The invite only celebration unveiled the teams new shirt sponsors, CertainTeed and Universal Supply and honored its prime backers from the area at the Girasole in Atlantic City. Key members of the media and elected officials whose backing of the move last year to a real home in Ocean City were also on hand to open the 10th season for the Barons.
SJ Barons GM and Ocean City Barons player/coach Neil Holloway delivered a brief but inspiring history of the club after everyone on hand had indulged in the tasty delights provided by the Girasole staff.
Highlights of Holloway's history of the club provided some interesting and little known or acknowledged facts of the club's success. Did you know that the Barons, as a club in the US, is in a very select category (aside from the success on the pitch that is) in that few clubs have been in existence here for as long as the Barons? How about its success in preparing youth players; the Barons saw dozens of its young stars selected for the ODP (Olympic Development Program) in 2005!
The PDL Barons success on the pitch, such as the 2004 undefeated season (14-0-4) put them in a very select group; only 5 teams in the history of soccer in this country at their level have ever completed an undefeated regular season campaign. They followed that with another strong season in 2005 with a 12-3-1 record and remain unbeaten on their home pitch at Carey Field in the regular season.
In U.S. Open Cup competition the Barons have never lost in the opening round (in fact, they have never conceded a goal to a USASA side), who are their opponents in the first round because of the way the selection works in Open Cup. In both 2004 and '05 seasons the Barons were a stiff challenge for higher level opponents and only one PDL team went deeper into the Cup last season; the eventual PDL National Champion Des Moines Menace.
On their trip into the Cup last season the Barons defeated one of the most successful and storied professional sides, the Long Island Rough Riders, 4-0 in Ocean City. Actually, the Barons entered the history books of the US Open Cup when their run was finally stopped by the Richmond Kickers of USL Div 1 one step away from a match with Major League Soccer's DC United. The Barons/Kickers match produced the highest total goal tally ever in US Open Cup; 12, in the 8-4 loss in Richmond.
Holloway also explained to the group "why the PDL exists" and a strong motivation for the players striving for the excellence the Barons have achieved. An example of the quality players active in the PDL is this: for each of the last two seasons of the players chosen by the Major League Soccer SuperDraft 67% of them were active in the PDL or had competed in the PDL in previous seasons. In the most recent draft, two of those chosen were Ocean City Barons in 2005.
When that happens the Barons and the PDL (Premier Development League) have met their goal. The United Soccer League's PDL is "designed to permit these players to compete in a professionalized setting while still maintaining their college eligibility" explained Holloway. When alums succeed the whole club celebrates, not only in their achievement but the acknowledgment of a job well done by both the player and club.
And, in case you weren't aware of this little known fact which is really significant in this World Cup year; one half of the current US Men's National Team selected for World Cup 2006 were PDL players! That is a testament to the hard work and the value of your support to clubs such as the SJ Barons and their PDL team, the Ocean City Barons.
It really is the case; the stars of the future could be in action in Ocean City. One thing is a certainty, what you will see is quality soccer and the young players striving to achieve excellence. It is not only why they play, it is also the ultimate goal of the PDL itself.
And this year the Barons have joined with United Way in a promotional effort designed to raise money based on a gift for each goal scored by the Ocean City Barons as announced Monday night. So this year there's more to a goal than you might ever have imagined.
The Ocean City Barons Ruben Mingo and Byron Carmichael commented "its time to get down to business" at the close. In case you're new to the Barons when these two say that it carries special significance because they combined to produce nearly 2/3rds of the goals scored by the OC Barons in 2005.
This year, thanks to the new program with United Way, each of those goals will be significant to some that will never know. The Barons will.