SOUTH HUNTINGTON, NY - A season that continued to build with excitement came to an end Friday evening when the Long Island Rough Riders defeated the Seacoast United Phantoms 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final of the Premier Development League.
The playoff match was originally scheduled for 8pm but did not kick off until an hour later due to inclement weather that delayed the 5:30pm playoff between Jersey Express and Carolina Dynamo.
The first half was a sluggish performance for the Phantoms, one in which they struggled to find rhythm for the majority of the 45 minutes. Long Island Rough Riders’ striker and leading scorer Dominick Sarle found the net twice, first in the 18th minute and again in the 27th to give his side the 2-0 lead.
In extra time just before the half, Phantoms midfielder Robbie McLarney found Mike Adam on the other end of a corner kick, scoring off a header to put Seacoast United on the board. McLarney returned to action after missing Tuesday’s Northeast Division Final vs. MPS Portland. The teams entered the locker room at the half with the score in favor of Long Island 2-1.
Unhappy with his team’s performance, manager Iain Scott challenged his players to redeem themselves in the 2nd half. The squad responded, but in the 53rd minute momentum changed again when the Rough Riders were awarded a penalty on a very questionable call. Sarle was called upon and converted the penalty for his third goal of the match.
The Phantoms were able to control the run of play and dominate possession throughout the 2nd half, but could not answer. Seacoast pushed numbers forward in an attempt to level the score. The Rough Riders were able to ride out the pressure and secure the win.
For the match, Long Island had 10 shots and 4 saves to Seacoast United’s 9 shots and 3 saves. The Rough Riders entered the game as the Eastern Conference’s #1 seed and Mid-Atlantic Conference champion with a record of 12-1-3. With Friday’s victory, they will face Jersey Express (defeated Carolina Dynamo 2-1) in the conference final on Saturday.
The Phantoms finish the 2011 campaign as Northeast Division Champions with a record of 8-7-3 (including both playoff games) after finishing 7th in the division in 2010.