PREVIEW: Nor'easters heading north to Maine for Tuesday's playoff opener

Ocean City will face the Portland Phoenix at the home of the (University of New England) Nor'easters at 8 p.m.

The Nor'easters begin their quest for a PDL championship at the home of the Nor'easters (in Maine).
 

The Ocean City Nor'easters are back in the Premier Development League playoffs but there is little time to rest after Sunday's dramatic 3-2 win over the Baltimore Bohemians. That win at the Tennessee Avenue Soccer Complex last night clinched second place in the Mid-Atlantic Division and earned the team its first playoff berth since 2013.

The Nor'easters are hoping this is the year that they finally win a PDL championship as the club is celebrating its 20th season.

Ocean City will kick off the postseason on the road against the Northeast Division champion Portland Phoenix. on Tuesday, July 19 at 8 p.m. The game will be played at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Coincidentally, the team name for the University of New England is the Nor'easters.

The Phoenix, a seventh year franchise, won a second straight division title with a 4-1 win over second place Western Mass Pioneers on Sunday. They finished with a 9-3-2 record, compared to Ocean City's 9-5-0 mark.

The Phoenix feature a balanced attack with four different players with five goals or more, led by Ifunanyachi Achara, Guiherme Da Silva Leme and Fletcher Ekern, who all have six goals a piece. .

One of their offensive weapons is a former Nor'easters player, Khesanio Hall. Last year, Hall was the leading scorer for the Nor'easters with nine goals and three assists (21 points). The Jamaican was voted the team's offensive MVP and was an All-Conference selection. In college last season, the Jamaican finished as the second leading scorer at Northeastern University. This year, he has two goals and two assists in nine games with the Phoenix.

Thanks to graduation, players moving to the pros and others finding teams closer to home this summer, the Nor'easters had to replace their entire offensive unit from a year ago. Needless to say, they rebounded nicely. The team fell one goal short of tying the club record for goals in a 14-game season (40) headlined by the scoring duo of Chevaughn "Chevy" Walsh (Jefferson College / Spanish Town, Jamaica) and Nathan Regis (Pfeiffer / Arima, Trinidad & Tobago). Walsh became the first player in club history to lead the league in scoring (14 goals) and Regis is the first to lead the league in assists (9). Miguel Jaime (Pfeiffer / Denver, CO) is third on the team in scoring with seven goals and two assists and is ranked in the top 10 (along with Walsh) in the PDL's top (pro) prospects list. 

The defense is anchored by a trio of top performers. Daniel Nimmo and Freser Colmer have played nearly every minute of the season (Nimmo led the team with 1,184 minutes played) and Ryan Howe (Loyola Chicago / ?) who finished among the league leaders in assists from his backline role with 7. Howe was recently selected to the PDL Team of the Week as he assisted on all three goals in the team's crucial 3-1 win over the Jersey Express.

The Nor'easters have a trio of talented goalkeepers who have seen time this year, but Michael Kirk has had the hot hand as of late, winning four of his last five starts.

It is not yet known who the winner of Tuesday's game will play. The other opening round matchups include the Western Mass Pioneers taking on Reading United and the Carolina Dynamo hosting SC United. The Charlotte Eagles, who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference (11-2-1, 34 points) will get a bye into the next round.

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