Nor'easters kick off 2011 at Reading United on Friday, home opener vs. NJ Rangers on Sunday

First game of the year against first place Reading already a do-or-die match for US Open Cup qualifying

Friday’s matchup with Reading United AC is as big as it gets for the Nor’easters. The game against first place Reading doubles as a league game and a US Open Cup qualifier. Then on Sunday, Ocean City FC have their home opener against the New jersey Rangers at 6 p.m. at Carey Stadium.

Byron Carmichael battles against Reading United during the 2010 season. Photo: Bill Pellegrino
The Ocean City Nor’easters open up their 2011 campaign with two US Open Cup Qualifying matches this weekend. On Friday, the Nor’easters will head to Pennsylvania to play rival Reading United AC and will return home on Sunday to host the New Jersey Rangers in their home opener at Carey Stadium.

The Nor’easters are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season in which the team finished with its first losing record in club history (5-6-5). After missing the playoffs in 2010, the bar has been raised for the 2011 Nor’easters. The expectations remain the high for the Nor’easters, who are striving to return to the playoffs and qualify for the U.S. Open Cup as they did in 2009.

Friday’s matchup with Reading United AC is as big as it gets for the Nor’easters. The game against first place Reading doubles as a league game and a U.S. Open Cup qualifier. Although they have had only a few weeks of training, the Ocean City Nor’easters enter Friday’s game with confidence as they hope to start off their season with a victory against a Reading side that has already played three games this season, and has won the Mid-Atlantic Division championship three years in a row.

Reading United AC enters the game on top of the Mid-Atlantic standings with a perfect 3-0-0 record. They have handled their opponents with relative ease so far this season, winning each game by at least two goals. Reading started off the 2011 season by beating the Brooklyn Knights 3-1. They added a convincing 4-0 victory over the New Jersey Rangers last Sunday, and they defeated the Westchester Flames on the road by a score of 4-1 in their latest game.

The Nor’easters will look to slow down Reading’s high-powered attack which is averaging 3.67 goals per game. So far this season, Reading has received solid production from a number of players. Matthew Sanner leads the team in goals (3) and points (6) after scoring a hat trick against the Brooklyn Knights in his only game of the season. Christian Barreiro (1 G, 2 A) and Will Bates (2 G, 0 A) both have four points on the season, while Hasani Sinclair leads the team in assists with three. Nine other players enter Friday’s match with at least one point for Reading.

Kyle Miller attempts a diving header against the New Jersey Rangers last year. Photo: Bill Pellegrino
On the defensive side of the ball, Reading has given up just two goals in three games. Brian Holt has played every minute in net for Reading and has made 11 saves on the season. Reading has had a number of players contribute on the back line as well, and two of the eleven goals have come from defenders.

Ocean City and Reading have had a long-time friendly rivalry that dates back to 1997, when the Nor’easters entered the D3 Pro League where Reading was only a second year franchise. Ocean City joined the PDL in 2003 with Reading following suit the year after. The two clubs have played each other every year except for taking a break during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, with Ocean City leading the all-time series 17-7-5. As a PDL squad, the Nor’easters have lost only once in 12 meetings (6-1-5).

While Reading has had a solid start to the 2011 season, Ocean City is expecting a victory at Oley Valley High School on Friday. The Ocean City-Reading rivalry has always produced tight games, and the Nor’easters feel that they match up very well with Reading United AC. A victory for the Nor’easters would set the stage for a run at qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup, while simultaneously thwarting Reading’s chances of making the Open Cup. A win for Reading on Friday will all but guarantee them a spot in the Open Cup for the third year in a row.

Ocean City will return home on Sunday, May 22 to host the New Jersey Rangers in the first home game of the 2011 season. The Rangers currently sit at the bottom of the standings having lost both of their games this season. The Nor’easters are looking to break in the new grass turf that they received from the New Meadowlands Stadium with a victory over the Rangers. Ocean City has not lost to New Jersey (7-0-0) since they joined the league in 2008, outscoring them 24-5 in their seven all-time meetings.