Mario Pinto of Reading United celebrates his goal with teammates in their second round against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Reading was one of four PDL teams to reach the Third Round. Photo: Kari Haffelfinger
In a second round US Open Cup battle of two Philadelphia Union affiliates, Reading United pulled off a 1-0 upset victory over the Harrisburg City Islanders on Tuesday night. A Mario Pinto goal in the ninth minute and 90 minutes of sound defending sent United through to the third round for the first time in club history.
“[Defending] is a mentality,” Reading United coach Brendan Burke said. “When you’re defending from the front…it’s difficult for teams to get any sort of rhythm. [Harrisburg] is probably a more talented team than us right now, so we knew we would have to make the game a little ugly to get through it tonight, and we did it extremely effectively.”
Coming into the match, Reading had outscored its opponents 13-0. The team took that confidence into its contest against professional opposition, applying early pressure high up the field. In the ninth minute, a Reading goal kick bounced several times toward the Harrisburg net. Pinto judged the ball correctly and beat the City Islander defenders. He then hit a magical volley from the center of the box that Harrisburg keeper Nick Noble could do nothing about to put Reading up 1-0.
Harrisburg pressed forward after the goal, consistently going down the right side of the field with the speedy Morgan Langley. Several sequences involving Langley ended with Lucky Mkosana shots, but the forward could not find the back of the net. Reading goalie John McCarthy was a big reason for that, especially in the 39th minute when he saved a point-blank header off of Mkosana.
Mario Pinto of Reading United watches the ball carry into the back of the net in what would prove to be the game-winner against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Photo: Kari Haffelfinger
In the second half, Reading continued to press high up the field. Darius Madison subbed in for Pinto, serving as a constant presence and nuisance to the Islander backline.
“You saw Darius chasing 60 yards laterally at the end of the game. That’s hard work that doesn’t show up in the score sheet but wins you games,” Burke said.
As the game wore on, however, Harrisburg exerted more and more pressure. The City Islanders controlled the ball for nearly the entire last 15 minutes of play, but solid defending kept them from scoring. Other than a shout for a penalty kick in the 86th minute, Harrisburg could not create too many solid chances. That lack of creativity would cost them, as they eventually fell 1-0.
Reading earned its first-ever Open Cup victory over a professional team with the win. Next up is the New York Red Bulls, which will be the first MLS squad Reading faces in Open Cup play. What can already be defined as a magical Open Cup run for the PDL side will continue in Red Bull Arena next week.
“It’s a big step forward for the organization,” Burke said. “What an experience. I just walked over and asked the team who’s going to mark [Thierry] Henry next week! I’m sure he won’t play, but maybe they’ll put him on for a token 10 minutes to let the boys enjoy playing against him.”
Reading United 1:0 Harrisburg City Islanders
Don Thomas Stadium – Reading, Pa.
RU: Mario Pinto (unassisted) 9
Reading United: John McCarthy; Jonathan Dolezal, Damion Lowe, James Ockford, Benjamin Sweat; Keegan Rosenberry, Stephen Neumann, Emanuel Sanchez (Melvin Snoh, 65), Wesley Charpie; Larry Ndjock (Fatai Alashe, 74), Mario Pinto (Darius Madison, 56)
Harrisburg City Islanders: Nick Noble; Stephen Basso, Andrew Ribeiro, Coady Andrews, Colin Zizzi; Matthew Bahner, Cristhian Hernandez, Jamiel Hardware (Sainey Touray, 61), Morgan Langley; Jimmy McLaughlin (Yann Ekra, 61), Lucky Mkosana
RU: Keegen Rosenberry (caution – 42)
RU: Damion Lowe (caution – 67)
HCI: Sainey Touray (caution – 67)
RU: Stephen Neumann (caution – 90+)