Winner will face Western Mass Pioneers in next weekend's Eastern Conference Final
UPDATE: Kickoff for tonight's game has been moved to 7 p.m.
PHOTO: Jack Verdeur
Less than 24 hours after defeating the Boston Bolts to begin their 2021 USL League Two playoff run, the Ocean City Nor'easters will be back on the same field in Leesburg, Va. tonight aiming for a spot in the Eastern Conference championship game.
The Nor'easters, the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, will take on the top seed West Chester United on Sunday night at the Evergreen Sportsplex in what will be the fourth meeting of the 2021 campaign. There will be a live video stream available (with no announcers) provided by the venue host Northern Virginia FC. You can watch the live stream by clicking HERE. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The winner of Sunday's contest will advance to the conference title game against the Northeast Division champion Western Mass Pioneers. That game, and the national semifinal that follows will both be held next weekend (July 23-25) at a venue to be determined.
This will mark the first time as a USL League Two team that the Nor'easters will play the same team more than three times in a season. The last time they faced a team four teams in a campaign was in 2000 when they were a member of the D-3 Pro League and they swept the Reading Rage (now Reading United AC) in all four games.
The Nor'easters had a late night on Saturday after their quarterfinal match against the Boston Bolts was delayed due to lightning. Play resumed and the Storm prevailed with a 1-0 win. The deciding goal came in the 78th minute on a penalty kick by Simon Becher (St. Louis Univ. / Brooklyn, CT). It was Becher's team-leading 12th goal in all competitions, which is tied for second most in the league. It was also his team-leading sixth game-winning goal of the campaign.
Goalkeeper Jahmali Waite (UConn / Philadelphia, PA) earned his team-leading fifth shutout of the season in his first start since June 27.
It was Ocean City's first playoff win since their 2016 Eastern Conference championship winning season, and their fourth straight playoff win on the road, dating back to that season.
West Chester reached Sunday's semifinal with a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls U-23s, the No. 8 seed, and third place team from the Metropolitan Division. Troy Amspacher, the team's leading scorer, scored the game-winner in the 35th minute to extend the club's unbeaten streak to 10 games.
The last time West Chester lost a game was on May 23 at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") when the Nor'easters beat them, 2-1. Theo Quartey (Villanova / Accra, Ghana) scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute. The two teams met again on June 16 in West Chester, Pa. and finished in a scoreless draw. Ocean City remains one of two teams to take points away from United.
The last time they met was on July 9 at the Beach House when West Chester picked up a 2-1 win to even the season series and clinch the Mid-Atlantic Division title. Amspacher and Chris Donovan scored first half goals to lead United to their first win against Ocean City, who clinched second place in the division after the result.
West Chester United, which was founded in 1976, has quickly become one of the top amateur clubs in the region since their first season of their adult soccer program in 2008. They have racked up a long list of accomplishments including four straight United Soccer League of Pennsylvania titles (2015-19), 11 State EPSA titles (since 2013), the 2015 Werner Fricker Open Cup championship, and finishing as the 2018 USASA Amateur Cup runner-up.
West Chester has teams that compete in a variety of leagues such as the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, and the NPSL. They had qualified (as a member of the NPSL) for the 2020 US Open Cup, but the tournament was canceled for the first time in its 106-year history. It would have been the club's third appearance in the national tournament.
Prior to this season, these two clubs have met one other time. On July 2, 2018, West Chester United visited the Beach House with the Nor'easters coming out on top, 1-0 on a late goal by Abdul Mansaray. Jimmy Slayton and Gus Valeriano shared the shutout in goal that day.