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Frustration mounts for Reading United

Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Riegell/Reading United UC

On an afternoon when they honored the memory of their founder and contributed to the fight against cancer, Reading United were again left frustrated by the results on the field and held to a 1-1 draw by the visiting Long Island Rough Riders in front of the home town faithful at Albright’s Shirk Stadium. United engineered multiple opportunities to steal what would have been a crucial three points, but it was not meant to be.

First Half  

Reading manager Brendan Burke opted to go with a 4-4-2 formation to start the critical PDL Mid-Atlantic division showdown between two teams looking to secure the division’s final playoff spot. Forward Pedro Ribeiro partnered with Reading’s leading goal scorer Deshorn Brown to lead the United attack. Stephen Okai was in his usual holding midfield role just behind midfielders Sean Peckham, Steve Neumann and Jose Gomez. Fresh off of his short training stint with Philadelphia Union, Greg Cochrane led the backline of Matt Baker, Otolani Ibikunle and Johnny Raj. Emmanuel Martin resumed his duties as United’s goalkeeper.

Reading began the match with pressure on Long Island’s back four with Ribeiro and Brown combining on several chances in the first ten minutes that the failed to produce the match’s opening goal. Ribeiro did well in the hold-up striker role as Brown made dangerous runs into the Rough Riders penalty area. Martin was called into action in the 10th minute to make a diving save at the near post to deny Long Island the opener. Five minutes later, Long Island again built up well through United’s midfield and tested Martin, but the Penn State stopper again did well to save the stinging effort. It was back and forth through midfield with each side looking for the upper hand in the match. United again turned up the pressure on their rivals forcing Rough Riders keeper Alexander Naples to save Ribeiro’s effort off the goal line. Pressing forward, Naples next denied a good effort from Neumann in the 32nd minute.

The breakthrough finally occurred in the 37th minute as Brown launched an attack down the right side of the pitch and drove at Long Island’s defense. Brown laid off to Ribeiro and the big striker from Coastal Carolina left one defender laying on the ground and blasted a shot low and to the left of Naples to score his third goal of the season. Long Island responded just before halftime when Keith Detelj buried a lofted cross in the 45th minute to level the score at 1-1 as the teams headed to the locker room.

Second Half

Burke made a tactical shift coming out of the break, shifting to a 4-3-3 formation by inserting forwards Paul Wyatt and Ryan Finley and midfielder Ian Christianson into the match for Brown, Gomez and Neumann. The change had Reading on the front foot, looking for an important second goal. The pressure did not lead to any meaningful chances for Reading and the match began to settle. In the 63rd minute, Ribeiro has cut down by a nasty challenge from behind. Okai took the free kick which Long Island blocked and launched a three-on-two counter. Matt Baker tracked back and broke up the threatening chance. With both teams playing good soccer, Long Island mounted an offensive of their own in the 81st through some excellent build up by their midfield. Joseph Posillico had a goal on his boot, but he left Reading off the hook when he over powered his shot high and wide. United keeper Martin almost gifted Long Island the winner in the 86th when he wandered far off his line and was chipped. Johnny Raj bailed out his keeper when he was Johnny-on-the-spot with his clearance off the goal line.

As the 90 minute mark approached, Reading thought they found a winner at the death when a ball hit the back of Long Island’s net, but South Jersey native Ryan Finley was called offside. One final mad scramble saw United pinball the ball in and around their opponent’s penalty area, but Long Island’s defenders valiantly blocked every Reading attempt. The referee’s full time whistle signaled that United were now winless in their last three matches following a seven game unbeaten run to start the 2012 campaign. United’s players and coaching staff were again left frustrated by the team’s inability to covert their well worked opportunities into goals.

Still in third place at the end of the day, Reading is now six points behind division leading Jersey Express and four points adrift of second place Ocean City FC. United still hold onto the division’s final playoff spot, maintaining a three point advantage over Long Island.

United Kicks Cancer

Sunday’s match was played in honor of Reading United’s founder, Archie Moylan, who lost his battle with cancer in 2000. Every player on United’s gameday roster wore a special jersey to commemorate Archie’s contribution to the team and to show support for all those who battle cancer each day. The special gameday jerseys were auctioned off during Sunday’s match and after the match, the fan that placed the high bid for a player’s jersey got the match worn jersey right off the player’s back, sweat and all. The jersey auction helped Reading United AC raise over $1,000 on behalf of the American Cancer Society and the Jolee Border Foundation.

Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly famously said, “Football’s not a matter of life and death….it’s more important than that.” While we fans of the beautiful game share Shankly’s opinion most of the time, it’s good to remember that our game is just that, a game. For those that battle cancer, everyday is matchday, everyday is life and death.

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