2018 US Open Cup: Nor'easters shut out AFC Ann Arbor, will face pro team in Round 2
Ocean City will travel to North Carolina on May 16 to face the USL's Charlotte Independence
The Ocean City Nor'easters advanced to the Second Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a 3-0 road win over AFC Ann Arbor. The Nor'easters had to make the long trip to Southeast Michigan for their opening round game and they received goals from Williams N'Dah (Charleston / Rome, Italy), Simone Raioli (Grand View / Triuggo, Italy) and last year's leading scorer Fredinho Mompremier (Fairleigh Dickinson / Limbe, Haiti).
Alec Smir (North Carolina / Greensboro, NC) made seven saves to earn a clean sheet in his Nor'easters debut.
With the win, the Nor'easters advance to Round 2 of the nation's oldest cup competition (the 105th edition) where they will face the Charlotte Independence, a professional team from the United Soccer League (USL). The game will be played in Matthews, NC on Wednesday, May 16.
The win was also the 10th US Open Cup win in the Nor'easters' PDL history, and the 11th overall. Only two amateur teams in the country have more wins in the Modern Era (Michigan Bucks / Des Moines Menace). Of those 11 victories, 10 of them have been clean sheets. No amateur team in the country has more than 10 clean sheets in their club history in the Modern Era (1995-present)
"We think it was an impressive performance considering it was our first competitive game with this new team," said second-year head coach John Thompson. "We did well to go up early and later close the game out in a professional manner."
The Nor'easters didn't take long to get on the board underneath a rain-threatening sky full of clouds at Scicluna Field in Ypsilanti, Mich., on the campus of Eastern Michigan University. In the 10th minute, Ann Arbor FC committed a foul just outside the area near the right wing corner of the box. Deri Corfe (Wright State / Chester, England) crossed the ball in and Williams N'Dah was wide open in the middle of the box and he nodded the ball past Ann Arbor goalkeeper Michael Novotny.
Shortly after the goal, the clouds opened up and the rain came pouring down. However as the first half moved on, the sun broke through and the rain faded away as the game moved closer to halftime.
In the 27th minute, the Storm added another as Matteo Bennati made a run down the wing and played a centering pass across the face of the goal. Simone Raioli was just wide open in front of the goal and he tapped it in from close range to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
The Nor'easters fought off a late first half effort from AFC Ann Arbor, but went into the break with a two-goal lead.
In the second half, the home side came out strong and on the attack as they looked to for their first goal. However, in what was largely against the run of play in the opening seven minutes, the Nor'easters hit Ann Arbor with a counter attack and once again, it was Corfe setting up the goal.
Corfe, a former Manchester City youth academy player, picked up his second assist of the game when he sent a perfectly weighted through ball into the path of Fredinho Mompremier. Ocean City's Offensive Player of the Year from last season got behind the Ann Arbor backline, controlled the ball to the edge of the penalty area and slotted it past the goalkeeper in the 52nd minute.
Trailing 3-0, AFC Ann Arbor didn't give up though. They nearly pulled one back two minutes later.
A ball was played back toward Smir and due to a miscommunication between the goalkeeper and his backline, the ball got behind them and was bouncing toward the goalline. Michael Barrow (Campbell / Liverpool, England) raced back and just as the ball was about to cross the line he cleared it to preserve the clean sheet.
The game turned more physical after the third goal as the Nor'easters focused on their defensive game and trying to slow down the pace of play. They committed 14 of their 18 fouls for the game in the second half. There were a couple of counter attack chances by the Nor'easters but it was Ann Arbor that put on the pressure in the final 20 minutes of play.
Mighty Oak defender Joseph Okumu sent a long ball down the left wing to JP Rylah in the 58th minute. The speedy wing tracked the ball down, and created space for himself to shoot near the touch line but Smir had the angle covered and deflected the hard shot out to safety.
Moments later, Marc Ybarra had a left-footed attempt from just outside the box but again, Smir was there to make the save.
The Nor'easters continued to foul late in the game in an effort to preserve the shutout and not let the Ann Arbor offense have any space. In the 81st minute, a free kick was sailed just over the crossbar, followed by another dangerous free kick three minutes later that saw Jake Rosen take a shot from the left wing that was bending into the far corner but again, Smir was in position to make a fingertip save that went over the bar. Ocean City's defense managed to keep Ann Arbor off the scoresheet and head back to the Jersey Shore with the win.
"Our coaching staff and the players are excited about the next round [against Charlotte Independence], however, our eyes are set on our first PDL game," said Thompson.
The Nor'easters kick off the 2018 PDL schedule in Brooklyn on Sunday, May 13 when they take on FA Euro. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Aviator Sports Complex.