SPORINGFIELD NJ - The Jersey Express advanced to the PDL’s Eastern Conference Championship on Tuesday night as they defeated the Long Island Rough Riders 3-1 in the Mid Atlantic Playoff. The Express will also host this weekend’s conference championship, which kicks off on Saturday night at NJIT Stadium.
Long Island had an early chance off a free kick by Ben Whitcomb in the third minute, before Jersey’s Carlos Victor Alvarenga Silva began a serie
s of good counter-attacks on both sides for the visitors. Seconds after a Jersey goalkeeper Matt Turner saved a long shot by Long Island's Danny Kramer, the Rough Riders' Jimmy Nealis came up with a good pass to Joe Holland inside the penalty area, but Jersey’s defense was there to clear.
The Rough Riders threatened again in the 17th minute, as Glen Reid intercepted a good attack by Alvarenga Silva and started a counter-attack, but after Kramer failed to connect inside the penalty area, a quick attack by the Express created a huge chance as a shot by Sevag Kherlopian hit the crossbar.
Both sides continued to have chances to open the scoring in the first half. A cross by Jersey’s Matthew Mahoney found Christopher Karcz inside the box, only for the chance to go begging, while Long Island's Shaun Foster and Keith Detelj answered with great shots from just outside the penalty area, only for Turner to save. The first half ended scoreless as a good shot by Holland from inside the penalty area was saved by Turner, and Reid’s pass failed to connect with him just seconds later.
Kramer gave the Rough Riders the lead just minutes into the second half when a good shot from inside the penalty area in the 48th minute put Long Island in front. Jersey hit back quickly as just one minute after Joe Martin saved a great shot by Kherlopian, Alvarenga Silva scored an amazing volley to equalize through an assist by Max Brodarzon in the 52nd minute. Exactly 10 minutes later, Kherlopian scored a second for the Express to make it 2-1.
With less than half-an-hour to go, the Rough Riders pushed strongly for the equalizer, but Turner saved Stefan Mueller’s shot from just outside the penalty area to keep the Express ahead. Jersey also looked to add to its lead, and Martin was forced into a good save by William DaSilva in the 73rd minute.
As time wound down, the Rough Riders started a series of attacks, but Tyler Botte’s shot went just wide and Reid’s pass failed to connect inside the penalty area as Jersey held firm defensively. Just one minute after Turner saved a series of shots by Junior Rosero for the Rough Riders, The Express got the insurance goal they were looking for when Gabriel Torres in the 87th minute to make it 3-1. Rosero had a final chance for the Rough Riders, but the defending Eastern Conference champions advanced with an impressive victory on the road.
The Express will now face the Charlotte Eagles in the semifinals of the PDL Eastern Conference Championship on Saturday night at 5:00 p.m. ET. The New York Red Bulls U23 and GPS Portland Phoenix will meet in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. , with the championship game set for Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.