Men's league schedule for Ocean City Nor'easters unveiled
Club's 20th season begins on the road on May 18; home opener on June 4 vs. rival Reading United
The schedule for the 2016 Premier Development League (PDL) season has been announced and the Ocean City Nor'easters' 20th campaign is set to begin May 18. On that day, the Nor'easters will open the season on the road against Lehigh Valley United Sonic. After four straight road games to start the season, the Nor'easters will have their home opener on June 4 when they host long-time rival Reading United AC at Carey Stadium in Ocean City, NJ.
The 14-game schedule is rewarding for Ocean City down the stretch. While they begin the campaign with four straight games away from home, they will finish the season with five straight home games at "The Beach House," wrapping up on July 17 when they end the regular season with the Bohemians.
Last year, the Nor'easters' last seven games of the season were all at home, which helped make a push for the postseason with a 4-1-2 record, but they ultimately fell just short on the final day of the season, finishing with a 7-4-3 mark. It's was the fourth straight season that Ocean City had seven wins or more in a season
The team will be led by fourth-year head coach Tim Oswald who became the club's all-time leader in coaching (PDL) wins, finishing 2015 with an impressive career record of 38-14-6.
The PDL will feature 67 clubs from across North America this year, separated into four conferences. The Nor'easters will compete in the Mid-Atlantic Division, which is one of the three divisions within the Eastern Conference. Their division rivals this year will be the Baltimore Bohemians, Evergreen FC, Jersey Express, Lehigh Valley United Sonic, last year's PDL runner-up New York Red Bulls U23s and long-time rival Reading United AC. The schedule calls for Ocean City to play each division rival home and away (12 games), plus two extra games, one against Baltimore and the other against Evergreen FC Hammers.
The playoff format for 2016 will be the team in the Eastern Conference with the most points will advance to the conference championship game, with the second- and third-placed teams from that division also earning berths into the playoff road. The top two teams from the remaining two divisions will also advance to the playoffs, with the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Division competing in an inter-division playoff and the South Atlantic Division's representatives meeting each other to determine the final three teams to advance to the Eastern Conference Championship.
Every home game this season is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff, and every road game with the exception of two will also start at the same time.
The Nor'easters enter their 20th season as one of the best PDL teams in North America since joining the league in 2003 (From 1997-2002, they were a professional team in the USL's D-3 Pro League). The club has the sixth best overall record (112-51-43) since 2003 and the sixth-best home record (60-22-22). They also hold the distinction as the team with the longest home unbeaten streak in PDL history at 28 games (23-0-5), which ran from 2003-06. While the club did not qualify for the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open, they remain one of the best amateur clubs in the tournament's Modern Era (1995-present). With five upsets of professional teams in the tournament, only one club in the PDL has more (Michigan Bucks with 9). Qualification for the 2017 US Open Cup will be based on the results of the 2016 PDL season.
Here is a brief look at this year's opponents:
2015: 4-2-8, 7th place in Mid-Atlantic Division
The Nor'easters will play the Bohemians three times this year (twice at home, one on the road). Last year, the Nor'easters were undefeated in both meetings with the Bohemians, winning 3-1 on the road and finishing in a scoreless draw at the Beach House. Ocean City is 5-2-1 all-time against Baltimore, oddly enough, both of their losses came at home.
Evergreen FC Hammers
2015 as DC United U-23s: 8-4-2, 5th place in Mid-Atlantic Division
The Northern Virginia-based team is run by former Northern Virginia Royals owner Mo Sheta, as the team was re-branded in the offseason from the DC United Under-23. Last year, Ocean City earned a split with the club, dropping the season opener, before avenging that loss with a 2-1 win on the second to last game of the season.
2015: 8-3-3, T-3rd place in Mid-Atlantic Division
The Jersey Express finished tied for third in the Mid-Atlantic Division last season and qualified for the PDL playoffs after winning a tiebreaker with Reading United AC. They made their biggest headlines in their second straight appearance in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. After losing their opening game in 2014, they rebounded with two shutout wins over four-time champion New York Greek Americans and the USL's New York Red Bulls 2. With the win over the Red Bulls reserve team, it was the club's first-ever win over a professional team. The Nor'easters only faced the Express once, and it was a massive game in the season finale. The game finished 1-1 with the Express earning the point they needed to get into the postseason and it left the Nor'easters one win shy of a playoff spot. The Express made the most of their postseason run, beating the Long Island Rough Riders and the Charlotte Eagles (in PKs) before falling to the Red Bulls U23s in the Eastern Conference Final.
Lehigh Valley United Sonic
2015: 1-1-12, Last place in Mid-Atlantic Division
Lehigh Valley United Sonic had a really challenging year in their first season in the PDL, winning just one of their 14 games and finishing in last place. The club joined the PDL after five years in the National Premier Soccer League where they won the league championship in 2012 and made the playoffs in four of the five seasons, including two appearances in the national final four. The Nor'easters won both meetings with Lehigh Valley, outscoring them 13-1 in both games. With the 8-0 home win over United on July 5, it broke the Ocean City club record for largest margin of victory and tied the club record for most goals scored.
New York Red Bulls U23s
2015: 9-3-2, 1st place in Mid-Atlantic Division (PDL runner-up)
The Red Bulls U23s, joined Lehigh Valley as another team that enjoyed success in the NPSL (winning the league title in 2014) and left to join the PDL. However, unlike United, the Red Bulls continued their success in the PDL, winning the division title, qualifying for the playoffs and reaching the PDL Final before falling 4-3 to K-W United FC. The Nor'easters did not lose a game to the Red Bulls, winning their first meeting 3-1 before settling for a scoreless draw in Ocean City on June 20. This moved Ocean City's record in all competitions against the Red Bulls U23s to 2-0-1 as the Nor'easters had defeated them in the First Round of the 2013 US Open Cup when New York was part of the NPSL.
Reading United AC
2015: 8-3-3, Tied-3rd place in Mid-Atlantic Division
Reading United AC are the Nor'easters' oldest rivals. Reading joined the D-3 Pro League in 1996, the year before Ocean City launched. Since then, they have played 38 times both as professional and PDL teams. Ocean City leads the all-time series 18-13-7, but Reading has dominated in recent years, with an 8-1-4 record over the last 13 meetings, including a pair of wins last year. Despite an eight-win season, Reading finished tied for third place in the division and lost out on a tiebreaker to the Jersey Express and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Their US Open Cup streak will also come to an end. Based on the 2015 results, Reading is expected to miss out on the Open Cup for the first time since 2008, a record 7-year streak for a PDL team.