One of the USL's longest rivalries is renewed in tonight as Ocean City faces Reading United live on YouTube at 7 p.m.
Chevy Walsh's record-breaking 16th goal of the season and Mike Kirk's heroics in goal send Nor'easters to the Eastern Conference Final.
The Ocean City Nor'easters have found a spot in the PDL Eastern Conference Semifinals after defeating the top-seeded Charlotte Eagles 1-0 in Exeter, Pa. Chevaughn "Chevy" Walsh once again was the hero, scoring another record-breaking goal just before halftime. His 16th goal of the year breaks the Ocean City single-season club record for goals in all competitions.
Walsh has now has now scored a goal in four straight matches (for the second time this season) and has continued his hot streak with 12 goals in his last nine games.
With the win, the Nor'easters move on to Sunday's Eastern Conference Final where they will face long-time rival Reading United at 7 p.m.
It was a hard-fought match for the full 90 minutes between the two sides. Both teams had to overcome the harsh heat, which reached a scorching 104 degrees at Don Thomas Stadium. Fortunately, the referee approved of water breaks, which were taken in the 30th and 75th minutes.
WATCH SUNDAY'S EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL: OCEAN CITY NOR'EASTERS VS. READING UNITED
For the first half hour, the Nor'easters dominated possession, but could not make anything of it. It took until the 43rd minute to find a breakthrough with a good piece of play from former Charlotte Eagle, Nathan Regis. Last year's All-PDL selection sent a perfectly-timed pass to Martim Galvao who found the run of Walsh. The PDL's scoring champion did a step-over and then fired it home into the bottom right corner past the goalkeeper. The goal broke Ruben Mingo's single-season goals record set in 2004.
Heading into the second half with a lead, Ocean City needed to fight to hold on. Charlotte was the league's second best defense during the regular season and would not be easy to score against, let alone twice in one match. This proved true as the Nor'easters struggled to put together many attacks for the remainder of the game. The pressure was put on the back line for a majority of the second half. Goalkeeper Mike Kirk was the standout performer. Kirk had nine saves, seven of which came in the second half. He earned his first clean sheet and only Ocean City's third shutout of the season. Kirk has eased into the starting job after coming in late in the year. The La Salle University netminder has stepped up, winning six of his last seven starts, including two playoff games.
The Nor'easters are now in the PDL's Elite Eight for the first time since the 2013 season, which ended in a Final Four defeat.
In the other semifinal match, Reading United defeated the Carolina Dynamo 2-1 in front of their home fans in Exeter, Pa. This will be the 42nd all-time meeting between Ocean City and Reading, which is one the longest-running rivalries in all of the United Soccer Leagues. Despite playing each other 41 teams since 1997 as both professional teams and the PDL, this will be the first time they will play in the playoffs.
While Ocean City leads the all-time series at 18-16-7, United has had the Nor'easters' number in recent years. Ocean City is winless in their last eight games (0-6-2) against the Mid-Atlantic Division champions and haven't won a road game in the series since 2006.
Reading won both meetings this year. A 2-0 win in the home opener at the Beach House in Ocean City on June 4, followed by a thrilling 4-3 win on June 25 at Don Thomas Stadium. In that game on the road, the Nor'easters saw Walsh's second goal of the game in stoppage time that tied the game was nullified by Reading's Paul Marie winner less than a minute later. Regis tied the Ocean City single-game club record with three assists as the Storm outshot Reading 25-9 in the match.
Sunday would be a perfect time to put those streaks at an end with a spot in the PDL National Semifinals on the line.
The Eastern Conference Final will kickoff today at 7 p.m. at Don Thomas Stadium in Exeter, Pa. Fans unable to make it to the game can watch it live on YouTube.
MATCH REPLAY: OCEAN CITY VS. CHARLOTTE