ELITE 8

Written by Michael Lewis

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Not even a 90-minute weather delay could stop the Long Island Rough Riders from reaching the Eastern Conference final of the USL League Two playoffs on Sunday night.

The Riders won their sixth consecutive match, securing a 2-1 victory over Vermont Green FC in the semifinals at TowneBank Stadium.

Ryan Carmichael snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 82nd minute, scoring off a counterattack.

After clearing a Vermont corner kick, the Rough Riders moved rapidly down the pitch. Justin Weiss, on the left side, passed to Jayden Reid, who found an open Carmichael on the right side. Carmichael left little doubt hammered the ball home past goalkeeper Nate Silveira from four yards for a precious one-goal edge and his 12th goal this season.

Matthew Vowinkel also tallied for the winners, who will play the Seacoast United Phantoms in next weekend’s conference final. Seacoast defeated the Western Mass Pioneers in extratime, 1-0, on Sunday night.

Six minutes into second-half stoppage time, Vermont’s Owen O’Malley was awarded a red card for accruing his second yellow card.

Lightning held up the kickoff of the conference semifinal for a good hour and a half before commencing play a little after 8:30 p.m.

Long Island enjoyed the majority of the chances in the opening 20 minutes, but could not cash in.

Only five minutes later, the Rough Riders did on a textbook goal. Roc Carles Puig brought the ball in toward the area and shuffled off a pass to Carmichael on the left flank. Carmichael then crossed the ball to an open Vowinkel, who headed the ball home past Silveira for his team-leading 13th goal of the campaign and a 1-0 lead.

Connor Tobin, however, equalized in the 33rd minute as he fired home O’Malley’s corner kick past goalkeeper Wessel Speel for his first goal this season.

The Rough Riders overcame a one-goal deficit to upend the previous undefeated Ocean City Nor’easters, 3-1, in the quarterfinals here on Friday night.