Ocean City Nor'easters' 2017 PDL schedule released
Nor'easters begin defense of Eastern Conference championship on May 19 vs. Evergreen FC
The Premier Development League (PDL) released the league schedule and alignment for the 2017 season on Friday. The league will begin with 72 teams across North America split into 10 divisions.
This summer will mark the 21st season for the Ocean City Nor'easters as they are back in the Mid-Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference for the seventh year in a row. The Nor'easters will kick off the defense of their Eastern Conference title at home on Friday, May 19 against Evergreen FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The division will play a 14-game regular season schedule. The Nor'easters will face FA Euro, the Jersey Express, Lehigh Valley United and the New York Red Bulls U23s in home and away matches and will play three games each against Evergreen FC (2 home, 1 away) and long-time rival Reading United AC (1 home, 2 away).
All the Nor'easters home games will be played at Carey Stadium, also known as "The Beach House", in Ocean City, NJ. The stadium has enjoyed a significant makeover in the offseason as the turf was replaced with synthetic turf, which will vastly improve the quality of the pitch that the team shares with Ocean City High School and other community events. Since 2003, the Nor'easters have the sixth-best home record of any team in the PDL with a 65-24-22 mark.
The club will be led by first-year head coach John Thompson who takes over for Tim Oswald who finished his five-year run as the winningest coach in the club's PDL history. Thompson played for the club from 2002-06 and was a two-time All-League selection and was named the 2004 PDL Defender of the Year.
Last year, the Nor'easters advanced to the 2016 PDL Semifinals for the second time in four years, adding to the club's impressive resume that ranks them about the best PDL teams in the league. Since joining the PDL in 2003, the Nor'easters are 121-56-43, which is the sixth-best record in the league.
"As the defending Eastern Conference champions, we are primed and ready to take the next step forward and win a PDL championship in 2017," said Nor'easters owner John Granese. "Our new head coach, John Thompson, has assembled an extremely talented squad to fight for the title this year. The Ocean City community is excited about the upcoming season and we want to continue to cement Ocean City, New Jersey as teh best PDL venue in the nation."
While an official announcement has not been made by the United States Soccer Federation, the Nor'easters are also expected to be a part of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. If they do qualify, it will be the club's eighth US Open Cup appearance. Ocean City has upset five professional teams in club history, the third-most of any amateur club in the country since 1995.
Below is the complete 2017 schedule along with a profile of each opponent:
Evergreen FC Hammers
2016: 2-8-4, T-6th place in Mid-Atlantic Division
The Northern Virginia-based team is run by former Northern Virginia Royals owner Mo Sheta, as the team was re-branded before the 2016 season from the DC United Under-23s. Last year, Ocean City swept all three games against Evergreen (1 home, 2 away), outscoring the Hammers 12-2. 2016 PDL MVP Chevaughn Walsh became the first Ocean City player to score multiple hat tricks in a season when he scored three at Evergreen on May 28, and then a second on the same field on June 21.
2016: 5-7-2, 5th place in Mid-Atlantic Division
The Jersey Express had an impressive run in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup last year, advancing to the Third Round for the second year in a row, but their league form didn't match their cup form. They had their worst finish (5th place) since 2009, but for a team that has made the playoffs six of the last nine years, most would expect them to bounce back. The Nor'easters split their two meetings with each team winning their home game. The second to last game of the season proved to be massive for Ocean City as they beat the Express 3-1 to snap a 6-game winless streak against Jersey and stayed alive to eventually clinch a playoff spot.
FA Euro New York
2016: 2-8-4, 8th place in Northeast Division
FA Euro New York returns to the Mid-Atlantic Division after spending last season in the Northeast Division. The club made it's PDL debut in 2013 and hasn't finished higher than sixth place in a division in their first four years. The Nor'easters have played FA Euro four times and have won all four meetings, outscoring them 13-4. The biggest win was in the first meeting in 2013 when Dwayne Reid scored five goals and had one assist for Ocean City in a 6-1 win on July 12, 2013. Reid's five goals and 11 points remain single-game club records.
Lehigh Valley United Sonic
2016: 3-10-1, Tied-6th place in Mid-Atlantic Division
Lehigh Valley United Sonic have had a really challenging first two years in the PDL. United won just a single game in 2015 and upped that total to three last year. The club joined the PDL after five years in the National Premier Soccer League where they won the league championship in 2012 and made the playoffs in four of the five seasons, including two appearances in the national final four. The Nor'easters won both meetings with Lehigh Valley, outscoring them 13-1 in both games in 2015. With the 8-0 home win over United on July 5, it broke the Ocean City club record for largest margin of victory and tied the club record for most goals scored. Ocean City swept both games last year, but the games were much more competitive, winning 2-1 and 3-1.
New York Red Bulls U23s
2016: 6-4-4, 4th place in Mid-Atlantic Division
The Red Bulls U23s, joined Lehigh Valley as another team that enjoyed success in the NPSL (winning the league title in 2014) and left to join the PDL. However, unlike United, the Red Bulls continued their success in the PDL, winning the division title, qualifying for the playoffs and reaching the PDL Final. The Nor'easters have a history with the Red Bulls outside of league play, as Ocean City defeated them in the First Round of the 2013 US Open Cup when New York was part of the NPSL. Last year, the two teams split their two meetings, with each club winning at home.
Reading United AC
2016: 10-3-1, Mid-Atlantic Division Champions
Reading United AC are the Nor'easters' oldest rivals. Reading joined the D-3 Pro League in 1996, the year before Ocean City launched. Since then, they have played 42 times both as professional and PDL teams. Ocean City leads the all-time series 19-16-7, but Reading has dominated in recent years. After Reading swept both regular season meetings last year, the two met in the Eastern Conference championship game. It was the first time the two long-time rivals had met in a playoff game and it was Ocean City that pervailed, winning 4-1 on the road. It snapped a six-game winless streak against United and it was their first win at Reading in 10 years.