, ”For a couple of weeks we were struggling a little bit and I think we came back as a team and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Coach Snyder was also happy with the day’s performance stating, “It’s nice to get two goals in the first half. All in all, it’s a pretty good weekend for the boys and it’s back to work this week.”
Looking ahead at the remaining four fixtures, United have critical matches with their playoff rivals. United have a week to rest and prepare for a brutal stretch of four games in nine days that will decide Reading’s playoff destiny. United travel to 9th place Westchester Flames next Saturday followed by a July 11th showdown in Newark with the Jersey Express. A win versus the Express will go a long way to securing a home playoff match. Two days later, United return to Shirk Stadium for their final home game against their rivals, first place Ocean City FC. United wrap up their regular season on the road against Central Jersey on July 15th.