A profile of the Nor'easters heading into the PDL Championships
Written by Stephen Thurlby
Director of Communications for Ocean City Nor’easters
Premier Team coach for Jersey Premier Soccer
Ocean City Nor’easters
Head Coach: Tim Oswald 2013 season: 1st Mid-Atlantic Div. (11-1-2)
The Ocean City Nor’easters have had a turbulent history off the field as they struggled to find their home and identity but they have always been able to find success.
After being founded in 1996, the club debuted in the 1997 season, it was named the South Jersey Barons. They joined the United Soccer Leagues (USL) as a professional team, competing in the Second Division (two levels down from MLS), which at the time was called the D-3 Pro League. In 1998, in only their second year in existence, the Barons won the Mid-Atlantic Division title. The next year, they followed that up with a second straight playoff appearance and a run to the USISL D-3 national championship game.
In 2003, the Barons moved to the PDL, and after finishing in fourth place in their first season, they made history in their second season in the league. They became only the fifth team ever to go through the regular season with an unbeaten record (14-0-4) winning the North Eastern Division title.
In 2005, the South Jersey Barons were taken over by local businessmen Giancarlo Granese and Russ McPaul. Their first act as new owners was to move the Barons to Ocean City, NJ and rename the team the Ocean City Barons. The club moved into its new home at Carey Stadium just off the Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk with a view of the ocean making it a special place to play soccer.
After the 2009 season the club rebranded to become the Ocean City Nor’easters and adopted the new blue and white home colors and orange away colors of English club Reading FC whom helped bring with them a close partnership and a new level of professionalism.
2012 saw a change in Head Coach and a change in attitude. Tim Oswald began to bring in some of the best players in the country at the college level rather than looking more locally in the previous regimes. This saw a lot of success straight away winning the Mid-Atlantic Division in the first year, however, going out to Ottawa Fury in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was repeated this season but was followed up by a deeper run into the PDL playoffs. The Nor’easters hosted the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals and took advantage of the home field and beat Carolina Dynamo and then Ottawa Fury in an exciting final. On a side note the Carey Stadium grass field was taken from Giants stadium in May 2012 after Messi and Argentina played an international friendly against the USA.
The future of the Nor’easters is even brighter after an affiliation with top youth soccer club Jersey Premier Soccer that will provide high quality players for the PDL team for years to come.
Since joining the PDL in 2003, the Nor’easters have one of the best regular season records (98-41-39).
Nor’easters in the US Open Cup
The Ocean City Nor’easters are a thorn in the side of professional sides in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, having reached the 3rd round 3 times with 8 wins, five of them coming against professional teams.
The Nor’easters most famous Open Cup runs are the 2008 where they came up against DC United in the 3rd round losing 2-1 and this season in 2013 where they travelled to PPLPark to take on the Philadelphia Union. The Union put out a first team that the Nor’easters matched for 90 minutes with many players having breakthrough performances and showing that they are more than ready to take the step into the MLS. A heartbreaking goal in injury time, however, saw the Union win 2-1.
The Nor’easters strengths really comes from their ability to move the ball at pace, beat players 1v1 and find one of the many goal scorers on the team. Their attacking prowess is based on the pace and power of our frontline and the ability to counter attack quickly and efficiently.
However, this attacking strength would not be possible without one of the strongest defensive units we have seen in OceanCity. They are dominant in the air, a goalkeeper that inspires confidence throughout the whole team and a midfield than can break up play as well as physically dominant any opponent.
Player(s) to Watch
It is the core of the team that we really have to look at more closely. Every one of these names have the ability and drive to play professionally.
Michael O’Keeffe – FairfieldUniversity – O’Keeffe is the best goalkeeper the club has seen. Quick across his goal, dominates his penalty area and distributes the ball with incredible accuracy. O’Keeffe will not be fazed by the PDL Championship pressure after starting for New Zealand in the London 2012 Olympics and faced a Brazil team of Neymar, Oscar, David Luiz and other superstars.
Tapiwa Machingauta – BradleyUniversity – Machingauta has always been seen by us as a top level defender but the US soccer scene took notice after his performance against the Philadelphia Union in the US Open Cup. Machingauta had long time MLS pro Conor Casey in his pocket for the entire game and looked like he was perfect for that area.
Ken Tribbett – DrexelUniversity – Ken is a tall central midfielder who has the old fashioned box to box athletic ability being as effective defensively and in the attacking third. He dominated in the air against the Union, creating an assist with a headed knockdown from a corner, and every PDL team in 2013. His level of skill is sometimes overlooked due to his physical presence but his touch, skill and passing is up their with the pros.
Dwayne Reid – BloomfieldCollege – Dwayne “Bullet” Reid (nickname comes from being faster than) came over from division rivals Westchester Flames and added the extra firepower to see us win the Division. Reid ended up as the 5th top scorer with 10 goals and 2 assists and was voted onto the All-Eastern Conference team.
It is difficult to identify an X-Factor because there are so many things that the Nor’easters do well. If we have to pick one it will be the pace of the forwards that has caused so many defenders so many nightmares. Dwayne Reid, Frank Tweneboa, Emmanual Kollie and Zoncher Dennis have raw pace but add to that intelligent movement, great touch and excellent 1v1 skills could really be the difference in the games. With the defensive side taken care off by Michael O’Keeffe, Tapiwa Machingauta, Steven Perinovic, Kevin Curran and Ken Tribbett the forwards always have a chance to win the game for the Nor’easters.