Goals from John Manga, Matthew Vasquenza, Harry Swartz give Ocean City 3-1 road win
Behind strong performances from several key contributors, the Nor'easters defeated the New York Red Bulls U23s, 3-1, in a hard fought road match.
Ocean City Nor'easters Starting XI: (Front) M. Vasquenza, R. Myers, A. Mpofu, H. Swartz, P. Delgado-Rodriguez; (Back) J. Manga, M. Lurie, A. Unzue, A. Morrison, J. Guinovart, E. Klenofsky (C)(GK)
In the 56th minute of the Ocean City Nor’easters match with New York Red Bulls U23, Ocean City forward Matthew Vazquenza was called for a controversial yellow card when he was taken to the ground on a hard slide tackle.
Just over one minute later, Vazquenza made sure he didn’t fall down again.
The speedy forward muscled his way past a tackle and rifled a pass across the field to teammate Harrison Swartz, who delivered a decisive goal into the back of the net to give the Nor’easters a 2-1 lead. The goal would prove to be the difference in a 3-1 Nor’easters victory on Wednesday night.
“The yellow card kinda got to me but I just kept going at the defender,” Vazquenza said. “And lucky enough we got that challenge and there was no call so I just kept going on and found Swartz on the top of the box and he did his job and put it in the back of the net.”
The Nor’easters (1-1-0) rebounded nicely from an opening night loss to D.C. United U23 in which the team looked disjointed for most of the match. Behind strong performances by Swartz, Vazquenza and forward John Manga, the Nor’easters turned in a strong ninety minutes to earn their first win of the season.
The game was a defensive chess match for most of the first forty minutes with the Nor’easters generally adopting a pragmatic, defensive approach against the possession oriented Red Bulls squad.
However the Nor’easters were unafraid to break forward on the attack when the opportunity presented itself, swiftly moving the ball from defense to offense and creating chances to score.
“We knew Red Bull was a great possession team so we wanted stay disciplined and organized defensively and then counter out of that space,” Nor’easters head coach Tim Oswald said. “And we were able to do that with three transition goals tonight.”
The Red Bulls broke the scoreless tie in the 41st minute on a corner kick. The initial cross was stopped by Ocean City goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky, however the rebound was buried into the net by midfielder Steve Echevarria to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead.
Manga made sure the lead didn’t last long.
Only two minutes later, the six-foot two-inch forward took a clearing pass and dribbled through the Red Bulls defense finding himself one on one with the goalkeeper. He chipped the ball pass the net minder and into the net to tie the game at one.
“I think [Manga’s] been tremendous for us, with his energy and strength up top as a target forward,” said Oswald. “He just manages to do the small things and comes up big in big moments. He’s gotten two great goals for us and I think his work rate kept the back four of the Red Bulls honest tonight.”
Swartz’s goal gave the Nor’easters the lead shortly after halftime.
From there on out, the Nor’easters were forced to feverishly defend their net as the Red Bulls desperately searched for the equalizer. Each time the Red Bulls created an opportunity to score, the stone wall that is Klenofsky came up with a huge save.
“[Klenofsky] is a big time goalie. He’s one of the best goalies in the country,” Oswald said. “We expect him to make the saves he’s needed to for us to get the results that we want. Can’t say enough about Eric tonight.”
In the 87th minute, after Ocean City fended off one of New York’s ten corner kicks, substitute midfielder Ovan Oakley dribbled the ball past the midpoint and the Red Bulls defense. Oakley swiftly passed the ball to Vazquenza, who made sure the Red Bulls won’t be forgetting him anytime soon by knifing a goal past the goalkeeper to seal the Nor’easters victory.
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The win energized the Nor’easters fans in attendance and impressed the biggest Nor’easters fan of all; "El Presidente", Giancarlo Granese, the owner of the Ocean City franchise.
“It was a great game. There were glimpses last week so I was hopeful they could turn up the heat and it happened tonight,” Granese said. “I’m so proud of them. They play with a lot of heart. They have a great attachment to the Nor’easters colors and the city of Ocean City.”
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