Deri Corfe's USL League Two MVP performance leads Nor'easters to another winning season
The Ocean City Nor’easters closed the book on the club’s 23rd season, the 17th as a member of USL League Two. The Storm finished the season riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, and will also carry a nine-game home unbeaten streak into next year, but unfortunately, their strong finish to the season wasn’t enough to qualify for the USL League Two playoffs.
The Nor’easters, led by first-year head coach Kevin Nuss, finished with a 6-3-5 record, placing second in the Mid-Atlantic Division, one of the toughest divisions in the league. Unfortunately, due to the playoff format, which only allowed the three division winners and the top second place team from the Eastern Conference, Ocean City was left on the outside looking in.
On the bright side, the team was led by a pair of outstanding, and record-breaking, individual performances this season. Deri Corfe (Wright State / Chester, England) and Claudio Repetto (Coastal Carolina / Genova, Italy) scored 22 of the team’s 27 goals with 14 of them coming from Corfe, who shared the USL League Two scoring title. He also tied the club’s single-season record for goals (14) and points (31). With his performance, Corfe became the third player in club history to be named the USL League Two MVP, and was an easy choice as the Nor’easters’ team MVP for the second year in a row.
The Nor’easters got a head start to the regular season with a 2-0 exhibition win over FC Monmouth of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). It would be a sign of things to come as after FC Monmouth would gift the Storm an own goal, Deri Corfe would score his first goal of the year.
It would seem like the momentum started from the exhibition win would carry over into the club’s season opener on the road against FA Euro New York. Corfe set up Daniel Twizer (Missouri State / Golan Heights, Israel) for the game’s opening goal in the 80th minute and since they had held FA Euro without a shot on goal to that point, the defense just needed to hold on for 10 more minutes to start the campaign with three points. Unfortunately, New York’s first, and only, shot on goal went in. The game would finish 1-1 as FA Euro earned a point from Ocean City for the first time in nine all-time meetings (8-0-1).
A few days later, Ocean City would rebound with a big 3-1 road win over the Long Island Rough Riders. Corfe scored a pair of goals (including a 35-yard bomb - see video below) and Repetto scored his first goal as a Nor’easter from the penalty spot. Jan Hoffelner (St. John’s / Frankfurt, Germany), making his second start of the season, nearly earned his first clean sheet, but the Rough Riders would break up the shutout in the 88th minute. Hoffelner, who was the NPSL Goalkeeper of the Year the year before, made four saves including a stop on a penalty kick in the first half.
The early season unbeaten streak would come to an end with a rare 2-0 road loss against Lehigh Valley United. It was just the second loss to United in 10 all-time meetings (8-2-0).
The Nor’easters would return home to Carey Stadium (“The Beach House”) for the club’s home opener, beating Evergreen FC, 2-1. Corfe would score the opening goal only to see the Hammers tie it up on a penalty kick in the 28th minute. Ilias Kosmidis (High Point / Thessaloniki, Greece) would later score the game-winner in the 85th minute to give the Nor’easters a win in their home opener for the fourth year in a row. Brandon Smalley (Florida Tech / Bridlington, England) who missed all of last season due to injury and bounced back as the team's Creative Player of the Year, assisted on both goals in the game.
The up-and-down results would continue as the Nor’easters would head back out on the road and fall, 2-1 to expansion side Cedar Stars Rush in the first meeting between the two clubs. Corfe would score the lone goal as he was involved in at least one goal in four of the first five league games of the season.
The Nor’easters would take a break from league play to host Atlantic City FC from the NPSL in an exhibition game on June 7. It was a much-anticipated first meeting between the two clubs that play in cities that are separated by a mere 14 miles of Jersey Shore beaches. Ocean City would prevail in the inaugural Boardwalk Derby (or War at the Shore … choose your favorite rivalry nickname).
Corfe would score a goal and add two assists for goals by Smalley and defender Gustavo Fernandes (Stony Brook / West Babylon, NY). A pair of Hawks from St. Joseph's University would link up on another goal by Leon Maric (St. Joseph's / Gilbertsville, PA) on an assist by Ritchie Barry (St. Joseph's / Sparta, NJ). Goalkeeper Keegan Meyer (High Point / Silver Spring, MD) would earn the clean sheet in the 4-0 win for the Nor’easters. Atlantic City FC would eventually qualifying for the NPSL playoffs in league play.
After the exhibition win, Ocean City would enter the toughest stretch of the season with three straight games against two of the top teams in the division.
A pair of early first half goals by Kwesi Allen (Drexel / Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago) and Maric were canceled out by two late first half goals by the New York Red Bulls Under-23s as the game finished at 2-2 in Whippany, NJ. Defensive midfielder Ryan Inman (High Point / Birmingham, England) picked up what would be his lone assist of the season on Maric's goal.
Three days later, the Storm traveled north to renew their rivalry with Reading United AC and lost, 2-0. They would earn another point by welcoming the Red Bulls to the Beach House the following weekend as Hoffelner made nine saves in a scoreless draw. It would prove to be the only shutout the Nor’easters would earn in league play during the 2019 season.
The Red Bulls game marked the halfway point of the season with the Nor’easters having a 2-3-3 record. However, despite the uncharacteristic start to the season, the Storm were still within range of a playoff spot with five of the remaining six games of the regular season being played at the Beach House.
Two days later, the Nor’easters continued their playoff push with a 3-1 home win over FA Euro New York. Corfe scored twice and Repetto added a goal and an assist. Smalley also added his third assist of the season. The win was significant as it was the 200th win in Ocean City's 23-year club history.
The Corfe and Repetto duo would continue their hot streak with a 4-3 win over Lehigh Valley United. Each of them scored twice and dished out one assist. Two days later, the Nor'easters would avenge their loss from earlier in the season with a 2-1 win over Cedar Stars Rush. Corfe and Repetto would each score with Corfe assisting on Repetto's game-winner in the 47th minute.
After three straight wins, the Storm were back in the playoff chase, but those postseason hopes took a major hit after a 2-2 draw with Evergreen FC in the team’s final road game of the season. Without Corfe in the lineup, Matteo Bennati (Ohio State / Genova, Italy) drew two fouls in the penalty area and Repetto converted both penalty kicks, including an equalizer in the 90th minute.
The Nor’easters needed to win their final two games and get some help from some other games to have a chance at the postseason. When they welcomed Reading United to the Beach House for the 50th all-time meeting between the clubs, they got the result they needed. The Storm scored three first half goals and never looked back with Corfe scoring a hat trick and Repetto adding his eighth goal of the season on an assist by Nor'easters' Defender of the Year Williams N'Dah (Charleston (WV) / Rome, Italy). Corfe became the 11th player in club history to score a hat trick to lead the Nor'easters to a 4-1 win which handed Reading its first and only loss of the regular season. Reading would eventually advance to the USL League Two championship game, falling 1-0 in extra time to the Flint City Bucks.
After a 1-1 draw in a friendly at Carey Stadium with the Philadelphia Lone Star where Corfe scored in his third straight exhibition game, it came down to the season finale against the Long Island Rough Riders. Other results eliminated Ocean City from playoff contention, but a win or a draw would clinch second place in the division and give Ocean City an undefeated home record for the 2019 season. Also, Corfe was chasing the USL League Two scoring title. With two goals, Corfe would tie for the league lead, and a hat trick would give him the scoring title outright. Corfe would score twice before halftime and share the scoring title with Kyle Edwards of Brazos Valley Cavalry FC. Ocean City's 2017 MVP Daniel Kozma (Grand View / Budapest, Hungary) would add another goal as Ocean City would finish with a 3-3 draw against Long Island to finish the season with an undefeated home record (5-0-2). Bennati would assist on Corfe's first goal while Smalley would dish out his team-leading fourth assist on Corfe's second goal which came in first half stoppage time.
Hoffelner made history in this final game against Long Island as he became the first Ocean City goalkeeper in club history to start every game and play every minute of the regular season. Leading the team in minutes played for field players was defensive midfielder Ryan Inman with 1,198. Following close behind was another defender in N'Dah (1,182). Brandon Bartel (Pennsylvania / Fleming Island, FL) was also a regular as a defensive midfielder for the Storm, logging over 1,000 minutes, along with the remaining 1,000-minute club members Corfe, Kozma, and Smalley.
With the regular season over, most of the players had gone back to their respective colleges and universities. However, the Ocean City Nor'easters received a tremendous opportunity for the players who were either still located nearby, or could travel back. The reigning Portugese champions SL Benfica were in the midst of taking part in the International Champions Cup and needed an opponent for a friendly ahead of their match at Red Bull Arena against Italian club Fiorentina. The European powerhouse contacted the Nor'easters to take part in a closed-door exhibition game at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field. Head coach Kevin Nuss only had eight players and an assistant coach (goalkeeper Matt Perrella) from the 2019 Ocean City roster available for the match, but the Storm recruited a number of guest players to face SL Benfica. The Portugese giants fielded numerous first team players, and came away with a 5-0 win, but it was a chance for Ocean City players (and their guest players) to test themselves against some of the best players in the world.
It was a huge year for Corfe as he was not only voted the club's first repeat team MVP, but he was also the first player to win the team MVP award and the Offensive Player of the Year award in the same season. In addition, Corfe becomes the third Ocean City player to win the league's MVP award, joining Ruben Mingo (2004) and Chevaughn “Chevy” Walsh (2016).
With 14 goals, Corfe tied the Nor’easters’ single-season goalscoring record and becomes just the second player in club history to win the USL League Two scoring title. Corfe’s also tied the team goalscoring record set by Chevaughn “ Chevy” Walsh back in 2016 when he won the league MVP award. However, Corfe scored his 14 goals in two fewer games (12). Corfe scored three game-winning goals, added a game-winning assist and created a goal (either by scoring or assisting) in nine of the 12 games he played in. The majority of his goalscoring total came against top competition. Nine of his 14 goals were scored against the top four teams in the Mid-Atlantic Division, headlined by his hat trick on July 7 against USL League Two runner-up Reading United AC.
Offensive Player of Year was really a two-man race as Corfe and teammate Claudio Repetto scored 22 of the team’s 27 goals. With Corfe’s 14 goals and 3 assists, he accounted for 63% of the team’s offense. Repetto finished among the league leaders with 8 goals and 3 assists. Between the two players, they scored 22 goals, which tied the Nor’easters club record for the highest-scoring offensive duo. They tied the record set in 2004 by Byron Carmichael and league MVP Ruben Mingo during the club’s undefeated regular season.
Corfe becomes the fifth Nor'easters player in history to be named to the USL League Two Team of the Year (also known as the All-League Team or the league's Best 11). He joins a list that includes former Ocean City head coaches Neil Holloway (2004), and John Thompson (2004, 2005), and a pair of former league MVPs in Ruben Mingo (2004), and Chevy Walsh (2016)
Combining with last year’s debut season in Ocean City, Corfe has put together one of the best two-year runs in Nor’easters history. He finishes his second season at the Shore with 20 goals and six assists (46 points). His 20 goals and 46 points both rank third in club history behind Mingo (2003-06) and the club’s all-time scoring leader, Carmichael (2004-11).
2019 Results/Schedule (with match reports)
2019 Ocean City Nor'easters Team Award winners
MVP: Deri Corfe
Offensive Player of the Year: Deri Corfe
Defensive Player of the Year: Williams N'Dah
Creative Player of the Year: Brandon Smalley
Breakthrough Player of the Year: Albert Andres-Llop
Young Player of the Year: Marco Torino
Nor'easter Award: Gustavo Fernandes
2019 USL League Two Award winners
USL League Two MVP: Deri Corfe
USL League Two Team of the Year: Deri Corfe
USL League Two All-Eastern Conference Team: Deri Corfe
USL League Two Co-Golden Boot winners: Deri Corfe & Kyle Edwards