Reading United overcame a sluggish first half to win their third straight game to start the season behind an own goal and a late insurance strike from Kieran Roberts.
After both sides struggled to create chances in the first half, head coach Alan McCann made a couple changes at the break, bringing in midfielders Zach Zandi and Aaron Molloy. Zandi, a Philadelphia Union Academy alum, created the first goal when he played a low cross in the 66th minute that deflected off FA Euro defender Leo Folla and in.
In the 90th minute, Molloy dished the ball to Roberts on the right flank and the Englishman did well to beat his man and finish through the legs of FA Euro keeper Oliver Foss-Hansen to put the game away. The goal was the second for Roberts in all competitions this season.
“We were more successful because we moved the ball quicker, touch and a half tempo,” McCann said in a news release, talking about the second half. “We found more pockets in between their lines and we were more creative and exciting in the final third. That’s more Reading United’s style.”
In addition to Zandi, six other Philadelphia Union Academy grads played in the match. Rob Campbell, Will Campbell, Joey DeZart and Mo Conde were in the starting XI and Lamine Conte, Zandi and Kalil ElMedkhar came off the bench.
Bennet Strutz made one save to record his second clean sheet and the third for the team. The defense has yet to surrender a goal through 270 minutes of play.
In other PDL action:
Kyle Gurrieri was shown a straight red card in the 16th minute for the Ocean City Nor’easters and they conceded four times in a loss to the New York Red Bulls U23s in North Jersey.
“It’s always going to be an uphill task away from home for 74 minutes with 10 against 11,” Nor’easters head coach John Thompson said in a news release. “The other team will always create more chances than usual and your game plan goes out the window. The lads had a good spell for 20 minutes after the sending off but the goal made it even more difficult.”
Brian Saramago, Allen Gavilanes, Kentaro Morrison and Juan Sanchez scored for the NYRB U23s and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair didn’t have to make a save to register the clean sheet.
Ocean City fell to 1-2-0 with the loss while the Red Bulls improved to 4-1-0. Reading United is in second place with nine points but has a pair of games in hand on the division leaders.
Lehigh Valley United picked up their first win of the season over the weekend edging Virginia Hammers FC 1-0 behind a goal from A.J. Bishop in the fifth minute. Jordon Ellison set up the goal with a long cross that found the head of an onrushing Bishop, who headed it in far post. Defender Shaq Stephenson was forced to play goal because of an injury early in the match but kept the clean sheet. LVU improved to 1-2-0 on the season and are tied in the Mid-Atlantic standings with Ocean City.
Up next, Reading United hosts NYRB U23s at home on Saturday night at 7 p.m. before heading to New York to play FA Euro on June 6, Ocean City has their home opener against Long Island Rough Riders on Sunday night at 7 p.m. and Lehigh Valley United has the weekend off before traveling to Hofstra to play the Rough Riders on June 6.