Ocean City's backline will feature players from seven different countries
The Ocean City Nor’easters defense for the 2021 USL League Two season brings together a talented group of players from seven different countries. First year head coach Alan McCann has assembled an outstanding group with strong resumes from a variety of college soccer programs, including some dynamic players who not only shut down the opposition’s offense, but also can create offense for themselves.
Defense wins championships, as they say, and it has proven that all of the best teams in Nor’easters history have had exceptional backlines. This talented group aims to follow in those footsteps and shut own opposing offenses at Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") in Ocean City, N.J., America’s Greatest Family Resort.
The 2021 USL League Two season kicks off on May 12 with a road game against Real Central Jersey. The Nor’easters’ home opener will be on Sunday, May 23 against West Chester United. Check out the schedule here to start planning your trip to the Beach House this summer!
MORE: Nor'easters' tradition of goalkeeping excellence continues with talented 2021 class
MORE: Nor'easters assemble elite group of forwards for 2021 season
MORE: Nor'easters' 2021 midfielders bring international flavor to the Beach House
Nicholas Akoto (Tennessee Wesleyan / London, England)
Montel McKenzie (Tennessee Wesleyan / London, England)
Two Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs from London, England will be joining the Ocean City Nor’easters defense this summer. The Bulldogs were an outstanding defensive unit last season, allowing just two goals in the first eight games, including six straight shutouts. TW picked up a seventh shutout in a 1-0 road win over No. 13 Rio Grande. The Bulldogs ranked 12th in the country in shutouts per game.
Akoto is a sophomore who played 11 games for the Bulldogs’ abbreviated season (starting nine). He scored a goal and dished out four assists (2nd most on the team). In the summer of 2019, Akoto played 10 games and scored two goals for the Dalton Red Wolves SC of USL League Two. Akoto spent his pre-college days playing at AFC Wimbledon, which was highlighted with a run into the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup. Akoto was born in Miami and lived there for nine years before moving to London.
McKenzie just completed his senior season with the Bulldogs as the only player to start every game of the season. He is listed a defender but he is no stranger to the offensive end of the field. McKenzie was second on the team with eight goals and two assists, with three of those goals being game-winners. He also led the team in shots. McKenzie was named the Appalachian Athletic Conference Defender of the Year and an all-conference first team selection for the second year in a row. With 55 goals and assists over his four-year college career, he should be a valuable addition to the Nor’easters offense as well as the backline.
Bo Cummins (Wake Forest / Port Huron, MI)
Bo Cummins comes to Ocean City after spending his first collegiate season at ACC powerhouse Wake Forest. Cummins did not play in any games this past season, but as one of the top high school recruits in the country, he expects to be a big part of the Demon Deacons program, which is currently competing in the NCAA tournament.
Cummins was ranked the No. 28 prospects in the IMG Academy 150 and the No. 5 defender in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com. He was part of the MLS Under-17 academy team for the New York Red Bulls and gained valuable experience playing 11 games with New York Red Bulls II (USL Championship) before joining Wake Forest.
Ulrik Edvardsen (VCU / Bergan, Norway)
Ulrik Edvardsen came to the United States after spending time as a youth international for the Norwegian National Team, competing at the Under-18 level. Since then, he has been the anchor of the Virginia Commonwealth University defense. He was a member of the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team as a freshman and a mainstay on the all-conference team in the three years that followed, including a 2018 conference regular season championship. This past season, he started every game and helped the team earn three clean sheets in an abbreviated campaign.
Luis Grassow (Kentucky / Munich, Germany)
Luis Grassow, a Munich, Germany native, found his way to to the Bluegrass State to play for the University of Kentucky. After not seeing time during his freshman season, he became a major part of the Wildcats defense, playing in 16 of the team’s 17 games (starting 14). He helped the Wildcats to an 11-4-2 record and an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. Grassow played the full 90 minutes in the Wildcats’ 2-0 opening round win over New Hampshire. They will face No. 5 seeded Wake Forest in the Third Round on May 6.
Ndzemdzela Langwa (Toronto FC Academy / Stittsville, Ontario)
Ndzemdzela Langwa brings a wealth of experience from north of the border to the Nor’easters defense. “Zela” comes to Ocean City after playing for the Halifax Wanderers of the Canadian Premier League (CPL). His youth soccer career took him from his hometown of Ottawa to a variety of youth academies including Toronto FC, Ottawa Fury and, most recently, the Vancouver Whitecaps. He also represented the Canadian National Team at the Under-17 level. After spending time with Triestina (Serie C) in Italy, and going out on on loan to Palmese (Serie D), he returned home to Canada to play for HFX Wanderers in 2019 where he was a Best XI selection for the first half of the CPL season.
Neville Morgan (Lindsey Wilson / Westmoreland, Jamaica)
Neville Morgan finished his senior season at Lindsey Wilson by holding down the outside back position for the Blue Raiders. The NAIA powerhouse were knocked off in the Mid-South Semifinals, but managed to earn an at-large bid into the NAIA tournament. After two opening round wins over a pair of Top 25 teams, the tournament run would come to an end, 3-2 against the University of the Cumberlands.
Morgan started all 16 games and led the team with a career-high eight assists. Which is impressive for a defender. What’s also impressive is that he played the whole season and only committed four fouls (2nd-fewest on the team). Morgan was named to the All-Mid-South Conference team for the second year in a row. In his junior year, he was an NAIA All-American Third Team selection and was named the MSC Defensive Player of the Year.
Will Portman (Louisville / Sheffield, England)
As one of the four England natives, Will Portman attended the Sheffield United Under-23 program before traveling stateside for school. Portman comes to Ocean City from Louisville where he has had an immediate impact on the Cardinals’ backline from the start. In 2018, he started 16 of the 17 games he played in as the Cardinals reached the Third Round of the NCAA tournament. His sophomore season was cut short due to injury, but this past season he started 10 of the 11 games he played in the COVID-shortened season, playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Nykolas Sessock (Indiana / Philadelphia, PA)
The lone local player on the Nor’easters backline is Nykolas Sessock, who hails from nearby Philadelphia. He was a top recruit coming out of high school, having also played for YSC Academy and spending time with Bethlehem Steel FC (USL). After two seasons at Pittsburgh, Sessock transferred to Indiana. Unfortunately, his first season in Bloomington would be reduced due the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t keep the Hoosiers from adding to the school’s storied men’s soccer tradition. Indiana won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles for the third year in a row and the 11th time in program history. They began the NCAA tournament this past Sunday and they advanced 3-1 in a penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 draw with St. Francis Brooklyn. Indiana, ranked No. 2 in the country, will take on No. 19 Marquette in the Third Round on Thursday, May 6. Sessock has been a big part of the Hoosiers backline, starting all nine games he’s played in and picked up a game-winning assist in a 2-0 home win over Maryland.
Kasper Skraep (Coastal Carolina / Nyborg, Denmark)
Kasper Skraep was an anchor to the Coastal Carolina defense that helped the school qualify for the NCAA tournament. After earning a starting job immediately as a freshman in 2019, Skraep was one of two players to start all 16 games this past season, finishing second in minutes played and scoring three goals (tied for second-most on the team). His last goal came in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in a 3-2 loss to Wake Forest (Nor’easters alum Claudio Repetto scored the other goal for Coastal Carolina). Coastal finished ranked in the Top 25 and winning the Sun Belt’s regular season title earned them its 10th tournament berth since 2010. Straep also got a special opportunity as he was called up to train with Denmark's senior national team.
Josh Thacker (Old Dominion / Hull, England)
Josh Thacker made an immediate impact in his COVID-shortened season with ODU, playing in all eight games and scoring his first collegiate goal in his very first game (a 1-0 win over William & Mary). Thacker was part of a defensive unit that allowed one goal or less in five of the eight games this season. His performance during the abbreviated season was enough to earn him the Conference USA Freshman of the Year award. Before arriving on campus at ODU, Thacker spent most of his youth soccer career playing for his hometown club Hull City FC.