First-year head coach John Thompson leads Ocean City to another winning season
The 21st season for the Ocean City Nor’easters has come to a close with the club falling just short of the Premier Development League playoffs. Despite finishing one point better than last year’s Eastern Conference championship team, a change in playoff format and a couple of unlucky results left the Nor’easters on the outside looking in.
With the Nor’easters left out of the postseason, the Charlotte Eagles, led by former Ocean City player Mutaya Mwape, won the PDL championship.
The silver lining of the Nor’easters 9-4-1 regular season record, was that the club finished with the 15th-best record among all U.S.-based PDL clubs. Finishing in the Top 15 is expected to be enough to qualify Ocean City for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The biggest change for the Nor’easters in the offseason was John Thompson taking over as head coach after the team’s all-time PDL coaching wins leader Tim Oswald shifted to a front office role as Sporting Director. Thompson was an Ocean City player for five seasons from 2002-06 where he was a two-time All-PDL selection (2004, 2005) and was the 2004 PDL Defender of the Year.
The 9-4-1 record in his head coaching debut was even more impressive considering all the new faces on the roster on both offense and defense. Only a couple of players who were a part of the Eastern Conference championship team returned for 2017.
However, as one of the best teams in league history (130 PDL wins are eighth-most all-time), and playing in one of the best locations in the country, Thompson had no trouble attracting talented players to play high-level soccer during the summer at the Jersey Shore in Ocean City.
Before the PDL regular season kicked off, the first competitive games for the Nor'easters was a First Round game in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The national tournament that dates back to 1913 allows all teams from Sunday beer league teams to the top professional teams in Major League Soccer to compete in a single-elimination format. It’s a tournament that the Nor’easters have made a name for themselves nationally as they have upset five professional teams in their history, something only two other amateur teams in the country have done.
The Storm drew Junior Lone Star FC a fellow amateur team from the Philadelphia Premier Soccer League. The club, which was founded by West African immigrants, has quickly become a powerhouse in the Philly area. The game was played on the brand new turf at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") in Ocean City and the home side would jump out to an early lead and never look back. Fredlin "Fredinho" Mompremier (Limbe, Haiti / Fairleigh Dickinson) and Tyler Collishaw (Hull, England / Lindsey Wilson) would each score a goal within the first 20 minutes, and they held off a strong push from JLS after they pulled one back in the 62nd minute. Akeil Barrett would put the game away with an 84th minute goal as Ocean City earned the club's 10th all-time Open Cup win. Nine of those victories were as a PDL team, and only two amateur clubs in the country (Michigan Bucks, Des Moines Menace) have more wins in the Modern Era (1995-present).
In Round 2, the Nor'easters were awarded another home game, this time against the Harrisburg City Islanders, a professional team from the United Soccer League (Division 2). This was a re-match from the 2007 U.S. Open Cup where the City Islanders came to The Beach House and edged Ocean City 2-1. The 2007 match was extremely competitive and this year’s edition was even closer as both teams played to a scoreless draw over 120 minutes thanks to a strong performance by the Ocean City backline and goalkeeper Will Steiner (Point Lookout, NY / Villanova). For the first time in franchise history, the Nor’easters took part in a penalty kick shootout.
|Ocean City Nor'easters 2017 essentials|
|Ocean City Nor'easters History
(Updated after 2017 season)
|* All-Time Results (PDF)
* All-Time Player Year-By-Year Stats
* All-Time Goalkeeper Year-By-Year Stats
* Ocean City Nor'easters PDL Team Records
* Ocean City Nor'easters PDL Indiv. Records
* Ocean City Nor'easters PDL Career Leaders
(NOTE: When Ocean City was a professional team, shootouts were a routine tiebreaker for all games until it stopped prior to the 2000 season. They were not shots taken from the penalty spot.)
It was a chance to eliminate a sixth professional team, but it wasn’t meant to be. Harrisburg won the shootout 6-5 to advance to the next round to take on Ocean City alum Ryan Richter and his New York Cosmos (NASL). However, the silver lining is that the Nor’easters made history as goalkeeper Jimmy Slayton (Wethersfield, CT / Hartford) earned a shutout, which was the sixth time that Ocean City had kept a clean sheet against a professional team. No amateur team in the country has shut out more pro teams.
With the team’s U.S. Open Cup run coming to an end, the Nor’easters had to quickly shift their focus to the PDL regular season. Two days after the heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Harrisburg, Ocean City hosted Evergreen FC (formerly Northern Virginia Royals) at Carey Stadium for the team’s season opener. Friday’s opener was the first of two games that opening weekend with the Hammers sticking around for a Sunday game as well to avoid making two separate trips.
The opening game was a one-sided affair as Fredinho opened the scoring in the 13th minute and Ignacio Tellechea (Madrid, Spain / UC-Santa Barbara) added two more before Daniel Kozma (Budapest, Hungary / Grand View (Iowa)) sealed the deal with a goal in the 83rd minute. Evergreen scored a late goal to ruin the shutout as the Nor'easters won 4-1.
By far, the highlight of the season opening win was Tellechea’s first of his two goals which was scored off a free kick near the sideline on the right wing. Tellechea took the shot quickly when he saw the goalkeeper off his line and bent the ball just inside the far post. The goal got the attention of the rest of the league as it was awarded the PDL Goal of the Month with 49% of the vote.
WATCH: Tellechea's PDL Goal of the Month vs. Evergreen FC
After a 4-1 win and the goal of the season in the first league game of the year, what would the Nor’easters do for an encore? They would pull off the greatest comeback in the club’s PDL history. After the Hammers scored two first half goals, Ocean City looked like they were about to suffer their first-ever loss to Evergreen FC. It all started in the 85th minute when Barrett pulled one back, only to have Kozma score a dramatic 89th minute equalizer. Not to be outdone, Fraser Colmer (Southampton, England / Radford) buried a rocket shot from outside the box in stoppage time to give the Nor’easters an improbable 3-2 victory. Ocean City joined the PDL in 2003 and during that time, the Nor’easters had never rallied from a two-goal deficit to win a game.
HIGHLIGHTS: Nor'easters 3:2 Evergreen FC
In the first road game of the season, Francisco Neto’s (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil / West Virginia Tech) goal and Jimmy Slayton’s six saves (including one from a PK) helped the Nor’easters blank FA Euro New York 1-0. After that, the next major challenge was a road game against the New York Red Bulls Under-23s two days later. Both teams were undefeated but the Red Bulls would come away with a 3-1 win after Ocean City hit the goalpost four times over the 90 minutes.
The next game against long-time rival Reading United was selected as the PDL Game of the Week. With the game streaming live on YouTube, fans were treated to a defensive struggle between two Eastern Conference powers. It was the 43rd all-time meeting between the clubs in a rivalry dating back to 1997, and it was an 82nd minute deflected goal by Reading’s Aaron Molloy (2017 PDL Young Player of the Year) that was the only goal of the game.
Ocean City would bounce back after two straight losses with two straight wins over another long-time rival: Jersey Express. They wrapped up the string of four straight road games with a 2-0 win over the Express with Fredinho and Ismael Noumansana (Bamako, Mali / Lenoir-Rhyne) scoring the goals. Todd Morton (West Chester, PA / Delaware) picked up the shutout in goal. Then, Ocean City returned home to the Beach House and cruised to a 4-1 win over the Express thanks to three unanswered second half goals. The win gave the Nor’easters their first-ever three-game winning streak against the Jersey Express.
HIGHLIGHTS: Nor'easters 4:1 Jersey Express
After Ocean City suffered a surprising 2-1 road loss at Lehigh Valley United, the Nor’easters got back to their winning ways with a 2-1 road win at Evergreen FC three days later. Fredinho scored both goals to give him at least one goal in four straight games as the Haitian took over the team scoring lead. The win completed a three-game season sweep over the Hammers and extended their all-time record against Evergreen to 11-0-1.
The Nor’easters returned to the Beach House and earned a second straight 1-0 win over FA Euro New York. Max Hemming’s (Wokingham, England / Georgia State) 4th minute goal was all the Storm’s defense needed to earn the win as Todd Morton picked up his second clean sheet of the season. The game also marked the return of former OCN player John Manga (Lexington, KY / Cincinnati). Manga signed with the team after spending time with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League, a club that the Nor’easters launched a developmental partnership with earlier in the year.
The team’s final road game of the season was a much-anticipated game against Reading United. After the original game was postponed due to bad weather, the teams squared off on Thursday, June 29. Ocean City was dealt a heavy blow when last year’s Young Player of the Year Daniel Nimmo (Lithigow, Scotland / Campbellsville (KY)) left the game with an injury, followed by Nikola Fimic being sent off just before halftime. This left the team shorthanded and without both starting central defenders. This led to a 2-0 loss to United, which hurt the Storm’s playoff chances.
The remaining three regular season games were all at home and the Nor’easters needed to win all three to have any hope of making the postseason. They started with a 1-0 win over Reading United on the strength of a Fredinho penalty kick and a strong performance in goal by Morton. It was the first time the Storm had shutout United since May 22, 2007 (Adam Edwards). With the win, the Nor'easters lead the all-time series 20-18-7.
Ocean City took a break from the regular season schedule with an exhibition game against the New England Revolution Under-23s and Akeil Barrett led the way in a 2-0 home win. Barrett celebrated his birthday in style with a goal and an assist on Fredinho’s 83rd minute goal to beat the MLS Academy side for the second year in a row.
When the Nor’easters returned to the regular season schedule, Ismael Noumansana scored a 75th minute equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls Under-23s, the team that would eventually finish with the best record in the PDL. Unfortunately the result would eliminate Ocean City from playoff contention.
With the playoffs out of reach, there was still something to play for in the regular season finale at Carey Stadium. After TheCup.us crunched the numbers, it appeared as though a win over Lehigh Valley United would be enough to likely qualify the team for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. They did not disappoint. Noumansana scored a pair of goals, Fredinho added another to go with two assists and Tellechea and Neto added a goal each to lead the Nor’easters to a 5-0 win over United. Todd Morton earned his fourth clean sheet, the most since John McCarthy had five shutouts back in 2012.
HIGHLIGHTS: Nor'easters 5:0 Lehigh Valley United
The win over Lehigh Valley helped the team finished with a nine-game home unbeaten streak, the longest such streak since 2004. That streak would end up extending to 28 games, which is the longest in PDL history.
The season would wrap up with an exhibition game with the D.C. United Under-23s. The fans at the Beach House were treated to an exciting game as Noumansana scored two goals and Neto added a third in a 3-3 draw with the MLS Academy team.
STATISTICS / AWARDS
Fredinho would finish as the team’s leading scorer with 19 points (8 goals, 3 assists) and, naturally, was named the Nor'easters Offensive Player of the Year. Noumansana finished second with five goals and a team-high four assists (14 points). Tellechea, the team's Creative Player of the Year, tied with Noumansana for the second-most goals with five to go along with one assist. Todd Morton’s four clean sheets helped him finish with a 0.80 goals against average, the lowest GAA since John McCarthy’s 0.73 during the 2012 season. For his efforts, the Delaware goalkeeper was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year.
Daniel Kozma, who would also be named the Nor'easters Team MVP, was a PDL All-Eastern Conference Team selection. Kozma scored a pair of goals and was a regular on the backline for the Nor'easters, playing 12 games, with four of those games ending in a shutout. He was a major part of a defense that finished the campaign with a team 1.00 goals against average, which breaks the Nor'easters' PDL club record for a 14-game season. And while it's just a regular season award, it's worth noting that Kozma also played 120 minutes without allowing a goal in the club's Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match against professional side Harrisburg City Islanders (USL). Kozma is just the fourth Nor'easters defender in club history to be named to the All-Conference team, joining Chris Williams, John Fletcher and current Ocean City head coach John Thompson.
John Schroeder (Houston, TX / Delaware) was named the teams' Young Player of the Year and his college teammate Robert Gillin (Marlton, NJ / Delaware) was the Breakthrough Player of the Year. Combined with Morton, the trio of Blue Hens will hope to get Delaware back to the NCAA tournament.
Francisco Neto was given the Nor'easter Award for his exceptional efforts of representing the club both on and off the field.