Unbeaten regular season and thrilling run to PDL Championship Match highlight a great year
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Reading United’s 2018 season and it’s not hyperbole to call this past season the best in club history.
Season after season, Reading United has set the bar as one of the top clubs in the flourishing Premier Development League. 2018 saw Reading United exceed its own lofty expectations and set a new standard as the club transitions into the rebranded USL League Two in 2019.
The year kicked off in Philadelphia as the Pennsylvania Convention Center again played host to the Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Highlighting United’s continued excellence in preparing college prospects for the professional game, Reading alums Mo Adams and Paul Marie were selected in the first round of the draft. Adams, selected 10th overall by the Chicago Fire, and Marie, chosen by the San Jose Earthquakes with the 12th pick, pushed the number of Reading alums selected in the first round of the SuperDraft to 21.
2018 saw Reading United again qualify for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s oldest national competition. It was the club’s tenth consecutive appearance, a record for amateur clubs. Reading would go on to defeat Christos FC in a penalty kick shootout to win an opening round match in the Cup for the seventh straight season.
Reading United’s 2018 squad were imperious throughout the PDL regular season. Led by first year head coach Alan McCann, United did not lose a regular season match in 2018, finishing with a record of 12-0-2 en route to a second Mid-Atlantic Division title in three seasons.
There was no place like home for United in the postseason as the club hosted every one of their playoff games at the friendly confines of Wilson High School’s Gurski Stadium. United would defeat the Myrtle Beach Mutiny and the New York Red Bulls U23s to claim the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2010. Reading then went on to outlast The Villages SC to earn a place in the PDL Championship Match.
Reading United did something in 2018 that no other Berks County sports team has ever done… host a National Championship game in the Reading area. With the eyes of the American soccer community on Gurski Stadium for the PDL’s showpiece game, Reading United fought valiantly but ultimately fell to visiting Calgary Foothills FC, 4-2 after extra time.
Reading United’s record setting 2018 season was recognized with numerous postseason awards. Alan McCann was named the Premier Development League Coach of the Year, a first for the club. Captain Aaron Molloy followed up his 2017 PDL Young Player of the Year award by being named to the 2018 All-League Team. Goalkeeper Bennet Strutz, defender Kamal Miller and forward Khori Bennett earned All-Eastern Conference honors.
Bennett also wrote himself into the Reading United record books. The forward, who has played with United for three seasons and played collegiately at Radford University, became Reading’s all-time leading goal scorer with 18 career tallies for United.
Reading United also garnered major off the field awards following the successes of 2018. The club also picked up the PDL’s coveted Franchise of the Year award, a testament to all of the work and dedication that goes on at the soccer club, on and off the field. Reading United’s Jeff Blankenbiller, who oversees game day operations as well as other critical behind the scenes duties, was named the PDL’s Volunteer of the Year.
The year closed with a new crop of players moving along the now well-worn path from Reading to the professional ranks. Jakov Basic, Hugo Delhommelle, Ben Lundt and Kamal Miller became the latest United alums to earn an invitation to the MLS Player Combine ahead of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.