Playoff hopes still very much alive with crucial home stand on the schedule for next weekend (June 22-23)
Two first half goals by Reading United were the difference as the Nor'easters fell to their oldest rival 2-0 on Saturday night.
The Nor’easters drop to 2-3-2 on the season, but are just five points back from second place Lehigh Valley United in the Mid-Atlantic Division with two fewer games played. The top two teams in the division qualify for the USL League Two playoffs. Reading United remain in first place in the division with an unbeaten 7-0-1 record.
“Reading is always a tough game and it comes down to small moments," said Nor'easters head coach Kevin Nuss. "Unfortunately, despite the boys playing well in large portions of the match and keeping good intensity and focus, we came up short.”
With the loss, the Nor'easters' all-time record against United drops to 20-22-7.
The offense came right away once the referee blew the whistle to start the game in West Lawn, Pa. Reading defender, John Scalise, crossed the ball into the Nor’easters box. The ball trickled toward the back of the net before Williams N’dah (University of Charleston / Rome, Italy) cleared the ball just before the goal line.
In the 15th minute of the game, the Nor’easters got their first true scoring chance. RC Williams (UPenn / Wayne, PA) lofted the ball to Kwesi Allen (Drexel / Trinidad and Tobago). Allen, who scored his first Ocean City goal in the club's midweek draw at New York Red Bulls Under-23s, collected the ball and tried beating a defender to move into the opposing box. However, Allen was tripped up just before making it into the 18-yard box. Allen’s free-kick was saved by Jahmali Waite.
One minute later, the Reading United offense made its way toward the Nor’easter goal. Forward Simon Becher, the club's leading scorer, launched a shot toward goal but was knocked down by Jan Hoffelner (St. Johns / Frankfurt, Germany). Becher got his own rebound, took a touch, and slotted the ball in the back of the Nor’easters net.
Ryan Inman (High Point / Birmingham, England) and Deri Corfe (Wright State / Chester, England) strung together a few passes to give Inman a look at goal. Inman gave it a go, but his attempt flew just over the Reading crossbar during the 19th minute.
Reading United’s Alban Rousselet received the game's first yellow card in the 34th minute.
The opponent made their way down the field right before half. In the 40th minute, outside back, Oakley Hanger tested Hoffelner but his attempt nailed the right post. Unfortunately for the Nor’easters, the ball landed at Filipe Hidecki’s feet. Hidecki tapped the ball in to put Reading up 2-0.
Physical play, for both teams, continued after the half. In the 48th minute, Corfe picked up a yellow card for the Nor’easters' first booking of the game. The Nor’easters looked like they were going to break through in the 51st minute. Allen beat a defender down the left sideline and slotted the ball across the box. Allen’c cross found Leon Maric (St. Josephs / Gilbertsville, PA) but Waite sprinted off his line to make the save before Maric could even attempt a shot.
An offensive surge continued for the Nor’easters. In the 62nd minute, the Nor’easters had a corner. Corfe placed a beautiful ball into the box and Daniel Kozma (Grand View University / Budapest, Hungary) struck the ball. However, his close-range shot was blocked by Waite.
"We created a number of great chances but [Reading goalkeeper] Jamali Waite had a great night and kept us out late in the game," said Nuss.
Five substitutions were made in six minutes. Ritchie Barry (St. Josephs / Sparta, NJ) came on for Brandon Smalley (Florida Tech / Bridlington, England) in the 68th minute and Ilias Kosmidis (High Point / Thessaloniki, Greece) came on for RC Williams in the 74th minute. Reading United made three changes in the 68th minute, 71st, and 72nd.
Daniel Kozma (Grand View / Budapest, Hungary) had another chance at goal in the 75th minute. The Nor’easters were awarded a free kick about 25 yards out. Inman’s free kick found Kozma and he beat the Reading United keeper, only to look to his right and see the Assistant Referees flag up signaling that Kozma was offside.
The Nor’easters made two more changes as time expired. Claudio Repetto (Coastal Carolina / Genova, Italy) came on for Brandon Bartel (UPenn / Fleming Island, Florida) in the 81st minute. Joey Bhangdia (U Penn / Lewisburg, PA) came on for Allen in the 84th minute.
Reading United received the game's second yellow card of the night in the 87th minute.
After three minutes of stoppage time, the head referee blew his whistle for the final time in West Lawn, PA.
The Nor’easters are optmistic about their chances down the home stretch of the regular season as they play six of their remaining seven league games in front of their home fans at Carey Stadium.
"It's not easy to play six of your first seven matches on the road," said Nuss. "We have to keep focused because we are still in position to make the most of the remaining seven matches."
They will kick off that home stretch next weekend when they host back-to-back games on Satuday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23. On the 22nd, the Nor’easters face the New York Red Bulls Under-23s and on the 23rd they take on FA Euro New York. Both games are scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m.