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Reading United’s dramatic win puts them in club’s first ever PDL championship game

Kieran Roberts scored in the 115th minute in front of a record crowd at Wilson High School to send United through to the final

Reading United players celebrate their 1-0 win over The Villages SC in the PDL semifinal on July 28, 2018
Matt Ralph

Reading United is heading to the Premier Development League championship game for the first time in club history after snagging a 1-0 extra time win on Saturday night in front of a club record home crowd at Wilson High School.

English forward Kieran Roberts, who received the news that his grandfather had died on Monday, ended an emotional week with the game-winning goal in the 115th minute. The team wore black armbands for the match, played against Florida club The Villages SC.

“Trying to get through the week was tough, but to be able to get the opportunity to even play in a national championship semifinal and then to score was fantastic,” Roberts said after the match. “Everything I did out there today was for him and for the team as well and for everyone I care about. It was great to get the goal and it means a lot.”

The goal came off a throw-in from substitute Pierre Reedy, who minutes earlier was denied a headed attempt on frame by an outstanding save from Villages goalkeeper Tim McGlynn. McGlynn also had a highlight-reel save on Khori Bennett in the second half while Reading United goalkeeper Bennett Strutz came up big in a couple key moments to keep the visitors at bay.

Reading played both extra time periods up a man after Gyua VanDyke was sent off in the closing minutes of regulation for an off-the-ball altercation with Roberts. VanDyke had to be escorted off the field after a confrontation with officials.

With the additional space, Reading was able to create more on the offensive side of the ball and produce the late-game heroics to avoid penalties. Villages were the better team for long stretches of the game, particularly in the opening 20 minutes but Reading was able to grind out the result even when they weren’t at their best.

Head coach Alan McCann said he felt the moment got to the group early, playing against a more experienced group but play improved as they settled in and got back to playing “the Reading United way.”

While as the coach, his first thoughts are on the things that need to be tightened up and the one more game they have left to play, McCann did take time to revel in the celebration on the field afterwards, which included autographs and photos with fans on the field.

“It’s been ingrained with me since coach (Brendan) Burke has been here, it was ingrained with Stephen Hogan here; this has always been the minimum what we want to do with the groups that we’ve had,” McCann, a first-year head coach and former player, said. “I’m just glad we can continue the tradition of success.”

The win kept Reading’s unbeaten 2018 campaign intact. The team went 12-0-2 in the regular season to win the Mid-Atlantic Conference, had a pair of draws in Open Cup play (losing on PKs to Richmond Kickers) and are 3-0 in the playoffs.

“Obviously, we’ve had a really good summer, we’ve come together as a family and going to the final for the first time in Reading history is huge, especially because it’s such a massive team with great history,” captain Aaron Molloy said.

Six Philadelphia Union Academy grads featured Saturday night, including Dawson McCartney and Lamine Conte on the back line, Zach Zandi in the midfield and Kalil ElMedkhar out wide. Mo Conde and Matt Greer came off the bench.

Reading United will face Calgary Foothills FC in the championship on August 4. The location hasn’t been announced.