For the second year in a row, the second period of overtime in a national final was cruel to Reading United in a 1-0 loss to Flint City Bucks in the USL League Two championship on Saturday night.
Where it was an injury when head coach Alan McCann had used all of his subs that led to a 4-2 loss in a 9v10 scenario last year, it was a straight red and a questionable penalty call that set up the lone goal of the evening in the 110th minute for the Bucks in front of a crowd of 7,198 people at Atwood Stadium in Flint, Michigan.
The decisive play of the game came after Reading United had little to show for happy the upper hand and creating a bulk of the chances through much of the second half and into the first period of overtime.
It started with an attacking play for Reading down the left flank and ended with a punishing counter attack off a turnover that led to a desperation attempt from captain Lamine Conte to try and snuff out the goal-scoring attempt. The Philadelphia Union Academy alum dove and clipped Ayuk Tambe as he was entering the box.
Somehow the referee only showed a yellow at first and pointed to the spot even though the clear denial of a goal-scoring opportunity appeared to be initiated just outside the box. After discussing things over with the AR, he correctly changed the yellow to red but stuck by the penalty call and Tambe calmly buried the spot kick high and out of the reach of Reading goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre.
Lefebvre, a Temple University keeper, guessed right but was unable to replicate his heroics from the first half when he made three goal-saving saves to keep Reading from falling behind. The Bucks had the upper hand in the first half and the final overtime period, where the visitors were on the front foot in the second half and first overtime period.
In the end, the details of how it went down quickly faded as the Bucks celebrated their fourth league title and first both in the city of Flint and under the USL League Two brand surrounded by hoards of fans.
Gutted from another final loss — Felipe Hideki, Conte, Gilbert Waso and Khori Bennett played in both finals — Reading will have a lot to think about on their trip back home, including some of the chances they had to end the game in regulation and in that first overtime period.
A second straight trip to the league final is still an impressive accomplishment for the Philadelphia Union affiliate that provided additional games and opportunities for a talented group of players to not only extend their summer together but continue to develop as they push for professional opportunities.
In addition to Lefebvre’s impressive first half, defenders Chad Poarch, Conte, Timo Hummrich and Villanova junior Richie Schlentz did well to slow the lethal Bucks attack and give their team a chance to find what ended up being an elusive goal.