Reading United has had dozens of players come through their program over summer breaks from college go on to bigger and better things.
But Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono has a special claim to fame among the alumni of the Philadelphia Union PDL affiliate: starting in a CONCACAF Champions League final, which he did for the Reds against Chivas Guadalajara in a two-leg final that ended last week with the Mexican clubs claiming the title on penalties.
“We had a lot of former players through there who played in big games now and had great careers in the league like Matt Hedges and guys like that but to see Bono play in that game — and I was able to watch that game — that gives you a really cool feeling as a coach that you even had the smallest of imprints on that player at some point in his career,” said Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke, who coached Bono at Reading.
Bono also started in the MLS Cup final won 2-0 by Toronto back in December. The 24-year-old from Baldwinsville, New York became the No. 1 keeper for the Reds last season after making 16 appearances in 2016 (he was on the bench when Toronto lost the MLS Cup final on PKs to Seattle Sounders) and spending his rookie season in USL.
While with Reading for two summers, the former Syracuse standout made 18 appearances, allowing just 14 goals while keeping eight clean sheets during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He split time his first season with current Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy.
“John (McCarthy) was brought in to be the starter that year and we recognized such a high-end talent in Alex (Bono) that we ended up splitting games between the two because we thought both guys were going to go on and be good pros and it has worked out that way,” Burke said. “Just lucky to have been able to put ourselves in the position to be working with two guys of that quality at the same position in the same year in the PDL team. That doesn’t happen often.”
Toronto FC goalkeeper coach Jon Conway, a native of Aston, Pa., said the summers Bono spent in Reading were an important part of his development in an interview back in October.
“Getting games in the summer time in the PDL, especially with a team connected to a big club is important,” Conway said. “The sooner you get them in, put them under the gun a bit and see how they handle it, the better.”
Bono is one of a league-leading 37 Reading United alumni currently playing professionally in Major League Soccer and the USL. McCarthy, Keegan Rosenberry, CJ Sapong and Ray Gaddis are the current first team players who spent time with Reading.