Photo: Courtesy of Reading United
The only certain things in life are death, taxes and Reading United in the Premier Development League postseason. For the sixth consecutive season, the Philadelphia Union’s PDL affiliate booked their place in the playoffs. United finished the 2013 regular season with a record of 8-1-5, good for the final playoff spot in the PDL’s Mid-Atlantic Division.
With Tuesday’s win over Baltimore, United are one of the last sixteen clubs battling it out for the right to hoist the 2013 PDL Championship Trophy.
Central Jersey Spartans 2 – 5 Reading United
Reading’s hectic week began with a must win match on the road against the Central Jersey Spartans last Saturday. United needed a victory over the two win Spartans to ensure a spot in the PDL’s second season. The Spartans, playing without any substitutes and forced to play midfield Mark McGoldrick in goal, did not make things easy on United.
Reading opened the scoring through a 32nd minute goal by midfield dynamo Dante Marini. Jason Plumhoff found his midfield partner down the left channel. Marini skipped past two defenders before beating McGoldrick to hand United the lead.
Reading played a lackluster half and allowed the Spartans to equalize in the 40th minute and the teams went to the locker room knotted at 1-1.
Maxime Hoppenot, the younger brother of Union super-sub Antoine Hoppenot, rocked United with a goal in the 50th minute. Hoppenot picked up the ball outside the Reading penalty area and hit a thunderous strike that United goalkeeper John McCarthy could do nothing to stop.
Facing the prospect of missing the PDL playoffs for the first time since 2007, United picked up the pace and intensity of the match. With Spartan defenders tiring, United was able to move the ball at will in the Central Jersey end of the field. A clumsy challenge gifted Reading United a lifeline in the 72nd minute. Kadeem Dacres stepped up and converted the spot kick to pull Reading level. Dacres struck again just three minutes later, beating the Spartans defense and scoring far post.
Marini recorded his brace with a long range strike in the 88th minute and Mario Pinto capped the scoring in stoppage time to send United into the 2013 PDL postseason.
Baltimore Bohemians 1 – 3 Reading United
United earned their trip to the conference finals with a thrilling 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Bohemians. Reading thoroughly dominated the match, with leading goal scorer Mario Pinto opening the scoring in the 2nd minute of the match. The Bohs were able to level the match on a Geaton Caltabiano free kick in the 29th minute.
Early in the second half, United were reduced to ten men when midfielder Keegan Rosenberry picked up his second yellow card of the match and was ejected. Though down a man, United peppered the Bohs with twelve shots in the second half and forced the match to extra time.
In the 96th minute, Jason Plumhoff hit a perfectly lofted free kick that Fatai Alashe headed into the back of the Baltimore goal. Six minutes later, Dante Marini sealed the victory for United, taking a pass from Plumhoff and scoring past Bohs goalkeeper Zach Kane.
Following the match, Head Coach Brendan Burke praised his side. “I was proud of our play throughout the game. We were very good in all aspects of the game and we responded very well to adversity. Our energy level was great.”
Preview: Reading United (9-1-5) vs. Otttawa Fury (12-1-2)
The Fury were one of the best clubs during the PDL’s regular season and are a very formidable opponent. The Northeast Division champions have one of the league’s top scorers in Carl Haworth and boast a defensive unit that has not conceded a goal in 814 minutes of league play. Goalkeeper Chad Bush leads the league with ten clean sheets this season. As a team, Ottawa has conceded just seven goals during the 2013 campaign.
Ottawa also feature former Reading United midfielder Jacob Barron. The Penn State alum has a goal and four assist for the Fury.
Reading will need to pay close attention to Horwath. Ottawa’s captain has 14 goals this season and 12 assists and recorded a hat-trick in the Fury’s divisional playoff match against GPS Portland Phoenix. Horwath is a member of Canada’s Under-23 Men’s National Team and represented his country at the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The midfielder was selected by the Montreal Impact in the fourth round of the 2012 Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft.
United’s challenge will be finding a way to break down one of the PDL’s top defensive units. Throughout the middle of the season, United’s offensive unit has struggled in front of goal despite strong build up play. Thirteen goals in the last four match may indicate that Head Coach Brendan Burke has his United players peaking at just the right moment.
Reading will get a boost as captain Steve Neumann, who has been out of United’s line-up while taking summer classes at Georgetown, returns for the Eastern Conference Championships.
Players to Watch
Mario Pinto – The dynamic playmaker from Brazil is one of the nation’s premier Division II soccer talents. Pinto is a high motor player with a silky smooth touch. The Lincoln Memorial forward makes dangerous runs off the ball, always looking to provide an outlet for his midfielders. A member of Reading Super-20 team last season, the Brazilian forward has blossomed in 2013 and his eight goals this season to lead the club.
Dante Marini – Don’t let Marini’s size fool you, the kid is a player. At 5’3″, Marini is easy to overlook, but teams that do overlook the United midfielder do so at their own peril. What Marini lacks in size he more than makes up for with tenacious play, agility, excellent vision and on-field leadership. The native of Chadds Ford has five goals for United this season, including the insurance goal in Reading’s playoff win over Baltimore. A tri-captain at Northeastern University, Marini played alongside Union rookie Don Anding.
John McCarthy – Reading United’s goalkeeper has turned in a spectacular 2013 season. McCarthy joined United in 2013 after earning All-PDL Eastern Conference honors for the Ocean City Nor’Easters in 2012. All McCarthy has done for Reading is remain unbeaten in PDL play and post a 7-1-3 record in all competitions, allowing just eight goals in eleven starts. McCarthy is incredibly athletic in goal and is very effective at organizing his defense. The La Salle goalkeeper will be long remembered by the Reading faithful for his clutch saves against the Harrisburg City Islanders that earned United its first ever trip to the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup.