Ocean City have already clinched a playoff berth but must win to keep Mid-Atlantic Division title hopes alive
The Mid-Atlantic Division championship will be decided on the final weekend of the USL League Two (USL2) regular season. The Ocean City Nor'easters (8-1-3) will host first-place West Chester United (10-1-2) on Friday night. The third and final meeting of the season between the clubs will take place under the shadow of the ferris wheel, right off the boardwalk at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") in Ocean City, N.J., America's Greatest Family Resort.
The Nor'easters need a win on Friday in order to have a chance to win a division title for the first time since 2013. To win the division, Ocean City must defeat West Chester, and then win their regular season finale on the road against Philadelphia Lone Star FC on Sunday night. Anything less than an Ocean City win on Friday night, which will be the last regular season game for West Chester, will give the Predators a division title in their inaugural season as a member of USL2.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
General admission tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in advance on the Nor'easters website, and at the Carey Stadium gate with cash or with a smartphone. There are four different groups who get free tickets to all remaining regular season home games: Soccer coaches of all levels, Ocean City Primary School students and players from the South Jersey Elite Barons and New Jersey Surf soccer clubs.
For fans unable to make it out to the Beach House, the Nor'easters are partnering with BFA Productions to provide a live video stream of all home games for the 2021 season through Eleven Sports (formerly MyCujoo). Local broadcast veteran Mike Frankel will handle the play-by-play duties. A link to the online broadcast can be found HERE and will be posted on the Nor'easters social media accounts.
The Nor'easters enter Friday's game riding a three-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 13-2 during that span. After suffering the club's first loss of the season on June 23 to Philadelphia Lone Star FC, the Nor'easters bounced back with a 3-0 win over Lehigh Valley United (June 27) and a 5-0 victory over expansion side Real Central New Jersey last Friday. The clean sheets were the fifth and sixth of the season for Ocean City, which is the most since 2009. One more clean sheet would tie the club's single season record.
In their last game on Tuesday, the Nor'easters defeated long-time rival Reading United AC 5-2. Five different goalscorers helped Ocean City not only earn the club's first trip to the postseason since winning the 2016 Eastern Conference championship (at Reading), but it evened up the all-time series with United. After the 52nd meeting between the two clubs, the United Soccer Leagues' oldest active rivalry is now level with a record of 22-22-8.
Anthony Herbert (St. John's / Brooklyn, NY), Kyle Galloway (Rutgers / Manahawkin, NJ), Simon Becher (St. Louis Univ. / Brooklyn, CT), Austin DaSilva (Univ. at Albany / Brookfield, CT) and MD Myers (High Point / Delran, NJ) all scored to give the Storm a third straight win.
Owen Elliott (Penn State / Philadelphia, PA) picked up the win in his second straight start in goal as the Nor'easters extended their road unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2), dating back to the 2019 season.
Becher's goal against Reading on Tuesday was his team-leading ninth of the season, which is tied for the third-most in the league. It was also his fourth game-winning goal of the campaign. His impressive month of June, which included 5 goals in 7 games with 3 game-winners, earned him a spot on the league's Team of the Month.
Theo Quartey (Villanova / Accra, Ghana) leads the team in assists with five, which is tied for second-most in the league.
This will be the third and final regular season meeting this year between the two clubs.
In the first meeting on May 23 at the Beach House, the Nor'easters came away with a 2-1 win. After former Ocean City player Leon Maric scored the opening goal for United in the 1st minute, the Nor'easters responded with two goals in a three minute span in the second half. Ulrik Edvardsen (VCU / Bergen, Norway) equalized in the 63rd minute, followed by a fantastic game-winner by Theo Quartey who chipped the goalkeeper from distance on the left wing. Jahmali Waite (UConn / Philadelphia, PA) and Yannik Oettl (Central Florida / Munich, Germany) split the goalkeeping duties with Waite starting and Oettl taking over at halftime.
On June 16, the Nor'easters traveled to West Chester and came away with a scoreless draw. The Storm were unable to take advantage of a half-hour of playing with a man advantage after West Chester defender Shane Bradley was shown a second yellow card in the 61st minute, Ocean City found themselves up a man but despite some consistent pressure and near chances, the match finished without a goal.
Since suffering their first loss of the season to Ocean CIty on May 23, West Chester has gone on an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1). The Predators have only allowed three goals during those eight games, including five straight shutouts. In their last game on Monday, WCU blanked Northern Virginia FC, 2-0.
Troy Amspacher leads West Chester in scoring with 7 goals and 2 assists, followed by Chris Donovan, a former Gatorade Player of the Year (PA) who plays his college ball at Drexel, with five goals. Former Ocean City player Leon Maric is third on the team with four goals and is tied for the team lead with 3 assists. West Chester also features another former Ocean City player in defender RC Williams.
West Chester United, which was founded in 1976, has quickly become one of the top amateur clubs in the region since their first season of their adult soccer program in 2008. They have racked up a long list of accomplishments including four straight United Soccer League of Pennsylvania titles (2015-19), 11 State EPSA titles (since 2013), the 2015 Werner Fricker Open Cup championship, and finishing as the 2018 USASA Amateur Cup runner-up.
West Chester has teams that compete in a variety of leagues such as the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, and the NPSL. They had qualified (as a member of the NPSL) for the 2020 US Open Cup, but the tournament was canceled for the first time in its 106-year history. It would have been the club's third appearance in the national tournament.
Prior to this season, these two clubs have met one other time. On July 2, 2018, West Chester United visited the Beach House with the Nor'easters coming out on top, 1-0 on a late goal by Abdul Mansaray. Jimmy Slayton and Gus Valeriano shared the shutout in goal that day.