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Reading United stages comeback, wins in overtime to return to USL League Two final

Reading will travel to Flint, Michigan for the USL League Two final on Saturday night

Dave Musante

Reading United overcame a two-goal deficit in the final 20 minutes of regulation and pulled it front on a penalty kick late in the second period of overtime to advance to the USL League Two championship game for the second straight season.

Reading United nearly took the lead early on South Georgia Tormenta 2 when Villanova winger Theo Quartey played Khori Bennett in behind and he maneuvered his way around the goalkeeper but the team’s all-time leading scorer had his shot cleared off the line by Zeron Sewell.

The hosts responded with a pair of quick strikes off set pieces to build a two-goal lead inside 13 minutes.

The first came in the 11th minute off a short corner with defender Daniel Strachan hitting home a cross from Kobe Perez off a short corner. Tormenta 2 then caught the Reading defense sleeping a minute later on a quickly-taken throw-in on the left flank that ended up with a ball in the back of the net at the far post for Adrian Billhardt off an assist from JJ Donnelly.

Tormenta 2 had a chance to stretch the lead to 3-0 when Jordan Walshaw had an open look in the box, but Reading (and Temple University) goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre was able to make a diving save to keep the deficit to two.

Still down two goals at the break, Reading United showed a lot of poise and stuck to their game plan, building momentum through possession and waiting for the opportunities to fall but it wasn’t until head coach Alan McCann went to his substitute’s bench in the 68th minute that things start to swing in their favor on the scoreboard.

Philadelphia Lone Star veteran Yaya Fane and third-year Reading attacker Gil Waso both made an immediate impact contributing to a goal in the 69th minute. Waso was played into space on the left flank by Felipe Hideki and his cross ended up falling to the feet of Goncarlo Garcia, who hit it first time to Fane for the volley to cut the lead in half.

Two more Reading substitutes — Maxi Gallizi and Bakary Bagayoko — combined to set up the 83rd minute equalizer Bagayoko seemingly willed into the back of the net with a charging run into the box.

As Tormenta 2 started to fade, Reading’s energy picked up but it wasn’t until late in the second overtime period that they were able to convert that momentum and time on the ball into a winner.

It was still another substitute, Temple midfielder Corey Burkhardt, who was able to insert some additional energy into the match and set up Bagayoko with a weighted pass into the box in the 120th minute on a play that ended in Tormenta 2 goalkeeper Tor Saunders being whistled for a foul for a takedown in the box.

Hideki, whose influence on the game only grew as time wore on and others started to tire, stepped to the spot and placed his shot under the outstretched arms of Saunders to make it 3-2.

With stoppage time left to play, Tormenta 2 had a couple long set pieces to try and send the game to PKs but Reading held on to book a return trip to the league final, which they lost in last year at home to Calgary Foothills FC in overtime.

Reading will travel to Michigan to play Flint City Bucks in the USL League Two final on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.