Ocean City shifts focus to Saturday's home opener against Evergreen FC
A thunderstorm in Allentown, PA pushed the start time back 45 minutes to 7:45. The delay seems like it influenced the Nor’easters. The Nor’easters were shut out for the first time since June 20 in a 2-0 loss to Reading United in the 2018 campaign.
Despite the result, the offense started early. Deri Corfe (Wright State/ Chester, England) gave it a go from just outside of the 18-yard box, however it sailed just wide of the frame. Five minutes later, Corfe crossed the ball into the box and found Leon Maric (St. Joseph’s/ Gilbertsville, PA). Maric took a touch and sent a shot toward the Lehigh Valley goal. LVU goalkeeper Jospeh Valeriano was in the right position for the save.
The tides turned in the 10th minute of competition. Lehigh Valley midfielder Steven Riad sent the ball into the box from about 25 yards and found a sliding Cole Kropnick who put it past Jan Hoffelner (St. Johns / Frankfurt, Germany) for a 1-0 lead.
Lehigh Valley wanted to build on their lead and the Nor’easters wanted to equalize. However, physical play, from both sides, made it difficult to execute on offense.
The Nor’easters made two changes at the half: Claudio Repetto (Coastal Carolina/ Geneva, Italy) replaced Maric and Ryan Inman (High Point/ Birmingham, England) replaced Dan Twizer (Missouri State/ Golan Heights, Israel).
The second half saw a continuation of the physical play. In the 57th minute, Inman and a Lehigh Valley midfielder fought for possession of the ball. Inman sent the midfielder to the turf and received a yellow card in the process. Three minutes later, Lehigh Valley connected numerous passes, with one finding Beckham Sibiski who struck a ball near the top of the box. Hoffelner could only watch as the ball landed in the bottom right corner of the goal.
Three substitutions were made in the final 20 minutes of regulation to give the Nor’easters offense some fresh legs. Daniel Kozma (Grand View/ Budapest, Hungary) came on for Austin Bihlmeyer (Eastern Tennessee/ Knoxville, TN), Ilias Kosmidis (High Point/ Thessaloniki, Greece) came on for Brandon Smalley (Florida Tech / Bridlington, England), and Marcos Kitromilides (Lafayette/ Nicosia, Cyprus) came on for Joey Bhangdia (Penn / Lewisburg, PA). Along with the three substitutions, the final 20 minutes of regulation saw two more yellow cards issued: one to Nor’easter defender RC Williams (Penn/ Wayne, PA) and the other to a Lehigh Valley defender.
The Nor’easter pressure on the Lehigh Valley defenders was just a little late as the head referee blew the final whistle.
“Lehigh Valley is a tough team and we don’t want to take anything away from them but we weren’t at our best. They outworked us and made us pay,” said head coach Kevin Nuss. “We have to move past it and get back to our best.”
The Nor’easters next game also happens to be the first home game of the 2019 campaign against Evergreen FC on Saturday, June 1. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at “The Beach House” in Ocean City.