Akeim Clarke's goal not enough as Ocean City's 15-game unbeaten streak comes to an end
Photo by Joe Hayburn
The Ocean City Nor’easters suffered a loss at home at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") for the first time in nearly three years with a narrow 2-1 loss to Philadelphia Lone Star FC.
After going down two goals early in the first half, the Nor’easters came back with a lifeline goal scored by Akeim Clarke (North Carolina / Windsor, CT) less than a minute after coming off the bench at halftime.
Many of the fans at the Beach House were feeling optimistic for a comeback, but ultimately the beautiful game can be cruel and despite a strong effort by the Nor'easters, an equalizer did not come. The Storm lost their first game of the 2021 USL League Two season to a very physical and determined Lone Star team that managed to gain the precious three points and move into third place and keep their playoff hopes alive.
For Ocean City, the club's 15-game unbeaten streak comes to an end, the second-longest such streak in club history. The last loss came on June 15, 2019 in a 2-0 road loss to Reading United AC. The game also marked the first loss in 13 home games for the Nor'easters, which is also the second-longest streak in club history. The lost loss at the Beach House came back on July 7, 2018, a 4-2 loss to Reading United.
Despite the loss, the Storm (5-1-3) remain in sole possession of second place in the Mid-Atlantic Division with five games remaining. They are three points ahead of Lone Star FC (5-5-0) with the Nor'easters playing one fewer game than Philly. The Nor'easters trail first place West Chester United (who defeated Reading United 1-0 on Saturday night) by eight points, but Ocean City have played two fewer games than WCU, and the Storm will host them in the second to last game of the regular season on July 9.
|After scoring in a friendly against Philadelphia Union 2 last Saturday, Akeim Clarke scored less than a minute into his Nor'easters debut against Philadelphia Lone Star FC. Photo: Jay Hayburn|
The top two teams in the Mid-Atlantic Division automatically qualify for the playoffs with the top third place team in the Eastern Conference also getting a postseason berth (Philadelphia is currently two points behind the top third place team).
These two teams will play one more time, in the regular season finale, on July 11 in South Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Lone Star opened the match quickly, scoring the first goal in the 4th minute. After the defensive miscue, Aboubacar Camara pounced on a poor backpass to Nor'easters Jahmali Waite (UConn / Philadelphia, PA). Camara beat him to the ball and finished with an easy tap-in that turned out to be a vital goal for the visitors early in the game.
The Lone Stars put more pressure on the Nor’easters about 10 minutes later when one of their players was tripped in the box and a penalty kick was awarded. Bill Walleekendeh converted it to put Philadelphia up 2-0 just 15 minutes into the match.
Nor'easters defender Kasper Skraep (Coastal Carolina / Nyborg, Denmark) nearly pulled one back in the 29th minute when he collected a pass from the wing and launched a shot from about 40 yards out that went just over the crossbar. Ocean City had a couple more chances before halftime but the two teams went into the halftime break with Philadelphia leading 2-0.
“We put ourselves in trouble again in the first half and it’s very frustrating as there is no game where we have come off feeling more as a team has been better than us [after Saturday's 2-1 win over Philadelphia Union 2]. It has been ourselves putting us in these situations,” said Nor’easters head coach Alan McCann. “We were much better in the second half and the subs made a big impact but we’re left ruing missed chances again.”
AKEIM CLARKE'S GOAL
McCann brought on three fresh players to try to turn the tide in the match: Clarke, Alex Andersson (Colorado - Colorado Springs / Helsingborg, Sweden) and Olle Kaissidis (UNC Greensboro / Stockholm, Sweden). Clarke, who scored the late game-winning goal in last Saturday's exhibition win over Philadelphia Union 2, made an immediate impact.
Just over a minute after coming off the bench, the Nor'easters found a breakout in the middle of the field and the ball fell to Austin DaSilva (Univ. at Albany / Brookfield, CT) who sent a through pass to Clarke who beat the goalkeeper. Andersson (who assisted on Clarke's game-winner against Union 2 on Saturday) and Clarke were both making their league debuts for Ocean City.
"Akeim has a very bright future ahead and he has started well," said McCann about the North Carolina forward who joined the team late due to his North Carolina team reaching the NCAA College Cup Semifinals.
The Nor'easters continued to push for an equalizer and created multiple chances. The best chance of the half came in the 67th minute when the Storm had a nice run of possession out of the backline that resulted in a long ball sent up to the forwards. The ball took a high bounce and the Philadelphia goalkeeper came out to retrieve it at the edge of the box but a group of players from both teams met him there where the ball came down. The ball was tapped out to the left where DaSilva volleyed a shot that rolled just past the far post.
In the 80th minute, after winning the ball in midfield, Felix Metzler (UConn / Frankfurt, Germany), made an impressive run, dribbling through multiple defenders before laying the ball off to Andersson on the right side of the penalty area. Andersson fired a right-footed blast that found the side netting.
A bad bounce and a steal by Lone Star in the 83rd minute that nearly led to a third goal. After the takeaway, the ball was played in to Forster Ajago into the penalty area but Waite came off his line to make the save. Waite would finish the game with two saves on the night.
The Nor'easters threw everything forward in the final 10 minutes, creating multiple chances, but were unable to capitalize as Philadelphia came away with a 2-1 win.
The loss not only ended the Nor'easters unbeaten streak as a team, but it was a rare loss for head coach Alan McCann. In his third season as a USL League Two head coach (2018-19 with Reading United), this was just the second time that he had tasted defeat in the regular season. The first loss came when he was in charge of Reading United back on July 7, 2019 when they lost to Ocean City at the Beach House.
The Nor’easters return to league play on Sunday night when they host Lehigh Valley United at Carey Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. General admission tickets are worth $10 each and can be purchased in advance on the Nor’easters website, and at the Carey Stadium gate with cash or with a smartphone. Soccer coaches of all levels and players from the South Jersey Elite Barons and New Jersey Surf all get in free.
FULL MATCH REPLAY