2015 Ocean City Nor'easters Season Review

Guinovart, Hall & Dobrowolski headline award winners

After winning a second straight Mid-Atlantic Division title and reaching the PDL National Semifinals in 2013, the Ocean City Nor’easters struggled to live up to expectations in the 2014 Premier Development League (PDL) season. So entering 2015, the club’s goal was to rebound and get back to the playoffs and regain the form that their fans had come to expect over the last 12 years in the PDL.

Khesanio Hall
Khesanio Hall. Photo: Film Reel Production

The Nor’easters did, in fact, rebound, but their playoff fate would be decided on the final day of the regular season and ultimately, they would fall short of their goal of reaching the postseason.

The highlight of the season was an individual one as Khesanio Hall (Northeastern Univ. / Santa Cruz, Jamaica) was the Nor’easters’ leading scorer with nine goals and three assists and was named to the PDL All-Eastern Conference Team. In addition, he was an easy choice as Ocean City’s Offensive Player of the Year.

"Khesanio came in from day one and worked hard for himself, his teammates and his club," said Ocean City General Manager Kevin Nuss. "He struggled early in the season and had to play limited minutes out of his primary position. He never became negative or lost focus on his reason for being in the PDL, in Ocean City, NJ. His reason was to become a player and showcase his ability. He did that and know everyone knows it now! Nine goals in this division is an accomplishment in itself and he scored them in big games against D.C. United U23s, Reading United and Jersey Express."

Tim Dobrowolski. Photo: Ryan Hart

On the defensive side of the ball, goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski (Loyola Univ. Chicago / Rockford, Ill.) was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year. He started eight of the 14 games, compiling a 4-2-2 record with three shutouts and a 1.00 goals against average.

"Tim was cool, calm, and consistent throughout the summer," said Head Coach Tim Oswald. "He was a very vocal leader and made sound decisions in matches. He was instrumental in helping us pull off the results that we had and his leadership was a key element to our success. Hopefully, he is able to have an excellent campaign this season at Loyola and has an opportunity to continue playing at the professional level after this year."

The most valuable player for the 2015 season was midfielder Jorge Guinovart (Univ. of Rio Grande / Barcelona, Spain). He was just five minutes shy of leading the team in minutes played (1,111) and scored a pair of goals in 13 games played.

"Jorge is another kid that exemplifies the characteristics of the Ocean City Nor'easters," said Nuss. "He is a true professional. Great character and very humble about his excellent talents. Coming from an NAIA program, Jorge wasn't on many people's radar but he is, in my opinion, one of the top five players we have had in Ocean City during my time with the club."

Jorge Guinovart. Photo: Film Reel Production

Oswald echoed the praise of this year's MVP.

"Jorge has been one of, if not the most, complete midfield player that we have had at my time in Ocean City," said Oswald, who in the fall is in charge of the Rutgers-Camden men's soccer program. "He truly was the general for us this year on both sides of the ball. His skill set coupled with work rate and knowledge of the game tactically is a rare blend and find. He just sees things and does things other players are unable to see and do."

The players helped fourth year Head Coach Tim Oswald accomplish a milestone. With a 5-2 road win over the Westchester Flames on June 13, Oswald won his 35th game as head coach, passing Neil Holloway for the most career PDL wins at the club. He finished the season with a 38-14-6 regular season record at Ocean City and remains 15 wins shy of the franchise record of 53 held by Matt Driver (1997-2002) when he was in charge of the club when it was a member of the D-3 Pro League.

Tim Oswald. Photo: Film Reel Production

"I have enjoyed the four years that I have spent as the PDL Head Coach in Ocean City," said Oswald. "We have had some phenomenal players, a very supportive management team, a knowledgeable technical staff, a community that is entrenched with our success, and a fan base that loves the Nor'aasters.  I am proud of what we have accomplished on the field. I feel the success that we have had is a result of all of us working together to achieve our goals and the credit goes to all, not one person."

"Oz has proven he can set up a team to compete with anyone and win games in the PDL," said Nuss. "He became the most winningest coach in the club PDL history, in just four seasons, during a time where the division was at its most competitive."

The story of the 2015 season

For the first time in franchise history, the Ocean City Nor’easters played a half-and-half season. The first seven games of the season were played on the road, while the last seven were played in front of their home fans at Carey Stadium.     

John Manga. Photo: Press of Atlantic City

The season opened up on the road against the D.C. United U23s. The team, previously known as the Northern Virginia Royals had never defeated Ocean City before, and early in the match, it looked as though that five-game winless streak (4-0-1) would continue. John Manga (Univ. of Cincinnati / Lexington, Ky.) opened up the scoring on an assist by Frank Tweneboa (William Paterson University/ Pennsauken, NJ) in the fifth minute. However, D.C. turned the tide with a pair of goals before halftime and a 90th minute insurance goal to earn their first-ever win over Ocean City, 3-1. The loss snapped a three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1) in season openers for the Nor’easters.

Four days later, the Nor’easters took on another MLS team’s Under-23 side as they faced off with the newest members of the PDL, the New York Red Bulls U23s. Last year’s National Premier Soccer League champions joined the PDL and the Nor’easters handed the Red Bulls U23s their first loss in their new league. Back in 2013, Ocean City defeated the Red Bulls in the First Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, spoiling their tournament debut.

Harry Swartz. Photo: Film Reel Production

Like the previous weekend, one team, New York, opened up the scoring, only to see the eventual winners storm back with three straight goals to earn a 3-1 win. Manga picked up his second goal of the season just before halftime, followed up by the go-ahead goal by Harry Swartz (Northeastern Univ. / Needham, Mass.) in the 53rd minute and the clincher by Matthew Vasquenza (Xavier Univ. / East Hampton, Conn.) in the 80th minute. Eric Klenofsky (Monmouth Univ. / Lincoln Park, NJ) made six saves to earn the victory.

The following weekend, the Nor’easters continued their recent struggles against their oldest rival, Reading United AC. Ocean City has played against Reading since their inaugural season in 1997 and dominated the first 10 years, but after Reading defeated the Nor’easters 2-0 on a pair of Brett Campbell goals, it extended their home unbeaten streak against Ocean City to seven games (5-0-2).

The Nor’easters bounced back a week later with a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Bohemians. For the third time, it took three straight goals to overcome an early tally to get the win. Manga scored his third and fourth goals of the year, both of them assisted by Ryan Myers (Niagara Univ. / Wallingford, Pa.), while Alex Ridsdale (Xavier Univ. / Nelson, New Zealand) added a 69th minute goal to give the Nor’easters the space they needed.

After the Baltimore match, two key Ocean City players had received some exciting news. Andre Morrison (Univ. of Hartford / Clarendon, Jamaica) and Rickardo Oldham (NJIT / Kingston, Jamaica) were called up to the Jamaican Under-23 National Team. The Under-23 Reggae Boyz were preparing for Olympic qualifying and called in a number of the top college players to help the squad. Morrison, in his first season with Ocean City, would later return for the home stretch of the season and would ultimately play eight games for the Nor'easters. Oldham had played in three games but would not return to the team.

Pau Delgado. Photo: Film Reel Production

They followed that up with a convincing 5-1 win over Lehigh Valley United Sonic as Hall and Pau Delgado (Univ. of Rio Grande / Barcelona, Spain) each scored their first two goals of the season. Ridsdale also scored again to give Ocean City another win against a first-year PDL team that joined the league from the NPSL in the offseason.

The Nor’easters made it three straight wins, and in the process made a little history for their head coach. Ocean City defeated the Westchester Flames 5-2 to give Oswald his 35th win in charge of the Nor’easters. Vasquenza scored a hat trick, while Manga scored his fifth and Ridsdale added his third straight to extend Ocean City’s unbeaten streak against the Flames to nine games (6-0-3). Vasquenza scored the eighth hat trick in Ocean City’s PDL history and the first since 2013 (Dwayne Reid). Also featuring on the scoresheet was Aitor Unzue (Pamplona, Spain) who picked up an assist in his second straight game. The son of FC Barcelona assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue, was a key player for Ocean City this year, leading the team in minutes played (1,115) and one of two players (Pau Delgado) to play in every game.

Ocean City’s three-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of another old rival as the Long Island Rough Riders edged the Nor’easters 1-0. Tyler Botte scored the lone goal as the final road game of the season came to a close with a 4-3-0 record.

The Nor’easters returned to the Beach House for the first time but they began their home schedule with back-to-back scoreless draws. They earned a point against the Red Bulls U23s and the Baltimore Bohemians with Dobrowolski earning the clean sheet in both matches.

Andrew Garcia. Photo: Film Reel Production

After consecutive shutouts, the defense continued their stellar play outside of league play with a third straight clean sheet in a 4-0 exhibition win over the Trenton Rebels at the Beach House. Four different Nor'easters found the scoresheet starting with defender Tom Carwile (Trinity University (TX) / Tulsa, OK) in the 15th minute. In the second half, the home team exploded with three goals from Ovan Oakley (Concordia College / Kingston, Jamaica), Hall, and Carlos Pieroni (Cordoba, Argentina). The shutout was shared between two goalkeepers as Borja Barbero (Univ. of Delaware / Valladolid, Spain) played the first half, followed by Andrew Garcia (St. Francis Univ. / Sicklerville, NJ)  in the second.

Ocean City began the month of July with another difficult 3-2 loss to Reading United. Hall and Guinovart scored for the home team, but it wasn’t enough as the Nor’easters drop to 1-8-3 against United over their last 13 matches. The game marked the season debut for one of the club's top young prospects, Dakota Peterson (Drexel Univ. / Denver, Colo.). After making his first appearance against Reading, he played in all five of the team's remaining matches, including three starts.

The loss to Reading dropped Ocean City to 4-4-2 and with four matches remaining, Oswald’s men knew that they needed to win out if they were going to have a chance to earn a playoff spot.

They recovered from the disappointing Reading game with a dominant 8-0 victory over Lehigh Valley. Hall led the way with the club’s ninth all-time hat trick and the Nor'easters also received goals from Manga, Guinovart, Ridsdale, Victor Araujo (Trinity Univ. / Salvador, Brazil) and Oakley. Dobrowolski made two saves to become the first Ocean City goalkeeper since 2012 (John McCarthy) to earn three clean sheets in a season. The win also broke the club record for largest margin of victory in a game (+8).

While the team was on a high from the record-breaking win, there was a bittersweet loss as captain Mitch Lurie (Rutgers Univ. / Alpharetta, Ga.) left the team to pursue an exciting opportunity to train with a English League One club, Chesterfield FC. Lurie played in 11 games during the 2015 season and was among the team leaders with 968 minutes played.

Alex Ridsdale. Photo: Baltimore Bohemians

They followed that up with a second straight shutout, this time by Barbero, in a 1-0 win over FA Euro. Ridsdale was the hero, scoring his fifth goal of the year in the 78th minute to keep Ocean City’s playoff hopes alive. With the win, they kept their perfect record against FA Euro intact (4-0-0).

With just two games remaining, the Nor'easters faced a major challenge for their second to last game as they faced the D.C. United U23s, a team that had beaten them 3-1 earlier in the season and were undefeated (officially they had one loss due to forfeiting the opening game of the season due to fielding an ineligible player.). In the first meeting, Ocean City scored an early goal and United rallied to score three straight to win. This time, it was United's turn to score the early goal and it was Hall who helped the Nor'easters storm back to win the game 2-1. His goals in the 26th and 53rd minutes would prove to be a major spoiler as the win by Ocean City was ultimately what kept D.C. out of the playoffs.

The comeback win against D.C. set the table for a dramatic final game of the season against the Jersey Express, a team they had not beaten in their last four meetings. A win and a Reading loss would put the Nor’easters into the playoffs, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hall scored his ninth goal of the season, but the Express held on for a 1-1 draw.

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian with the Ocean City Nor'easters

Ocean City finished with a 7-4-3 record and finished in sixth place in the Mid-Atlantic Division. The sixth place finish sounds worse than it actually was because the Nor'easters play in one of the most competitive divisions in the entire PDL as they finished the campaign just six points short of a division title, something that was not lost on the club's leadership.

"It was a challenging yet positive season," said Nuss. "With the number of quality clubs in the Mid-Atlantic division and the competition for the limited playoff spots, it can be seen in a negative light, especially compared to the storied success of the 2012 & 2013 seasons. We were one or two positive results away from making the playoffs in arguably the toughest division in PDL. We had showcase wins over both New York Red Bulls U23s & DC United U23s. We continue to identify young, quality players from low profile college programs. These are all positive aspects that we want build on for the future."

2016 Season ticket package information will be released in the coming weeks and in time to purchase for the holiday season. For more information, call (609) 432-8271 to speak with a Nor'easters ticket representative, email us at tickets@oceancityfc.com, or visit www.oceancityfc.com/tickets.

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

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