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Reading United comes up short, losing PDL final 4-2 in extra time

Calgary Foothills FC captured the 2018 PDL championship Saturday night

Reading United players pose with their second place medals at the PDL championship on August 4, 2018
Matt Ralph

Calgary Foothills scored three unanswered goals to capture the club’s first Premier Development League championship on Saturday night with a 4-2 win over host Reading United in front of a record crowd at Wilson High School.

The visitors from Canada struck first on a free kick in the 12th minute from Ali Musse and looked like they’d be taking that lead into the locker room at the half when Reading United captain Aaron Molloy converted a free kick from a similar spot on the other end of the field just before halftime to tie the game at 1-1.

Reading was fortunate to be level at the break, but both center backs, Lamine Conte and Kamal Miller, received yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. That yellow card scenario would later prove to be Reading’s downfall mere moments after they had taken the lead on a goal headed in by Keiran Roberts with his first touch of the game after coming on as a substitute in the 79th minute. Philadelphia Union Academy grad Dawson McCartney — one of five academy grads in the starting lineup that include Rob Campbell, Conte, Kalil ElMedkhar and Zach Zandi — got the assist on the goal.

With the crowd buzzing from Roberts’ second extra time goal in as many games, the momentum quickly vanished when Miller was sent off with his second yellow in the 80th minute. Playing up a man, Calgary didn’t waste any time getting the equalizer to rescue their championship run when Dominick Zator found the back of the net in the 85th minute.

The momentum swing was similar to one Reading benefited from a week ago when they were able to find an extra time game-winner from Roberts after Villages SC had a player sent off.

“The man down changed the game,” Reading head coach Alan McCann said. “I wish it had ended 11v11 on both sides but fair play to them, they punished us and they deserve it for being clever enough when we’d gone a man down.”

Calgary did hand their hosts a life line when Chris Serban was sent off for a nasty foul near midfield in stoppage time. Instead of being down a man for two periods of extra time, Reading went into the final 30 minutes 10v10.

But a Pierre Reedy injury in the 115th minute after McCann had used all of his substitutions would prove the fatal blow. Playing with nine men the rest of the way and Calgary capitalized with a pair of goals in the closing minutes, Nico Pasquotti in the 119th minute and Musse with his second of the night a minute later.

“It’s an unfortunate injury,” McCann said.

Calgary Foothills FC became the fourth Canadian team to win the league championship and the first since K-W United in 2015 (Forest City London won in 2013, Thunder Bay Chill in 2008).

“It’s emotionally exhausting,” said head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr., who is moving on to coach Cavalry FC in the new Canadian Premier League. “We were here in 2016, we were Reading, we lost 3-2 to Michigan Bucks. I think sometimes you have to go through those losses to appreciate it’s hard to get here let alone go and win it. We went down a goal late and then found a way to come back in.”

The final was the first for Reading after losing in semifinals in 2008 and 2010. Reading broke an attendance record set in their semifinal win over The Villages SC last week with 2,278 fans packing Gurski Stadium at Wilson High School.

The loss was the team’s only blemish in a 20-game 2018 campaign counting two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches that went to penalties. They finished the year 15-1-4.

“It’s heartbreaking losing in the final, but we’ve had a very good year,” Molloy said. “I’m very proud of players — we’ve been great all season — and unfortunately we couldn’t get past the last hurdle.”