Reading United is known for having a large and sometimes unpredictable lineup filled with some of the best college-age amateur soccer players across the United States, but a core group of players with local ties have also contributed to another deep run this summer.
Philadelphia native Lamine Conte has been the steady leader anchoring the back line for the Philadelphia Union USL League Two affiliate. The Guinea native spent time with Philadelphia Lone Star and the Philadelphia Union Academy and also trained with Bethlehem Steel FC before heading to college. He’ll play his final season at the University of Louisville this fall.
“It feels good, every time we can go to a championship final it’s great,” Conte said. “We have been here before so we know what it is about and use our experience as an advantage and just go out there and try to win.”
Other players with ties to the Philadelphia Union Academy that have made contributions to the team this season are Delran, N.J. native Jeremy Rafanello, who has since signed with FC Helsinger in Denmark, Middletown, Del. native Kalil ElMedkhar, Wyomissing, Pa. native Seth Kuhn, Philadelphia native Daniel Bloyou and Jamaican goalkeeper Jahmali Waite. Waite conceded just six goals in 720 minutes during the regular season (a .75 goals against average) but Temple goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre has been the first choice keeper through the postseason.
Lefebvre is one of several players from local colleges who have contributed in the regular season and postseason in Reading. Hi s Temple teammate Corey Burkhardt was one of several subs in Sunday night’s semifinal in Georgia to make an impact. The grad transfer from Palmyra made the pass that played Bakary Bagayoko into the box, where Bagayoko was taken down for a penalty that ended up being the deciding goal.
Elizabethtown grad Gilbert Waso was also a key contributor off the bench on Sunday night while Villanova teammates Theo Quartey and West Chester native Richie Schlentz both started the game. Delaware center back Timo Hummrich paired with Conte on the back line and played his best soccer as the game wore on and the stakes got higher. Saint Joseph’s winger Alvin Dahn had a goal and an assist in four regular season matches.
Some other local players who have made contributions include Philadelphia Lone Star veteran Yaya Fane, who scored the first goal in the second half rally for Reading off the bench on Sunday and Middletown, Del. native Chad Poarch, who has been a steady presence on the back line in all three playoff games. Poarch and West Chester United teammate Troy Amspacher joined Reading late in the summer after featuring for West Chester United in their run to the second round of the U.S. Open Cup and recent NPSL campaign.
Plenty of players whose only tie to the area is now through their summer spent with Reading United have been key starting with Brazilian playmaker Felipe Hideki, who started last year’s final, U.S. youth international Simon Becher and the team’s all-time leading goal scorer in Jamaican forward Khori Bennett.
Forty-two players logged minutes during league play this season. Much of the fluctuation and changes in the lineup for Reading is by design since the primary goal of the team is not to win games or championships, but to develop players for the next level.
“It shows that the system we put in place and producing pros last year and we expect to produce pros this year which is what it’s all about,” head coach Alan McCann said. “Being able to put our boys in a high-pressure situation like a final will show scouts and show coaches exactly what they are made of.”
The final will be played Saturday night at Atwood Stadium in Flint, Michigan at 7:30 p.m. EST.