NEWARK -Saturday night's regular season finale might not have featured quite the level of crispness and effectiveness that the Jersey Express has displayed most of the summer. Even so, thanks to a second half surge, the Express will enter the upcoming PDL Eastern Conference playoffs on a bit of a high note.
Trailing by two goals at intermission, the Express got second half goals from Joseph Ovenseri and Kene Eze to earn a 2-2 draw with Long Island at NJIT's Lubetkin Field.
With the tie, the Express (10-1-3), who won the Mid-Atlantic Division title, finish the regular season with a four-game unbeaten streak. The time, opponent and location for the Jersey Express' first playoff game is yet to be determined.
"I didn't think we had a great game," Jersey Express head coach Jeff Matteo said. "We had some good opportunities. Defense I still think is our issue. We gave up too many opportunities, but I admired the fight and the determination of the boys."
Playing their fourth game in 11 days, the Express found themselves in the unfamiliar position of trailing in last night's contest. Long Island (8-2-4) struck first in the 15th minute Tyler Arnone received a Dan Brown pass inside the box and launched a shot under the crossbar for a goal. Brown gave Long Island a 2-0 lead in the 32nd minute when he scored off a Joe Holland feed.
A red card issued to Long Island's Keith Detelj in the 58th minute gave the Express a man-advantage. It was an advantage the home team would capitalize upon.
The two goal deficit was cut in half in the 78th minute when Ansger Otto's throw-in was flicked by Nicholas Viaggio before being knocked in by Ovenseri for his fifth goal of the season. Six minutes later, the Express struck again as Viaggo found an open Eze on the right side. Eze then shot it inside the far post for the tying goal in the 84th minute. For Eze, the reigning PDL Player of the Week, it was his sixth goal of the season, tying him with Walter Hines and Christopher Karcz for the club lead.
"It's good (to finish strong like that), but it also can be bad. Hopefully they don't think it can just happen like this," Matteo said. "We got to come out better prepared and with a better attitude overall to win games. Especially in the playoffs where you can't make mistakes."
Joe Martin played the first 72 minutes in goal for Long Island and made three saves without allowing any goals before giving way to Josh Haberman. David Greczek had five saves for the Express, who will now turn its attention to the postseason.
"It's great that we got to the playoffs. I'm very happy that we won the (Mid-Atlantic) Division, but it doesn't mean anything now," Matteo said. "The only game that matters now is the one in front of you. We got to take care of that."