Ocean City qualifies for the postseason for first time since 2016, even all-time series with Reading
The Ocean City Nor'easters punched their ticket to the USL League Two playoffs with a 5-2 road win over Reading United AC on Tuesday night.
Five different goalscorers helped the Nor'easters not only earn the club's first trip to the postseason since winning the 2016 Eastern Conference championship (at Reading), but it evened up the all-time series with Reading. After the 52nd meeting between the two clubs, the United Soccer Leagues' oldest active rivalry is now level with a record of 22-22-8.
Anthony Herbert (St. John's / Brooklyn, NY), Kyle Galloway (Rutgers / Manahawkin, NJ), Simon Becher (St. Louis Univ. / Brooklyn, CT), Austin DaSilva (Univ. at Albany / Brookfield, CT) and MD Myers (High Point / Delran, NJ) all scored to give the Storm a third straight win.
Owen Elliott (Penn State / Philadelphia, PA) picked up the win in his second straight start in goal as the Nor'easters extend their road unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2).
With the win, the Nor'easters (8-1-3) move within five points of first place West Chester United in the Mid-Atlantic Division. Ocean City hosts West Chester at the Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") on Friday, July 9 in the regular season home finale (7:30 p.m.). Anything less than a win and West Chester will clinch the division title and Ocean City will clinch second. If the Nor'easters beat United on Friday, the only way they can win the division title is by defeating Philadelphia Lone Star FC on the road in the regular season finale on Sunday, July 11. Anything less and West Chester takes the division.
Tuesday's win eliminated Northern Virginia FC from division title contention. Now, the only way they can qualify is as a wild card. The best third place team between the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Divisions will get into the playoffs. If they can beat out Seacoast United for the wild card spot, the Northern Virginia will host the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference tournament (July 16-18). If they fail to qualify, the Western Mass Pioneers (Ludlow, Mass.) will host.
"Reaching the playoffs was our first target of the year so it's good to hit that," said Nor'easters head coach Alan McCann. "Now, we focus on our next targets."
Ocean City's win snaps a four-game road losing streak at Reading. The last time the Nor'easters won a game at Reading was the biggest game the two teams ever played. In 2016, the Nor'easters defeated United 4-1 in the Eastern Conference championship game. It was the first time the two teams had ever met in postseason play in a rivalry that dates back to 1997.
Reading falls to 3-7-3 on the season, which is their worst season (on a points per game basis) since joining USL League Two back in 2004.
For the third game in a row, the Nor'easters got out on the front foot offensively. They controlled the majority of the possession and created multiple chances in the first half.
They opened the scoring in the 27th minute off a corner kick. The team's leading assist man Theo Quartey (Villanova / Accra, Ghana) started the play by passing to Tal Segev (NC State / Rishon LeZion, Israel) who crossed the ball in and found defender Kasper Skraep (Coastal Carolina / Nyborg, Denmark) who played the ball in the air to Anthony Herbert who headed it past Reading goalkeeper Lucas Burns. It was Herbert's first goal of the season and Skraep's first assist.
About 10 minutes later, the Nor'easters doubled their lead. Tyler Watson (Cumberland / Simi Valley, CA) fed the ball through to Kyle Galloway who hammered it into the back of the net for his third goal of the season. It marked the New Jersey native's second straight game with a goal.
Also controlling the play was the Nor'easters backline who went into the halftime break without allowing a shot on goal, making life easy for goalkeeper Owen Elliott, who was making his second league start of the campaign. After Ocean City's only loss of the season against Philadelphia Lone Star on June 23, the Storm's defense not only didn't allow a single goal in each of the last two wins, but they entered the halftime break on Tuesday night without allowing a shot on goal for more than 225 minutes of play.
"We were very good going forward throughout but more clinical in the second half," said Nor'easters head coach Alan McCann. "Defensively there was moments that it was unacceptable the way we defended."
The defensive mishaps McCann alluded to ended the team's shutout streak at 312 minutes. In the 57th minute, Jake Gosselin cut the Ocean City lead in half on an assist Zeke Zambrano.
The Nor'easters would answer back five minutes later when the team's leading scorer added to his goalscoring resume. Alex Andersson (Colorado - Colorado Springs / Helsingborg, Sweden) put some pressure on the Reading defense and created a turnover that led to Becher curling a low driving shot into the bottom corner to score his ninth goal of the campaign. His nine goals is tied for third-most in the league.
In the 73rd minute, Austin DaSilva, who came on as a second half substitute, provided an encore for his hat trick performance last Friday against Real Central New Jersey. Galloway played provider this time by playing a ball in to DaSilva who tapped in his fifth goal of the season (second most on the team) to put Ocean City up 4-1.
A couple minutes later, the Ocean City defense let their guard down for a moment and Reading added a second goal. Marcus Brenes fed second half sub T-Ben Donnie who scored his first goal of the season.
The Nor'easters would put the game away in the 80th minute when a DaSilva brought the ball down from a throw in and played it to MD Myers who scored to make it 5-2. Myers, who was a Hermann Trophy Semifinalist at High Point University this past season, it was his second goal of the season.
The Nor'easters are now unbeaten (2-0-1) against Reading United in their last three meetings, including a scoreless draw at the Beach House earlier this season on June 2.
Tuesday's game also marked the second time that Nor'easters head coach Alan McCann faced his former club. McCann, in his first year with the Nor'easters, came to Ocean City after four years coaching Reading United. After two years as an assistant, McCann took over as Reading’s head coach in 2018 and led the club to a 28-3-5 overall record along with back-to-back division and conference titles, while also reaching the USL League Two championship game in both seasons. Earning that level of success as a team playing in the Mid-Atlantic Division, arguably the toughest in the league, he was named the 2018 and 2019 USL League Two Coach of the Year.