2008 PDL season: A tale of two halves

Barons miss the playoffs after impressive first half

The 12th season for the Ocean City Barons franchise began with a tremendous amount of optimism. Many within the organization believed that the 2008 edition of the Premier Development League team was among the most talented roster the club had ever assembled. Even after the season finished without a berth in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup or the PDL playoffs, that may still be true, but the results didn’t back that up as the team finished with a 6-5-5 record, the lowest point total -- 23 -- in the club’s six-year PDL history. The Barons finished in a tie for fourth place in the Northeast Division, seven points short of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.

One of the highlights of the 2008 campaign was a series of individual accomplishments by one of the club’s greatest players. Byron Carmichael (Marshall ’03 / Lumberton, NJ), playing in his fifth season with the Barons, became the club’s all-time leader in goals and reached the 100-point mark of his career while breaking the career record in that category.
The 12th season for the Ocean City Barons franchise began with a tremendous amount of optimism. Many within the organization believed that the 2008 edition of the Premier Development League team was among the most talented roster the club had ever assembled.

2008 Ocean City Barons
Team Awards

Most Valuable Player
Adam Sternberger
(Rutgers ’08 / Mays Landing, NJ)
Offensive Player of the Year
Byron Carmichael
(Marshall ’03 / Lumberton, NJ)
Defensive Player of the Year
Joe Ilett
(Eckert College / Maldon, England)

Even after the season finished without a berth in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup or the PDL playoffs, that may still be true, but the results didn’t back that up as the team finished with a 6-5-5 record, the lowest point total -- 23 -- in the club’s six-year PDL history. The Barons finished in a tie for fourth place in the Northeast Division, seven points short of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.

One of the highlights of the 2008 campaign was a series of individual accomplishments by one of the club’s greatest players. Byron Carmichael (Marshall ’03 / Lumberton, NJ), playing in his fifth season with the Barons, became the club’s all-time leader in goals and reached the 100-point mark of his career while breaking the career record in that category.

Ocean City’s season could very easily be summed up with the cliche "a tale of two halves." After starting out unbeaten with a 4-0-4 record, narrowly missing the cut for the 2008 U.S. Open Cup, the second half was a completely different story, as they finished 2-5-1.

2008 Ocean City Barons
Statistical Leaders

Goals
6
Byron Carmichael
& Steve Miller
Assists
4
Byron Carmichael
& Adam Williamson
Points
16
Byron Carmichael (6g 4a)
Goals Against Average
1.40 GAA
Tunde Ogunbiyi

The season began in a strange way as the Newark Ironbound Express, a new expansion team in the PDL, visited the Beach House and came away with a 1-1 draw. It was a wild affair that could spur an in-state rivalry for years to come. Ocean City defender John Fletcher (Eckerd College / Uxbridge, England) scored in his Barons debut, but Newark equalized and held on for the draw despite having two players sent off (one for biting, the other for headbutting).

The following game, the Barons made up for their struggling offense in the season opener by breaking a pair of club records in an 8-1 win over the other expansion team from the Garden State, the New Jersey Rangers. It was the most goals scored by the Barons in club history and was also the largest margin of victory. Steve Miller (Colgate / Ivyland, PA) scored the third hat trick in team history in his first start with the club, and Lee Squires (Lees-McRae College / Sheffield, England) added two goals and an assist. A pair of youngsters scored their first PDL goals with Ryan Richter (LaSalle / Southampton, PA) coming off the bench to score a pair, and Ryan Finley (Rancocas Valley HS / Lumberton, NJ) at 17 years and 47 days old, became the youngest Baron ever to put the ball in the back of the net when he tallied in the 77th minute.

Miller continued his hot start with a pair of goals, including a 90th minute equalizer on the road against the Long Island Rough Riders. In the fourth game of the year, despite a 3-1 home win over the Richmond Kickers Future, the Barons still fell two points short of Open Cup qualification.

The team’s best game came on May 31 when the Barons traveled to Massachusetts to take on their rival, the Cape Cod Crusaders. They pulled out a 2-1 road win against the team that eliminated them from the 2007 Eastern Conference playoffs. Carmichael and defender Joe Banks scored for Ocean City while Tunde Ogunbiyi (New Hampshire / Gwynedd, PA) made 12 saves in his first game with the club.

After two straight 1-1 draws (at Rhode Island, home vs. first place Brooklyn), the Barons beat the New Jersey Rangers 3-0 to finish the first half of the season unbeaten. Carmichael became the club’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Rhode Island game when he scored the tying goal in the 89th minute. He became the team’s all-time points leader after scoring two of the three goals against New Jersey. The Marshall alum passed former Baron Ruben Mingo on both lists. Mingo played for O.C. from 2003-06 and amassed 36 goals and 19 assists for 91 points. Mingo is still the club’s all-time assist leader, but Carmichael ends 2008 one short of that mark.

"Traditionally we have always started well and this season was no different," said Barons general manager Neil Holloway. "However, we quickly lost two starting defenders [John Fletcher returned home for personal reasons, Connor Gorman broke his collarbone on June 15 vs. Newark], and we struggled to find the solution to that problem."

The second half of the season began on June 15 with the worst regular season home loss in Barons history. Newark returned to Carey Stadium and defeated them 4-0. It was during that game when starting left back Connor Gorman fell awkwardly and broke his collarbone and was out for the remainder of the season.

"That is when it all started going wrong," said Holloway. "We always felt like we would be able to recover since the division was so tight, but in the end, we failed to beat any of the top teams down the stretch."

They followed that up their loss to Newark with a 2-1 defeat at the Westchester Flames, and another 1-1 draw with the Ironbound Express to extend their winless streak to three games. Ocean City would bounce back and snap that streak with a 2-1 home win over Westchester thanks to a late game-winner by an 84th minute game-winning goal by BJ Glenn (Lafayette / Phila, PA).

Needing to win their final four games to have a shot at the postseason, they fell short of that goal and missed the playoffs. They lost games to the Hampton Roads Piranhas at home, the Brooklyn Knights on the road, and a record third home defeat of the season at the hands of the Long Island Rough Riders on July 12.

The Barons have never won less than six games in a season in club history and they kept that streak alive with a 2-0 win in the season finale at Carey Stadium. The New Jersey Rangers were the victims, losing to O.C. for the third time in as many games. In that game, Finley scored what would prove to be the game-winner, and Carmichael assisted on a goal by Lee Squires --his fourth of the season-- to reach the 100 point milestone for his Barons career.

The team’s defensive woes [25 goals allowed, the most since the 2003 season], were compounded by a lack of consistency at the goalkeeper position, as the team fielded five different netminders over the 16-game 2008 season. Ogunbiyi, who in five games posted the club’s best goals against average at 1.40, had to leave to join the Nigerian Olympic team in their preparations for Beijing. Defensively, the team was solid in the opening eight games, only allowed eight goals, however, the second half of the season was a different story as the opposition scored 17 in the remaining eight matches.

Offensively, the second half of the season was also a struggle. The team, known for putting up impressive numbers in the past, set a franchise record for the lowest goal total with 29. 21 of those tallies were scored in the first eight games of the season. In the last eight matches, only eight were scored and the team only surpassed the one goal mark just once [in the 2-0 win in the season finale vs. New Jersey].

Field