Ocean City hands out Nor'easter Award and honors for offensive, defensive, breakthrough, young players of the year
The 2017 Premier Development League (PDL) season is nearly over with the league championship game scheduled for this weekend. Despite finishing with one point more than last year's Eastern Conference championship team, the Ocean City Nor'easters missed out on the playoffs this year, but likely did enough to qualify for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
With most of the Nor’easters headed home or heading back to their respective colleges, it’s time to hand out the 2017 team awards to reflect so many of the outstanding individual performances.
Most Valuable Player: Daniel Kozma (Budapest, Hungary / Grand View)
The 2017 Ocean City Nor'easters Most Valuable Player award goes to Hungarian defender, Daniel Kozma. The Grand View University player was dominant wherever he stepped on the field during this campaign. He played a variety of different positions this season including right back, center back, and defensive midfield. He was especially impressive playing in the center of a back three toward the end of the season after several defenders picked up injuries.
Despite those injuries, Kozma was part of a record-breaking defensive unit. He played in 12 of the team's 14 league games, with four of them ending in a shutout. The team finished the season with 14 goals allowed in 14 games, producing a 1.00 team goals against average, which is an Ocean City team record for a 14-game season. Kozma also contributed on the offensive end of the field, scoring a pair of goals in the opening weekend of the PDL season. He scored an 83rd minute goal in the team's 4-1 win over Evergreen FC in the home opener. Two days later, he scored the 89th minute equalizer two days later in the Nor'easters' biggest comeback win in team history, defeating Evergreen FC 3-2 on May 21.
His performance did not go unnoticed around the league as Kozma was named to the PDL's All-Eastern Conference team, the fourth Ocean City defender to earn the honor.
"Daniel has an excellent all-around game," said Nor'easters head coach John Thompson, who was a former PDL Defender of the Year for Ocean City in his playing days. "He is smooth and technical on the ball, very composed, and makes the game look easy. He was rarely beaten in defensive situations, winning countless battles and setting off our attacks."
Offensive MVP: Fredlin "Fredinho" Mompremier (Limbe, Haiti / Fairleigh Dickinson)
At any level, it is tough to find great goalscoring talent. The Nor'easters have been blessed with great scouting and coaching to consistently find players who have a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net from some programs that might fly under the radar. Fredinho did well this season to keep that tradition going.
Fredinho started off the season with a goal against Junior Lone Star (Philadelphia Premier Soccer League) in the opening round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup which helped set up a Second Round matchup with USL side, Harrisburg City Islanders.
In the PDL regular season, he contributed eight goals to bring his total to nine in all competitions. Four of those goals were game-winners, including a penalty kick that gave the Nor'easters a 1-0 win over rival Reading United on July 2. Mompremier would link up well with any forward that was paired with him including Ismael Noumansana, Akeil Barrett, John Manga, and Ignacio Tellechea.
"Freddy was a threat to every defender in the league," said Thompson. "He has pace and power when running at goal and created a lot of goalscoring opportunities for himself and others with his direct style of play."
2017 PDL Season Highlights: Fredlin "Fredinho" Mompremier
Defensive MVP: Todd Morton (West Chester, PA / Delaware)
Goalkeeper Todd Morton had one of the most successful seasons for a goalkeeper in Ocean City Nor'easters history. With the University of Delaware ending the semester late, Ocean City was forced to wait a few weeks for Morton to arrive. Once he got here, he took the starting spot and did not let go.
Morton kept four clean sheets, the most by a player team in a single season since 2012 when current MLS player John McCarthy (Philadelphia Union) had five. Morton allowed eight goals in 10 matches to earn a 0.80 goals against average, which is the fourth-lowest in club history in a single season.
"Any back four would feel more confident with a goalkeeper like Todd behind them," said Thompson. "He made some outstanding 1-v-1 saves to keep us in games and toward the end of matches when teams were trying to get back in the game he commanded his box to claim all balls pumped into the box. He has a great personality and has a very bright future."
Creative Player of the Year: Ignacio Tellechea (Madrid, Spain / Univ. of California - Santa Barbara)
While Fredinho banged in the goals, Ignacio Tellechea was doing the job that would not necessarily make the headlines. He was not the one who always ended up on the scoresheet, but his creativity and ability to find the right pass in the final third were second to none.
The peak of his creativity came in the season opener against Evergreen FC when he quickly took a free kick from the right wing near the sideline and caught the Hammers goalkeeper off guard and smashed the ball into the back of the net inside the far post. That goal was voted the PDL's Goal of the Month for May with 49% of the vote.
While Tellechea did a lot of the creative work in midfield, he also scored some goals of his own. He finished the year tied with Noumansana for the second-most goals on the team. He also finished with three assists in all competitions, with two of those coming in the team's 3-1 home win over Junior Lone Star in the U.S. Open Cup.
"Ignacio began the season on the right wing and mid-season we moved him more central so that we could get him on the ball more often," said Thompson. "He has a great left foot, and was a threat in open play and delivering corners and free kicks."
Young Player of the Year: John Schroeder (Houston, TX / Delaware)
With the Nor'easters bringing back just a few players from last season, it was evident that plenty of young players were going to play a major role during the 2017 season. Last season's Young Player of the Year Award winner, Daniel Nimmo, returned in 2017 and was one of the vocal leaders on the team. This year, John Schroeder showed all of the skills it takes to succeed at the next level.
Schroeder played in 10 games this year, with four of those games resulting in clean sheets for the Nor'easters. He also picked up an assist in the team's 5-0 season finale win over Lehigh Valley United, which likely clinched a spot in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
"John came in late due to his school commitments and waited a couple of games before he got his chance to start, but took that chance very well and impressed everyone with his work rate up and down the right wing," said Thompson. "He was a threat going forward and very strong in defense too."
At just 20 years old, Schroeder is a promising player of the future.
Breakthrough Player of the Year: Robert Gillin (Marlton, NJ / Delaware)
Robert Gillin has spent time with the Ocean City Nor'easters prior to this season. Last year, he was a member of the Under-20 team and made the roster for a few friendly matches. This season, he got his chance and played a much bigger role. An injury bug hit the Nor'easters this season and he made the most of the chances he got. Down the stretch, he was used quite frequently, played in five of the final seven games and he looked the part. He will surely be a talented midfielder in the coming years and could see an even greater role next year.
Rob goes about his job without any fuss and was very valuable toward the end of the season," said Thompson. "We slotted him in the center mid position and his simple possession-based style of play allowed us to get our full backs forward more often."
Nor'easter Award: Francisco Neto (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil / West Virginia Tech)
Every summer, the Nor'easters have players come into the team from all different schools and countries. Neto arrived from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and really made Ocean City his home this summer. The way he connected with the community was unmatched. Francisco not only played a huge role in community events that players and coaches attended, but also with the annual summer camps. After every home game, it was clear that the kids loved him by the way they ran onto the field to see him. Neto followed in the footsteps of captain and last year's Nor'easter Award winner, Fraser Colmer. Francisco greatly represents what the club stands for both on and off the field.
"Francisco embodies the true meaning of a team player," said Thompson. "He put the team before himself and was supportive of any player going through a bad patch and was always positive. He became our universal player who would play any position, during the season he was asked to play right back, right wing, left wing, attacking mid, and center mid and always put in a solid performance."