2016 season in review: Record-breaking performances lead Nor'easters to memorable Eastern Conference title
Chevaughn Walsh becomes first PDL MVP in more than a decade as club's first league scoring champion

In what has been a truly exhilarating season for the Ocean City Nor’easters, 2016 made way for so much progress both on the field and in the community as the Nor’easters continue to grow.

The boys from Ocean City looked to challenge for the Premier Development League (PDL) national title again this season with visions of the 2013 campaign fresh in the mind of both players and coaches. The Nor’easters would play at both Carey Stadium and the Tennessee Avenue Sports Complex in their home matches this season. Despite the change, the Nor’easters had another successful season, finishing 9-5 overall (5-2 at home), finishing in second place in the Mid-Atlantic Division.

After qualifying for the PDL playoffs and eliminating three division champions, Ocean City's 20th season as a franchise came to a close in the league semifinals.

With all the accomplishments as a team, the Nor'easters enjoyed some history-making individual performances. Chevaughn "Chevy" Walsh became the first player in club history to win the PDL scoring title (14 goals, 3 assists in 14 games), broke the club's single-season scoring record and became just the second Ocean City player to win the league's most valuable player award. Nathan Regis was named to the All-Conference Team and finished the season tied for the league lead in assists with nine. Regis is the first Nor'easters player to lead the league in assists. (NOTE: The PDL lists Regis as having eight due to a scoresheet error. The error is under review.)



All of these accomplishments started with the hard work put in during the preseason and that began with the club's first-ever public intrasquad game. The inaugural Blue and Orange game was the first of its kind to be played by the Nor’easters in club history. Members of the coaching staff each selected players for their blue or orange squads. This was also the first time the Nor’easters debuted their new uniforms from sponsor Capelli Sport for the 2016 season. This was also the first full year that Rothman Institute was an official sponsor of the team, with their logo prominently displayed on both the Nor’easters home and away jerseys.

Head coach Tim Oswald, who entered his fourth season as the Nor'easters' all-time PDL wins leader, worked with general manager Kevin Nuss to construct a team to compete for a league championship. As often happens in the PDL, the team saw a tremendous amount of player turnover. Every player who scored a point for Ocean City the year before either signed with a pro team, graduated or played for a team closer to home.

With a team selected, standout names such as Nathan Regis, Chevaughn Walsh, Miguel Jaime, Martim Galvao, Ryan Howe, Fraser Colmer and Daniel Nimmo lived up to expectations in their first season with the club.

Walsh went above and beyond this season as he secured the single season goals scored record for the club, having 14 scored this year surpassing Ruben Mingo’s previous record of 12. His 31 points (14 goals, 3 assists) also tied the single-season club record. Including his two goals and two assists in the playoffs, his final tally of 16 goals and 5 assists (37 points) also broke single-season club records for all competitions (goals, points). He finished the campaign by being named the league MVP, and a member of both the All-PDL team and All-Conference team.

The indivisual performances did not go unnoticed. The PDL's Top Prospects list featured as many as four Ocean City players in the Top 25. Walsh finished as the No. 2 prospect in the league, followed by Jaime at No. 4. Martim Galvao finished at No. 24. Regis was a top 10 player on the list but he was taken off because he was above the age limit. The list only features players who are under 23 years of age. Regis is 23.

After starting the year off with a 3-0 exhibition win over the D.C. United Under-23s, the regular season started hot as the Nor’easters won three of their first four games in the PDL. Among those wins was a 3-0 road victory over Evergreen FC, all three goals were scored by Walsh, becoming just the ninth player in club history to score a hat trick.

After a pair of tight losses to Reading United and the New York Red Bulls U23s, the Nor'easters bounced back with back-to-back wins over Evergreen FC. They defeated the Hammers 3-1 in the club's last game at Carey Stadium before leaving the Beach House to beat them again on the road 6-1. In the second win, Walsh became the first Nor'easters player to score two hat tricks in the same season.

The Nor'easters played their road finale on June 25 and drop a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to their long-time rival Reading United. Paul Marie's game-winner in second half stoppage time stunned Ocean City who thought they had stolen a point after scoring an equalizer less than a minute earlier.

The team would play the remaining five games of the season at home but with Carey Stadium under construction, the venue shifted to the Tennessee Avenue Soccer Complex. Ocean City has the sixth-best home record in the PDL since 2003 and that winning tradition continued down the home stretch. The team managed to secure 12 points out of a possible 15 in games played there this season as they pushed toward the playoffs.

Daniel Nimmo, Dakota Peterson and Walsh all scored in a 3-1 win over Lehigh Valley United, followed by a 5-1 thrashing of the Red Bulls U23s led by a pair of goals each from Walsh and Regis. A 2-0 loss to the Baltimore Bohemians put the Nor'easters in a tough spot. Due to that result, they had to win their final two games to clinch a spot in the postseason.

But they did just that.

Miguel Jaime, Walsh and Regis all scored in a 3-1 win over the Jersey Express. Ryan Howe assisted on all three goals, tying a single-game club record while being named to the PDL Team of the Week. The win snapped a six-game winless streak against the Express.

Then, it all came down to the season finale. They avenged their earlier loss by beating Baltimore 3-2 with Walsh, Regis and Jaime all accounting for the goals. For Walsh, it was his 14th goal which clinched the league scoring title on the final day of the season.

The playoffs would see the Nor’easters on the road for the first three games, first traveling to the University of New England (the university's mascot is the Nor'easters) to take on the Northeast Division champion GPS Portland Phoenix in the Eastern Conference opening round. In a game that the Nor’easters showed dominance early on, they scored early and often. Walsh, Regis and Mutaya Mwape all scored as Ocean City moved on to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 3-1 win.

Reading United would host the remainder of the Eastern Conference playoffs and the Storm would face another division champion in the Charlotte Eagles (South Atlantic Division). At Don Thomas Stadium in Exeter, Pa., the Nor'easters got a goal from Walsh in the 43rd minute and the defense did the rest, shutting out the Eagles, 1-0.

 

The city of Ocean City lit the 9th Street Bridge in orange and blue ahead the Nor'easters' PDL Semifinal match vs. Calgary Foothills FC

The Eastern Conference Final would be one to remember as the Nor'easters would face the home team, Reading United. It was the 42nd all-time meeting in one of the longest-running rivalries in the entire USL. However, this was the first time the two clubs had ever met in the playoffs. To make matters worse, it had been a long time since the Nor'easters had beaten United on their home field. The last time Ocean City won at Reading was in 2006 (8-game winless streak, 0-6-2).

After Aaron Molley put Reading up 1-0 in the 22nd minute, they went down to a 10 men less than 15 minutes later. The scoreline would hold into the half but an explosive Nor’easters offense would take command in the second half. Mwape tied the game in the 55th minute and then assisted on Regis' go-ahead goal in the 76th. Jaime and Regis would add a goal each to put the game away at 4-1 and give the Nor'easters their first conference title since 2013.

Ocean City would host a PDL semifinal against the Calgary Foothills FC at Tennessee Avenue. It was a hard-fought game, but ultimately Ocean City's season would end with a 3-0 loss. Calgary would ultimately lose to the Michigan Bucks in the PDL championship game the following week.

Although the team did not reach the ultimate goal of winning the national championship, it was a successful season for the Ocean City Nor’easters. Reaching the PDL final four for the second time in four seasons gives the players and coaching staff nothing to hang their head over and builds a foundation for next year.

Plus, how many PDL teams can say they inspired a beer?

The Nor’easters would like to thank all of our great fans and sponsors for all the support throughout the season.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: OCEAN CITY VS. READING UNITED

For more information on the Ocean City Nor'easters or to "Follow the Storm" on social media, go to www.oceancityfc.com/followthestorm or text "FOLLOWTHESTORM" to 22828 to join the "Storm Watch" e-newsletter.

The Ocean City Nor’easters is a professionally run amateur soccer club with the focus of developing, educating and promoting soccer, health and leadership. Located in Ocean City, New Jersey, “America’s Greatest Family Resort”, the Nor’easters provide quality entertainment to families throughout the Tri-State area and the thousands of visitors every summer.

The Nor’easters organization was established in 1996 and made Carey Stadium, in Ocean City, NJ, its permanent home in 2005. Competing in North America’s top amateur league, the Premier Development League (PDL), the Nor’easters provide the highest level of soccer in Southern New Jersey. The 65-team PDL is the 4th level of soccer in the United States, below the professional leagues; Major League Soccer (MLS), North American Soccer League (NASL) and United Soccer League (USL). As part of the PDL, the Nor’easters’ have the sixth-best overall record since joining the league in 2003 and have upset five professional teams in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, third-most of any amateur team in the country. Ocean City players have the ability to compete during the summer months in a professional environment while maintaining their collegiate eligibility and pursuing their academic goals.