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Freedoms lock up playoff berth, with just a little help

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While David Price’s eyes were on St. John’s DaSilva Field Sunday night, the New York Freedoms head coach’s ears were on assistant coach Jon Urbom’s cell phone.

That’s because equally as important as the Freedoms’ regular-season finale against the Reading Rage to Price was the result of the Long Island Rough Riders’ contest at the New Jersey Stallions.

Price received good news on both fronts, as the Freedoms edged the Rage, 1-0, and the Rough Riders pounded the Stallions, 4-1.

As a result, the Freedoms clinched a playoff berth and will play at the D3-Pro League Atlantic Division champion Rough Riders Sunday at 6 p.m. at Mitchel Athletic Complex.

When he took over as head coach, Price had two lofty goals for his club: to make the U.S. Open Cup and the playoffs, which was a lot to ask of a team that moved up from the Premier Development League and only practice part-time.

“We’re very, very pleased, but we’re still going to go out and prepare to win against the Rough Riders,” said Price, who sent Freedoms midfielder Jesse Van Saun, serving a one-game red card suspension, to the Stallions game. “We’re going to do everything we can to try and win. Now we’re three games away from the championship.”

After falling to the Rough Riders 3-0 last week, the Freedoms (13-7) had the difficult task of having to win its final three games to put themselves in playoff contention.

First New York rallied from a 1-0 deficit at New Hampshire to come away with a 3-1 victory. Then the Freedoms beat the Stallions, 2-1 Saturday night before winning their third straight against struggling Reading.

“The Rough Riders loss may have been a blessing in disguise, because it gave the players as well as the coaching staff a chance to look ourselves in the mirror,” Price said. “We showed we can bounce back and have character, which is what this team is all about.”

Mario Gallo scored the lone goal of the game against Reading, when the Manhattan College graduate corralled a bouncing ball, found space in the box and beat Rage keeper Henry Ellis high inside the right post from five yards out in the 21st minute.

“I was lucky to get the ball on my feet. It was a rebound and I was in a good position to turn around and face forward,” Gallo said. “It was a huge goal. There was a lot of pressure [tonight], we struggled a bit through the midseason, but we were able to come through at the end.”

Reading (3-16-1) had the better of play in the final 20 minutes of the first half and most of the second half, taking advantage of a tired Freedoms squad. But the Rage struggled in the offensive third, never truly getting off a quality scoring chance.

Reading’s most dangerous opportunity came in the 56th minute when Tim Connor got off a one-timer from 10 yards out, but Freedoms keeper Peter Zaratin made the save.

New York Freedoms 2, New Jersey Stallions 1. Aboubcar Camara netted the game-winner from 20 yards out in the second half for the Freedoms Saturday night at St. John’s. Paul Cusano put New York ahead, 1-0 on a free kick in the first half.

New York Freedoms 3, New Hampshire Phantoms 1. Rocky Bojovic scored the first of two goals with 30 minutes left to erase an early 1-0 deficit. Stuart Duffin also scored for the Freedoms July 31.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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