A week after a season-opening 4-1 thumping of the Westchester Flames, New York Freedoms general manager/head coach David Price proclaimed his soccer team to be an improved club Saturday night.
And that's after the Freedoms fell to visiting Reading, 2-1, in a USL Pro-Select League Atlantic Division match at Belson Stadium on the St. John's University campus.
"Although the score line doesn't reflect it, we are better than last week," Price said. "In our decision making we need to be a bit more consistent, [we need] a bit more quickness to our game but we'll slowly but surely get there."
Despite playing with just 10 men for the final 30 minutes, Reading kept its composure defensively and second-half substitute Patrick Stanco capitalized on a Freedoms' defensive miscue to score the game-winner in the 81st minute.
Stanco, who came on for Eric Puls at the start of the second half, intercepted a poor header by Richard Beale intended for Freedoms keeper Peter Zaratin and then chipped the ball over the keeper from the top of the 18-yard box to put Reading (1-0) in front, 2-1.
"We were just hoping for a mistake and we got the mistake," said Stanco. "It was a tough position for [Zaratin]. He was coming out by himself and I just touched it over him. He just jumped out at the ball and couldn't get it, it was too high."
The goal was scored 21 minutes after Reading midfielder Jimmy Connor was sent off for his second yellow card for taking down Darren Baxter in the center of the park.
In the 85th minute, Reading was reduced to nine men when referee Mike Constantine showed defender Tommy Greenawalt a straight red card following his reckless tackle on Baxter.
But despite dominating possession for much of the game, New York (1-1) couldn't net the equalizer. The Freedoms' best chance came in the 89th minute when defender Kevin Daly settled Hemir Niebles' corner kick - New York's seventh on the night - in the box, but the former St. John's standout's shot from 14 yards out bounced wide of the near post.
Reading took a 1-0 lead on a cracking shot by Nick Chrisanthon, who blasted the ball over Zaratin from 30 yards out in the 14th minute.
New York tied the game in the 27th minute when Rocky Bojovic's lead pass found Julio Cesar, who stopped at the top of the 18-yard box and beat Rage keeper Greg Sherwood low to the keeper's right for his team-leading third goal of the year.
Cesar had a golden chance to put the Freedoms ahead 2-1 when he stepped up to take a penalty shot after Beale was taken down in the box by Chrisanthon following a scramble for a loose ball in the 35th minute.
But Cesar, who was the Pro-Select League Player of the Year last season, was stopped by Sherwood, who dove to his left to save the low shot.
"His direction was good, but he just under hit it," Price said of the penalty shot. "I think if we would have got that, we would have walked all over them."
New York concludes its three-game home stand Saturday at 8 p.m. at Belson Stadium against the New Jersey Stallions. In its opener Saturday, the Stallions rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat the New Hampshire Phantoms 2-1.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2003 Community News Group
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