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Preview: Nor'easters playoff spot on line as USL's oldest active rivalry renews at Reading United

Tuesday's game will be the 52nd meeting between the clubs with Ocean City needing a win to clinch a playoff berth

Preview: Nor'easters playoff spot on line as USL's oldest active rivalry renews at Reading United

On Tuesday night in Reading, Pa., the Ocean City Nor'easters and Reading United AC will add a 52nd chapter to the United Soccer Leagues' oldest active rivalry.

This year, the two teams are heading in different directions with Ocean City fighting for a playoff berth and Reading trying to avoid their worst season as a member of USL League Two. No matter what the records are, the rivalry always produces high-intensity matches.

There will be a lot on the line for the Nor'easters on Tuesday night. A win will clinch a playoff berth for the club and keep their homes of a Mid-Atlantic Division title alive. Ocean City needs to earn just two points from their remaining three games to clinch a playoff spot. The only way the Storm can win the division is if they win their three remaining regular season games (Tuesday at Reading, Friday at home vs. West Chester United, Sunday at Philadelphia Lone Star FC). The top two teams in the Mid-Atlantic Division automatically qualify for the playoffs with the top third place team from the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast Divisions also punching their ticket as a Wild Card.

The rivalry dates back to 1997 when the two clubs were members of the USL's D-3 Pro League. Currently, no two teams in the USL Championship, USL League One or USL League Two have been playing each other longer than Ocean City and Reading.

Ocean City and Reading will square off at Berks Catholic High School in Reading, Pa. with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

For fans unable to make the trip up north to Reading, the Nor'easters will be providing live updates on the club's Twitter accounts (@OCNoreasters). The availability of a live video stream is unclear. Any updates to this status will be posted on social media.

The last time the Nor'easters played Reading United was on June 2 at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") in Ocean City, N.J., America's Greatest Family Resort. For the first time since 2004, Reading and Ocean City finished in a scoreless draw. Former Reading goalkeeper Jahmali Waite (UConn / Philadelphia, PA) earned the clean sheet that day without having to make a single save.

Reading leads the all-time series 22-21-8. Reading have had a lot of recent success at home in the series, having won the last four meetings on their home turf. 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 rivals had ever met in postseason play. Nathan Regis scored a pair of goals and league MVP Chevaughn "Chevy" Walsh assisted on a goal to break the club's single-season all-competitions scoring record (16 goals, 5 assists, 37 points).

The Nor'easters enter Tuesday's contest with a 7-1-3 record, sitting in second place in the Mid-Atlantic Division. The Storm have won its last two games, both without giving up a goal, or allowing a shot on goal.

After suffering the club's first loss of the season on June 23 to Philadelphia Lone Star FC, the Nor'easters bounced back with a 3-0 win over Lehigh Valley United (June 27) and a 5-0 victory over expansion side Real Central New Jersey last Friday. The clean sheets were the fifth and sixth of the season for Ocean City, which is the most since 2009.

In their last game, aside from a dominant defensive performance that saw Owen Elliott (Penn State / Philadelphia, PA) earn a clean sheet in his Ocean City debut, it was Austin DaSilva (Univ. at Albany / Brookfield, CT) who made headlines with a hat trick. The Albany forward, who was on the Hermann Trophy Watch List this past season, became the 13th Ocean City player to score three goals in a game, and the second one this season, joining the Storm's leading scorer Simon Becher (St. Louis Univ. / Brooklyn, CT), who came off the bench to score three against Lehigh Valley United back on May 19.

Tyler Watson (Cumberland / Simi Valley, CA) scored his third goal of the season and Kyle Galloway (Rutgers / Manahawkin, NJ) connected on a free kick in second half stoppage time to round out the scoring. 

Tuesday's game will mark the second time that Nor'easters head coach Alan McCann will face 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.

Simon Becher is the Nor'easters' leading scorer with eight goals in nine appearances, which is tied for the fourth-most in the league. Theo Quartey (Villanova / Accra, Ghana), who assisted on DaSilva's second goal on Friday, leads the team with five assists, which is tied for second-most in the league.

For Reading, it has been a season of two halves. The club won just one of their first seven games (1-5-1), but have turned things around in the second half. Since then, they have lost just one of their last five games, and would have been undefeated during that span but West Chester United scored a game-winner deep into second half stoppage time on June 23.

In their last game, they defeated Philadelphia Lone Star FC 4-1 at home last Friday. Andrea DiSomma, the team's leading scorer with five, scored a hat trick to lead the way for United.

The Nor'easters are not only trying to catch Reading in the all-time series, but Ocean City is also chasing United in the league history books. The two clubs are two of the most successful teams in USL League Two history since they each left the USL D-3 Pro League and joined USL2 in the mid 2000s (Ocean City in 2003, Reading in 2004). Reading enter Tuesday's game with 156 wins, 6th most in league history with Ocean City nipping at their heels in 7th place with 152.

2021 USL League Two Mid-Atlantic Division Standings (Updated July 5)


Team GP W L T PTS GF GA +/-
West Chester United 13 10 1 2 32 27 5 +22
OC NOR'EASTERS 11 7 1 3 24 28 8 +20
Northern Virginia FC 13 7 4 2 23 24 21 +3
Phila. Lone Star FC 13 5 8 0 15 22 22 +0
Reading United AC 12 3 6 3 12 13 20 -7
Real Central NJ 12 2 7 3 9 9 26 -17
Lehigh Valley United 12 2 9 1 7 14 35 -21

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