Ismael Noumansana's second half equalizer extends Ocean City's home unbeaten streak to eight games
The Ocean City Nor’easters played the PDL Mid-Atlantic Division leading New York Red Bulls U-23s to a hard-fought 1-1 draw on Sunday night at Carey Stadium in Ocean City. After falling behind in the first half, the Nor'easters didn't give up and were saved by a 75th minute equalizer by Ismael Noumansana (Bamako, Mali / Lenoir-Rhyne), which extended the club's home unbeaten streak to eight games.
The 1-1 draw earns both teams an important point. The Red Bulls pull one point ahead of Reading United to remain in first place in the division standings. Meanwhile, Ocean City, who were eliminated from playoff contention after Reading United defeated the Jersey Express on Saturday night, takes a step toward qualifying for the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“We kept our unbeaten home streak alive,” said head coach John Thompson. “To beat a team as good as the Red Bulls, a high-scoring team, it was going to be difficult. And with them peppering our goal throughout the game, to keep them at only one goal and for us to fight back when the game was getting away from us was quite amazing.”
The first half saw the Red Bulls producing for multiple chances to score the opening goal. Most of those chances were kept out by Ocean City goalkeeper Todd Morton (West Chester, PA / Delaware).
The Nor’easters best chance of the first half came from Fredlin "Fredinho" Mompremier (Limbe, Haiti / Fairleigh Dickinson), who fired a shot from 20 yards out in the 22nd minute who had the goalkeeper beaten, but unfortunately, the ball was inches too high as it hit the american football crossbar above the soccer goal at Carey Stadium.
The Red Bulls would break the deadlock in the 32nd minute when former NC State standout Zach Knudson would score off a header to give the team a 1-0 lead before halftime.
The second half started with Ocean City starting to put on the pressure to score an equalizer. They nearly did that in the 58th minute when a spectacular passing sequence ended with Francisco Neto (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil / West Virginia Tech) getting a shot off but he just missed the target.
Ocean City would find the equalizer when Noumansana, who leads the team in assists with four, was the beneficiary of a pass from Frantzly Zephirin (Montreal, Quebec / Midwest Nazarene). Noumansana turned on the jets and rocketed his shot past the keeper from 20 yards out to tie the game with 15 minutes to play. For Noumansana, it was his third goal of the season, which combined with his four assists, make him the club's second-leading scorer with 10 points.
The game would finish tied at 1-1, giving both teams an important point. With the playoffs out of reach, Ocean City's focus is on qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. While the format for the 2018 national championship that features professional and amateur teams has not been announced, the Nor'easters appear to be in good shape to return to the tournament for the second year in a row. Last year, the top 21 PDL teams qualified, and if the format remains the same, the Nor'easters, with an 8-4-1 record (25 points), are well within the top 21 in the league with one game to play.
Ocean City can likely wrap up a spot in the U.S. Open Cup in the club's 2017 regular season finale at the Beach House on Wednesday, July 12 when they host Lehigh Valley United (4-7-1). The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. The team will then play one last game after that, an exhibition game with the D.C. United Under-23s on Saturday, July 15.
The Nor'easters have now gone eight games without a loss at home. This is the longest home unbeaten streak since the club achieved a PDL record 28-game unbeaten streak between 2003-06. Current head coach John Thompson played as a central defender in nearly every game of that record streak.
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