Win sets up Sunday finale vs. Westchester to decide Barons' playoff fate
OCEAN CITY, NJ (July 19, 2006) - Let the scoreboard watching begin. With the Ocean City Barons' 3-1 win over the Reading Rage on Wednesday night, they pull into a tie for first place in the wild card standings with the Williamsburg Legacy. The Legacy have two games to play, while the Barons only have their season finale this Sunday against the Westchester Flames remaining. A loss by the Legacy in either match will open the door for the Barons to qualify with a win on the final day of the season.
In Wednesday's match, the Barons controlled the majority of the play, and struck first when a throw-in found it's way into the penalty box and deflected in the air. Ocean City defender Joe Banks then rose above the Rage defense and headed home his third goal of the season. At this point, history was on Ocean City's side. In the 2006 season, the Men In Red are unbeaten (5-0-2) when they score the first goal of the match.
Three minutes later, Chris Williams knifed through the Rage defense and ripped a shot to the right side of goal. Rage goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo got a paw on it and touched it off the post, but the ball bounced off the woodwork and into the air where Byron Carmichael headed it home for the second goal.
With the score 2-0, the home side looked like they were going to cruise to victory against a Reading side who were missing the majority of their key players, including all of their Penn State-based players who were called back to school early to attend preseason training. Of the available players on Wednesday night, only one had scored a goal for the Rage in 2006.
Despite being shorthanded, the Rage continued to fight. In the 49th minute, Tom Talarico dribbled through the middle of the Baron defense. The speedy forward found himself alone with Barons goalkeeper Adam Edwards after his defender, Banks, stumbled and fell. However, Talarico failed to cut the lead in half when he shot the ball inches wide and into the side netting.
The Barons continued to push for another goal, knowing that a 2-0 lead is never safe and that goal difference is one of the tiebreakers for the last remaining playoff spot. They received a lucky break in the 57th minute when Rich Baker, who came on as a second half sub, made a great individual play, dribbling through traffic and finding space to shoot at the top of the box. The low driving ball seemed likely to be saved by Vuolo but the ball hit a small bump in the turf and launched above the shoulder of the goalkeeper, who had already positioned himself low to stop the shot.
A lot of teams would have a hard time recovering from a bad break like that, but the Rage answered less than a minute later when A.J. Culp created his own shot after breaking down the left wing. He dribbled toward the middle of the park and bent a ball to the far post, forcing Edwards to make his best save of the night, diving to his left and denying Kulp the upper corner. It was one of seven saves for Edwards in the game.
The pace of the game continued to pick up three minutes later when Ryan Heins crossed a ball in to Carmichael. He received the ball at the goalmouth and nearly put the ball in from point blank range, but Vuolo dove to the ground and covered the ball at Carmichael's feet before he could poke it into the back of the net.
In the closing minutes, the game looked to be well in hand. Ocean City had survived a few near misses from the visitors, but Reading finally ruined the clean sheet in the 87th minute when Charlie Sales, listed on the Reading roster as a goalkeeper, scored a late goal to make it 3-1.
The Barons will finish the regular season on Sunday when they welcome the Northeast Division champion Westchester Flames to Carey Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The Barons will have to do some scoreboard watching this weekend. Ocean City fans will be rooting for a loss in one of the Legacy's two remaining matches: Friday night at home against the Raleigh Elite, and Sunday on the road against the Richmond Kickers Future. A loss by Williamsburg in either match will set up a "win and you're in" scenario on Sunday night against the Flames.
OC Joe Banks (unassisted) 17th
OC Byron Carmichael (unassisted) 20th
OC Rich Baker (unassisted) 67th
RR Charlie Sales (unassisted) 87th