Ocean City can clinch a playoff spot with win on Wed.
Jeremy Ortiz scored a pair of first half goals to lead the Ocean City Barons to a 2-1 win over the Fredericksburg Gunners on a beautiful Saturday night at Carey Stadium. It was a battle between two impressive goalkeepers with Ocean City's Adam Edwards making eight saves, and the Gunners' Chris Creger stopping seven shots. It was a pivotal battle in the Mid-Atlantic Division playoff race, and the Gunners were eliminated from post-season play with the loss, while the Barons are now one win away from clinching.
On the same night, the Hampton Roads Piranhas clinched the Mid-Atlantic Division title with a 3-1 win over the West Virginia Chaos. The Barons (8-1-4, 28 points), the Virginia Legacy (8-5-1, 25 points), and the Reading Rage (5-4-4, 19 points) are the only three teams still alive to battle for second place. The top two teams in each division qualify for the conference playoffs.
The first chance of the game came in the 18th minute when Byron Carmichael was sent through down the middle. He touched the ball toward the left side of the penalty area and fired a shot wide of the near post after a combination of the ball taking a bad bounce and Carmichael being off balance.
Three minutes later, Ryan Heins found space 30 yards from goal and fired a shot just over the bar.
On the Gunners' ensuing possession, Adrien Bumbut dribbled from the left wing to the center of the field. He knifed through the Barons defense and found enough space to fire a shot from the top of the 18 yard box that went just wide left.
In the 27th minute, Brad Franks, making his first career start, made a nice lead pass to Jim Davis down the right wing. Davis, with the ball on his right foot, he stopped, switched to his left and sent a cross into the box. Ortiz leaped in the air and sent a glancing header from the near post and it found it's way into the back of the net just inside the far post to make the game 1-0.
Carmichael nearly doubled the lead in the 33rd when he received a through ball from Kyle Evans down the heart of the Fredericksburg defense. After Carmichael got behind the defense, he found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who had come off his line. He tried to chip the ball over the head of Creger, and was successful, but also lofted it over the crossbar as well.
The second goal came just five minutes later, in the 38th minute when Evans created another opportunity for the Men In Red. He bent in a cross from the left wing forcing Creger to come off his line to make a play on the ball. Ortiz met Creger in the air and got his head to the ball before the goalkeeper could get there.
Creger would come up big in the 44th minute when Carmichael got in behind the defense again, forcing him to make the save. The save helped start a counter attack by the Gunners which lead to Fredericksburg player/coach Cristian Neagu to place a near-perfect pass to Anthony Andrews in stride. Edwards came way off his line to defend, but Andrews dribbled around him to the right, stumbled, but regained enough balance to slot home the Gunners' first goal. It was Andrews' 9th goal of the season, and his third in two nights. The score was eerily similar to the goal that Neagu set up against the Barons in the 2005 conference playoffs when he was with the Richmond Kickers Future assisting on current FC Dallas forward Dominic Oduro's tally.
After the halftime break, the Gunners nearly equalized in the 50th minute, and once again, it was Andrews. He was sent free on the right wing and tried to chip Edwards who had come off his line, and luckily for the goalkeeper, the ball fell just wide.
One minute later, Franks created another chance with a cross into the box that found Evans, but Creger was equal to the task.
The remainder of the game was a physical match which failed to produce any goals, and the Barons backline held strong against an aggressive Gunners attack.
The Barons can clinch a playoff berth Wednesday, July 18 with a win against the Delaware Dynasty at Carey Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Carey Stadium main gate, $6 for adults, $4 for kids. Fans not able to make it to Ocean City, can listen to a live radio broadcast online. For links to the broadcast, and any other information about the Ocean City Barons, visit the club's official website at www.ocbarons.com.