The 2013 season saw the Ocean City Nor’easters complete the most successful season in the history of the franchise as they stormed to the Mid-Atlantic Division with a 11-2-1 record before sealing the Eastern Conference Championship with a comprehensive 3-1 victory against Ottawa Fury and going on to play in the National PDL Championships in Texas. As well as strong performances in the league the team also put together a fantastic run in the US Open Cup where they were just minutes away from causing a huge third-round upset against MLS team Philadelphia Union at PPL Park, having already knocked out New York Red Bull’s U23 side and professional club Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the previous rounds.
In his second year as Head Coach Tim Oswald built on the strong core provided by last season’s Mid-Atlantic Division champions to take this season’s side even further. In attack top goalscorer Dwayne ‘Bullet’ Reid was brought in to complement the existing pace and flair in attack provided by players such as Emmanuel Kollie, Zoncher Dennis and Frank Tweneboa whilst in Defense and Midfield exciting talents such as Nick Perea, Shawn McLaws, Ken Tribbett and New Zealand Olympic Goalkeeper Mike O’Keeffe were added to an already very strong roster. With such talent at his disposal Coach Oswald assembled an exciting counterattacking team whose sheer speed and creativity caused problems for defenses throughout the league. A fact illustrated by the Nor’easters finishing in joint second place in terms of goals scored throughout the entire PDL, with Reid placing 5th in the entire PDL with his 12 goals for the season.
The team’s success this year has seen the Nor’easters’ overall franchise records continue on an upward trajectory, with this season’s Eastern Conference Final victory bringing up the Nor’easters’ 100th win in the PDL in an overall record of 100-42-39, leaving them in 6th place in the overall PDL win records. The club also remain tied for 5th overall for their home record of 57-18-18 showing just how important the home support is at ‘fortress’ Carey Stadium.
As well as it being a great season for the club as a whole, there was also a number of individual achievements throughout the year. Perhaps the most high profile was Dwayne Reid’s inclusion in the 2013 All-Eastern Conference Team for his goalscoring exploits throughout the season. Central Defensive lynchpin Tapiwa Machingauta led the squad in terms of minutes played this season racking up an impressive 1240 minutes in league play alone. Tapiwa was one of seven players to break the 1000 minute barrier during the season along with Frank Tweneboa, Ken Tribbett, Zoncher Dennis, Nick Perea, Shawn McLaws and club legend Kevin Curran, who finishes his Nor’easters career having played almost 5000 minutes for the club over 5 seasons.
Looking back on the season, Head Coach Tim Oswald reflected that “having had the opportunity over the years to see the Ocean City Barons PDL and Nor’Easters PDL teams perform in league, playoff, and US Open Cup formats, to me, this was one of the most complete seasons that the club has witnessed. Each year as a staff, our goal is to win the Mid-Atlantic Division, advance as far as possible in the PDL playoffs, and make a deep run in the US Open Cup. We managed to accomplish each of those goals, but we also won the Eastern Conference Championship and advanced all the way to the PDL Final 4 before losing to the Aztex. The run we had this year shows that the organization is capable of competing with the best amateur and pro teams around. The performance on the field also shows that hard work, commitment, dedication, and diligence behind the scenes goes a long way to reaching these lofty goals and expectations.”
With a good pre-season under their belts the team started the summer in fine form, recording a comfortable 2-0 victory against the much hyped New York Red Bulls U23 team in their first fixture in the Open Cup before going on to defeat USLPRO team Pittsburgh Riverhounds on the road in the second round; as well as securing a 2-1 victory over Central Jersey Spartans in the opening league fixture of the season. After such a strong start the team went to Philadelphia for the third round of the cup in confident mood, a confidence that was evident in the way they played as they nullified the attacking threat of a front line including US Men’s National team striker Jack McInerney for large periods of the game whilst always carrying a threat going forward. Despite conceding just after half-time the Nor’easters were always in the game and looked to have secured a huge tie when Emmanuel Kollie coolly slotted home after Ken Tribbett headed down a pinpoint delivery from club captain Kevin Curran with just minutes to play. Although the Union managed to scramble in a late winning goal to secure a fortunate win our future pros left the stadium having proven to themselves and everyone watching they were more than comfortable playing in the very highest company.
After exiting the Open Cup all attention was turned back to the Mid-Atlantic Division as the Nor’easters went on a three game winning run, scoring ten goals in the process, as they travelled to Westchester, Jersey Express and Baltimore Bohemians before dominating a tied game against long-term rivals and perennial title challengers Reading United. After a storming start to the season the Nor’easters rounded off their commitments on the road with a comprehensive 3-1 victory at Long Island to secure an unbeaten away record before returning to the shore.
Although their return to Carey Stadium didn’t go as planned, with the Nor’easters succumbing to their first defeat of the season against Jersey Express; they were soon back to winning ways with an emphatic 5-0 demolition of Central Jersey Spartans as Frank Tweneboa stole the show, scoring three goals and assisting the other two. This victory signaled the start of perhaps the Nor’easters hottest streak of the entire season as they went on a five game winning run, scoring 19 goals whilst conceding only 2 in victories against The Spartans, New Jersey Rangers (twice), New York, and Reading United. As well as being notable for Dwayne Reid’s 8th and 9th goals in just 3 games the Reading United victory was also the game the Nor’easters retained the Mid-Atlantic title they had won the previous year. To win arguably the most competitive division in the entire PDL for two seasons running, and especially to secure the title against a huge rival and one of the strongest teams around is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates the strength of the team and organization as a whole. The Mid-Atlantic division was, after all, as Coach Oswald says “the only division in the country that had 2 teams advance to the 3rd Round of the US Open Cup before losing to an MLS team...and that speaks volumes about the rich talent found in this division. The race to win the division championships was one of the closest in the country and it came down to the very end of the season. To win the league in back to back fashion was an impressive accomplishment for our club as it’s always hard to defend a crown”
After sealing the title the Nor’easters rounded off the regular season with a forfeit victory against the Long Island Rough Riders and a last minute defeat to Baltimore in what was surely the game of the season as the Bohemian’s goalkeeper scored in the last minute to secure their passage in to the playoffs.
As Mid-Atlantic division Champions the Nor’easters went straight into the Eastern Conference play-offs, which they also had the honor of hosting this season. The second of the semi-finals saw the Nor’easters entertain South-Atlantic Division champions Carolina Dynamo; with so much at stake the game was a tight affair which saw the team produce a fantastic rearguard performance to keep the scores level after being reduced to 10 men for much of the second half and the 30 minutes of overtime. After 120 minutes of soccer couldn’t separate the teams the penalty shootout saw the team hold their nerve as each Ocean City player scored their kicks whilst Mike O’Keeffe rounded off a stupendous performance by saving the Dynamo’s third penalty to put the team into the final against Northeast Division champions Ottawa Fury.
Roared on by the home support the Nor’easters put Ottawa to the sword in the first half as they scored three unanswered goals in the first 43 minutes against a team who had previously only conceded 9 in the entire season. Despite an excellent first half The Fury managed to pull a goal back on the very stroke of half time in order to keep themselves in the game. What followed was an utterly professional performance by the boys from Ocean City as the team closed ranks in the second half to limit Ottawa to half-chances and hopeful shots from distance to secure the win, the Eastern conference title and a place in national championships in Texas.
Despite suffering a close defeat to hosts and eventual champions Austin Aztex in the national semi-finals the entire Nor’easters organization can look back on a hugely successful season which saw the team take another big leap forward and has moved a lot of the players even closer to their ultimate goal; a place in the professional leagues. With large numbers of the squad going back to college to complete their sophomore and junior seasons in college this team has the potential to go even further next year as the club close in on their ultimate goal of a national championship.
As well as developing soccer players The Nor’easters have also provided some fantastic entertainment to the crowds at Carey Stadium and the entire Ocean City community who have once again been fantastic with their support at games, soccer camps and the numerous community events they have attended throughout the year. The club would be nothing without this support and the whole organization would like to thank every fan and the City for their continued backing; it’s an honor to be based in the best PDL franchise location in the USA and America’s greatest family resort.
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Pictures courtesy of Ben Fogletto, Press of AC and Ocean City Nor’easters