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PREVIEW: Nor'easters host New York Red Bulls U-23s at the Beach House tonight

Focus is on qualifying for 2018 US Open Cup after Reading United clinched playoff spot on Saturday night

PREVIEW: Nor'easters host New York Red Bulls U-23s at the Beach House tonight

UPDATE: Nor'easters defeat New England Revolution U-23s, 2-0

STORY BELOW UPDATED: Reading United defeated Jersey Express 5-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth

After a 2-0 exhibition win over the New England Revolution Under-23s at Carey Stadium on Friday night, the Ocean City Nor'easters shift their focus back to league play on Sunday night as the division-leading New York Red Bulls Under-23s.

Entering the weekend, the Nor'easters still had a slim chance at making the PDL playoffs, however a game on Saturday night changed that. With Reading United's 5-0 win over Jersey Express on Saturday, Ocean City was mathmatically eliminated from playoff contention. The Nor'easters (8-4-0) have 24 points and Reading, who holds the second and final playoff spot in the Mid-Atlantic Division, is six points ahead with 30. Even if Ocean City wins their final two games and United lose their final two, they would be tied and Reading would make the playoffs due to a head-to-head tiebreaker (Reading won 2 of the 3 meetings this season).

However, even with the playoffs out of reach, Sunday night's game is still very important because the Nor'easters are aiming to qualify for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Qualification for the national tournament that includes amateur and professional teams is based on the previous year's league results. The format for the 2018 tournament has yet to be released by the United States Soccer Federation, but for 2017, the top 21 teams from the PDL took part in the 104-year-old competition and the last team to qualify earned 24 points. Ocean City currently has 24 points with two games left to play.

The Nor'easters will be anxious to return to the tournament so they can add to one of the best amateur team resumes in the country. Only two amateur teams in the Modern Era (1995-present) have more professional team upsets than the Nor'easters' five. Earlier this year, they won the club's 10th all-time Open Cup game after defeating amateur side Junior Lone Star from the Philadelphia Premier Soccer League. In Round 2, they nearly upset another pro team, but instead were eliminated in penalty kicks by the Harrisburg City Islanders of the USL.

The game against the Red Bulls at the Beach House will kick off at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are available at the gate for $10 each, with kids five and younger getting in free.

The Nor'easters will play the Red Bulls for the second time this season with New York winning the first meeting on May 27 on their home field. Ocean City were unlucky as they hit the goal post four times in a 3-1 road loss.

“We aren’t under any pressure, every game is worth three points, no matter if its the first game of the season or the run in,” stated Thompson. “Everyone is as important as the other, we just go out and play each opponent and focus on what we need to do to get those three points."

Fredlin "Fredinho" Mompremier (Limbe, Haiti / Fairleigh Dickinson) scored the lone goal in Ocean City's last game, a 1-0 home win against Reading. His goal from the penalty spot was his team-leading seventh of the season (eighth in all competitions). Todd Morton (West Chester, PA / Delaware) earned his third clean sheet of the season against Reading, which dropped his goals against average to a team-best 1.00.

The Red Bulls are currently in first place in the Mid-Atlantic Division with a 10-1-0 record this season. The MLS academy team has been very successful. Brian White leads the PDL with 13 goals scored and Jose Aguinaga leads the team with three assists. The Red Bulls have won three straight entering this weekend and are the second-highest scoring team in the PDL with 38 goals scored in 11 matches. They are tied for the league lead in goal difference with a plus-28. The only blemish on the Red Bulls' record this season came in a 2-1 road loss to Reading United back on June 17. 

There will be very little room for error as New York heads down the home stretch trying to win the club's second Mid-Atlantic Division title in three years. The Red Bulls are tied with Reading for first place with New York having three games remaining and United with two. Both teams split their two meetings this year and the Red Bulls currently hold the advantage in goal difference, which would be the likely tiebreaker depending on how the remaining games play out. 

It will be a challenge for the Nor’easters to take on one of the league's best teams, but they will be up for it.

"The Red Bulls are playing great football so we are looking forward to the challenge, it will be tough to keep them off the scoreboard,” he stated. “We will have to play our best football of the season to get a result. We will focus on ball movement, and keeping possession, the best way to keep the Red Bulls from scoring is to deny them the ball.”

Fans unable to make it out to the Beach House this weekend can follow all the action live on the Nor'easters Twitter account and can also listen to the game on 91.7FM WLFR. To listen to the game, click here, then select "Listen Live" and follow the instructions. Fans can also listen to the game at home on their Roku streaming device or on any mobile device by downloading the "Shoutcast" app and search for WLFR.

Top 2 teams qualify for the PDL playoffs
Reading holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Ocean City

Team GP W L T PTS GF GA +/-
NY Red Bulls U23s 11 10 1 0 30 38 10 +28
Reading United AC 12 10 2 0 30 31 9 +22
OC NOR'EASTERS 12 8 4 0 24 20 13 +7
Jersey Express 12 4 8 0 12 20 32 -12
Lehigh Valley United 11 4 6 1 13 18 22 -4
FA Euro New York 10 2 8 0 6 6 22 -16
Evergreen FC 12 1 10 1 4 12 37 -25

Remaining schedules:

New York Red Bulls U-23s
Sunday, July 9 - at Ocean City Nor'easters
Wednesday, July 12 - home vs. FA Euro New York
Saturday, July 15 - home vs. Evergreen FC

Reading United AC
Wednesday, July 12 - at Jersey Express
Saturday, July 15 - at Lehigh Valley United

Ocean City Nor'easters
Sunday, July 9 - home vs. New York Red Bulls U-23s
Wednesday, July 12 - home vs. Lehigh Valley United

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