Late drama in Pennsylvania
This was a meeting of old rivals and the two top teams in the Mid Atlantic Division, Reading United and the Ocean City Nor’easters entertained the large crowd at Don Thomas Stadium in a thrilling 1-1 draw on Saturday night. Noreasters rookie Anthony Asante scored for first to take a 1-0 lead at the half, but Reading substitute Jason Plumhoff buried a headed goal in the 86th minute to help rescue a point for the Pennsylvania side.
The Noreasters dominated the opening exchanges with Asante going close in the first minute of the game. Former Noreasters goalkeeper, who moved to Reading United this season, John McCarthy and his Ocean City counterpart, Brian Billings, each made several high quality saves to keep the game scoreless until injury time in the first half.
As the first half entered stoppage time, United found themselves on a counter-attack but a poor pass to switch the field was anticipated and picked off by the Nor’easters defense. Racing down the middle of the field, Asante picked up a ball from a delightful pass and with just the goalkeeper, McCarthy, to beat, Asante chipped the ball into the net seconds before the referee blew for halftime.
It was nearly disaster for Reading in the 64th minute, when McCarthy let a Nor’easters corner go through his hands and drop near the goal line. A heads up play by Fatai Alashe got the ball out of danger and kept Ocean City’s advantage a just one goal.
Another former Ocean City Noreasters player Jason Plumhoff came into into the match to save Readings unbeaten status. In the 86th minute, after a wild scramble in Ocean City penalty area, Shane Campbell lofted a ball across the front of the Ocean City goal. Plumhoff rose up and headed the ball past Billings to level the score at 1-1.
With the match level, each side went in search of a winning goal. After making his 10th save of the night, McCarthy started a Reading United attack with a long throw out of the back. United quickly transitioned and the ball fell to Mario Pinto, who had a clean look at goal. The Brazilian forward hit a stinging volley that Billings saved in style to preserve the 1-1 draw.
Long time servant of the club Kevin Curran spoke to us after the final whistle, "It is never easy to play on a turf field with lines from three sports painted on their but played some great soccer and attacked with lightning speed and a surgeons precision. We kept the ball when we needed to and tried to take the sting out of the game but it is a shame to concede late like we did. At the end of the day we came to Reading and took away a point that could be crucial come the end of the season."
Coach Tim Oswald reflected on the performance after the game, "Its unfortunate we didnt close the match out and find a 2nd goal in the 2nd half and that Reading found a late goal to equalize. Closing games out is critical and we didnt do it, but we will take the point."
"Our style of play, regardless of being slightly direct at times or more indirect at times with elaborate possession buildup, will surely be used with effective and efficient measures as it has worked for us consistently in our 1st 25 games as a staff (19-5-1 overall and 17-3-1 in PDL regular season league play). We will continue to find ways for teams to make it difficult to beat us while maximizing ways on both sides of the ball for us to continue to get results and to collect points. If we win games, the team and players are individually improving technically and tactically, college coaches are happy, and kids are getting pro looks, thats all that matters. Since all of those things are happening at the moment, we wont change a thing with our approach."
"Much like last year, this is a full season emphasis with the focus on earning the points needed to make a playoff push. A season isnt defined by 1 game. Its defined by 14 of them. If we can find 3 more points in our final road game of the season in a tough contest with the Rough Riders, I love our chances late in the year with 8 straight home games."
The President of the club Giancarlo Granese was also asked about how he felt the season was going so far compared to last season, "We are a better team than last year, we have been able to replace the players we lost with higher quality and harder working guys. We have already played 3 of the toughest teams in our division away from home and got 7 points, we are hoping that this confidence will help carry us to a second Mid-Atlantic Championship in two years and a deeper run in the playoffs."
"The team that Coach Oz has put together is very much in the new style, the new wave of soccer that is forever changing. The passing just to pass style is being replaced with a more forward thinking style, possession with a purpose, very much in the style of European champions Bayern Munich. This style is an exciting, crowd pleasing and winning style of soccer and that can be measured in our high attendances at Carey Stadium and the wins on the stat sheet."