Reading United is two wins away from hoisting a Premier Development League championship trophy after topping rival New York Red Bulls U23 on Saturday night to win the Eastern Conference championship.
Khori Bennett led Reading with a brace to become the club’s all-time leading scorer with 18 career goals. Philadelphia Union Academy grad Zach Zandi set up the first goal and fellow academy grad Kalil ElMedkhar set up the second goal just before halftime.
“It’s a very hard fought win, especially the second half,” first-year head coach Alan McCann was quoted saying after the match. “First half we played some sublime football. The two goals were superb, they were exactly the way we want to be. It’s the Reading style, the Reading way. Second half we conceded and had to grind it out. There’s that character showing through again.”
The Philadelphia Union PDL affiliate advanced to the conference after a seven-goal thriller a night earlier against Myrtle Beach Mutiny. ElMedkhar opened the scoring in the first half to give the home team a lead going into the break, but Myrtle Beach twice tied the game, responding to the first of Bennett’s two goals in the match and after Kieran Roberts made it 4-2 in the 90th minute added another to make the closing minutes of stoppage time a nervy affair.
In addition to Zandi and ElMedkhar, Union Academy grads Dawson McCartney, Lamine Conte, Mo Conde and Matt Greer also featured for Reading in their two playoff games.
With their overall record improved to 14-0-2, they get to play host again for the national semifinal against Florida team The Villages SC. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Gurski Stadium at Wilson High School in West Lawn.
The league has not announced whether they would host the final, but as the only unbeaten team left in the field, it’s likely they would have the privilege if they are able to win on Saturday night. The final is schedule for Saturday, August 4.
Since its founding in 1996, Reading has made two national semifinals (in 2008 and 2010) but never played in a PDL final.