Some 100 miles north of the District, a trio of Hoyas takes the field. Their performance isn’t overpowering — with Georgetown, it hardly ever is — but a 1-0 win, as they’ve well learned by now, is a win enough. Steve Neumann, Keegan Rosenberry and Melvin Snoh march on.
Your typical summer job, this is not. No, this is the 100thedition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and for amateur soccer side Reading United A.C., last week’s upset of the professional Harrisburg City Islanders means a shock spot in the tournament’s third round. And, more importantly, it also means a shot at the vaunted New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer.
It’s an odd twist to a Blue and Gray story that really should have gone through Red Bull Arena for the Big East tournament semifinals last November. That destination had indeed been plugged in by Head Coach Brian Wiese’s squad on the very first day of preseason, and the on-field results, as it turned out, were enough to get them there.
The weather wasn’t. With the tri-state area still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the semifinal and championship matches were relocated to the Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park, and Georgetown as a result never got to make its intended trip to Harrison, N.J. But on Wednesday, Neumann,Rosenberry and Snoh, at least, will finally have their chance.
Georgetown’s Sports Information office failed to provide comment from any of the three players given a week’s notice for this story. In addition, despite Neumann’s own efforts to get in touch with Sports Information Director Mex Carey, an emailed list of questions from The Hoya for the three players was not returned by press time.
Reading Head Coach Brendan Burke, however, spoke highly of the contributions being made by the team’s Georgetown standouts when reached by phone last Wednesday. Neumann, a rising senior who wears the armband for Reading in what is now his third summer with the team, was singled out for particular praise.
“Steve’s contribution has obviously been massive — that’s why we named him captain this year. He started with the club three seasons ago now, and he worked his way in as a spot starter, a guy who player pretty limited minutes his first year and got better as the year went on in 2011,” Burke said of the attacking midfielder.
“His progression has been pretty rapid and substantial, and I talked to him before this summer and made sure it lined up with his schedule and we could get him back again. He’s a veteran player in our environment now and a guy who knows the system and the expectations — and the expectations are pretty great in our program.”
Rosenberry and Snoh, both rising sophomores, are no strangers to the Reading setup themselves. Both came through the academy of the club’s parent team, MLS’ Philadelphia Union, and Rosenberryhas also seen minutes in the past with the Union reserves, a side that is similarly coached by Burke.
The same kind of familiarity that has helped Neumann step in and make an impact, then, has likewise helped the two younger Hoyas. Rosenberry — who started all 26 regular- and postseason games at right back during his freshman season — has been put in his natural position at holding central midfield for United this summer and, by all accounts, has truly shone while doing so. Snoh, meanwhile, has featured in every game but one thus far, although he has typically echoed his freshman role at Georgetown by appearing as a kind of super-sub late in games.
None of the three Georgetown players live particularly close to Reading — Rosenberry and Snoh are each about 45 minutes away — but they are all relatively close by in Pennsylvania, meaning that they are necessarily allocated into the Union’s geographical region. That’s not true of all of Reading’s roster, though, with three players hailing from Florida and one from Colorado.
Oh, and then there’s midfielder Cesar Lopez-Castillo of El Salvador. And Jamaican defender DamionLowe. Plus striker Mario Pinto Neto from Brazil, Berlin’s Larry Ndjock, Finland-born midfielder AleksiPahkassalo and — just for good measure — a New Zealander in Auckland’s own Jordan Vale as well.SFSers, eat your hearts out.
All told, perhaps it’s no surprise when Burke admits that, “to be perfectly honest, some of our guys don’t know each other’s names coming into our first game.”
“That’s where it becomes important for us to have guys in the program multiple years like Steve; guys who are familiar with me and my coaching style, like Keegan; who have become through the academy, like Melvin,” Burke said. “[We need] guys that have come through the 16s, the 18s, that have played multiple years in the PDL, so that when they come back in the summer, they can switch right back to that mentality and help the ones who have never been with us before.”
“WE’LL MANAGE OUR EXPECTATIONS”
That method has worked beautifully so far for Reading, as the team currently sits at 3-0-0 in the Premier Development League, having scored 15 goals in those contests without conceding a single one. The latest in the team’s run of impressive results was a 4-0 Monday thrashing of the New York Magic, but United is not expecting to see the same kind of scoreline against the other, higher-level New York team it is set to face on Wednesday.
With 25 points, the Red Bulls are now atop MLS’ Eastern Conference, albeit having at least a game in hand over everyone else in the league. Thierry Henry and Co. are tied for the MLS lead in goals scored, and Reading’s defense can certainly expect its spotless streak of 2013 to be tarnished when it goes on at Red Bull Arena.
That said, Reading is not without a puncher’s chance. PDL squads have knocked off MLS ones in the Open Cup before, with the Michigan Bucks topping the Chicago Fire just last year to provide the most recent example. Upsets are typically rampant in such domestic cups — just ask English Premier League giants Manchester City, which was felled by soon-to-be-relegated Wigan 1-0 in the FA Cup final May 11.
Still, regardless of the precedents and regardless of how many New York first-teamers actually lace up on Wednesday, Burke isn’t getting his hopes up about the possibility of securing the improbable win. Even if Australian international Tim Cahill, Brazilian maestro Juninho and the legendary Henry are on the sidelines for this one, Reading will still have its hands full with a group of hungry MLSerslooking to take advantage of an opportunity to make an impression on their coaches.
Former Georgetown captain Ian Christianson, who was selected by the Red Bulls with 22nd overall pick in Jan. 17’s MLS SuperDraft, is just one of those players. New York has not yet made its roster for the third-round cup game public, but a sparingly used Christianson would seem a good bet to be on it. That could spell trouble for the Hoya star’s former teammates.
And so, for Neumann, Rosenberry and Snoh — at last having their opportunity to cross the touchline at Red Bull Arena — as well as their teammates, their coach said that it’s going to be all about the experience.
“You take this to the FA Cup and play it there, this is like going and playing Man U or Arsenal. We’ll manage our expectations going into a game like that,” Burke said. “The most important thing is that this is a game that these guys are never going to forget.
“I want them to enjoy it, more than anything.”
Kickoff between Reading and New York is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Harrison, N.J.