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Missed opportunities haunt Reading United in PK loss to Richmond Kickers

Reading United hit woodwork twice in search of a late winner and ended up falling on penalties to Richmond in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night

Zach Zandi (left) was one of four Philadelphia Union Academy grads in the starting XI for Reading United in their second round U.S. Open Cup match on May 16, 2018
Matt Ralph

Like they did a week ago, Reading United fell behind early, rallied to tie and failed to deliver a crucial late goal that would have booked them a spot in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night.

“Like the last game I was frustrated; we should’ve finished it off in regulation or overtime,” Reading head coach Alan McCann said after his team fell 4-3 in a penalty shootout. “And here we are again.”

The Philadelphia Union Premier Development League affiliate missed out on a chance to host a third straight cup game against Penn FC next week. Penn FC toppled NPSL club (and reigning Keystone Conference champions) FC Motown 3-1 in their game Wednesday night.

Richmond Kickers, which lost in their two previous trips to Pennsylvania 4-1 and 3-1 to Bethlehem Steel FC in league play this season, opened the scoring in the 8th minute when Koby Osei-Wusu cleaned up a rebound off a low shot from Heveil Cordoves.

Reading United, which had four Philadelphia Union Academy grads in the starting lineup, responded with a long stretch of possession and despite creating chances and set pieces were kept off the board heading into the break.

“It’s just impossible to really prepare because there are four or five individuals we haven’t seen before even from the first game,” Kickers head coach Leigh Cowlishaw said. “After the goal we scored, it was one-way traffic (for Reading).”

That one-way traffic finally produced a breakthrough in the 70th minute when substitute Austin Maloney made a darting run down the right flank and served a cross to Khori Bennett, who flicked it home to level the score at 1-1.

Maloney, a rising Penn State senior and younger brother of Columbus Crew defender Connor Maloney, made another great run forward in overtime and slipped a pass into the box to set up Alexander Lipinski but his shot clanged off the right post and out.

“Austin’s come in and taken the defender on directly, which we ask our lads to do on the wing,” McCann said. “He has a low-driven ball and Khori finishes it. Very happy with that but we need to be taking more.”

Will Campbell, one of three Union Academy grads on the back line (Lamine Conte and Rob Campbell were the others) also hit the post earlier in the match in a scramble in front of goal after one of eight corner kicks Reading earned on the night. Reading out-shot Richmond 21-8 in the match went up a man with five minutes left in the second overtime period when Villanova alum Oscar Umar was shown red for contact to the face.

“That’s what pro teams do, they punish you when you don’t take your chances,” McCann said. “These are the harsh lessons they learn now for when they do make the jump. That’s what we take out of it.”

The shootout became Trevor Spangenberg’s chance to shine for Richmond. The goalkeeper has backed up D.C. United loanee Travis Worra in all but one match in league play this season. But it was his eight stops and two saves in the penalty shootout that were the difference between a celebratory commute back to Virginia and another frustrating four-hour bus ride home.

“It’s definitely been a while since I’ve been in a penalty shootout but we prepared all week for it, we know that situation can arise in the Open Cup, anything can happen,” he said. “Reading played a great game; it’s nice to just close out there and the bus trip home is a little more happy.”

Reading skipper Aaron Molloy, defender Daniel Krutzen and Maloney all converted their PKs but Lipinski and Bennett’s attempts were both saved. After saving Mekeil Williams’ attempt in the third round of kicks, Strutz was unable to get in the way of the decisive penalty by Neil Hlavaty in round five.

Union Academy grad Mo Conde also came off the bench in the match after starting on the back line in last week’s Open Cup match. Zach Zandi started in the midfield with Molloy after missing the first round match last week.

After playing two Open Cup games at Alvernia University, Reading returns home to Wilson High School for their home opener in league play against FA Euro on May 26. They play this Saturday in Virginia against Evergreen FC in their first match outside Pennsylvania after a 2-0 win over Lehigh Valley United in the season opener last weekend.