Teams will play again in Ocean City on Sunday night (7 p.m.) in a must-win for the Nor'easters
The Ocean City Nor'easters playoff hopes were dealt a heavy blow after a 2-0 loss to Reading United on Thursday night. In the final road game of the regular season at Gurski Stadium in West Lawn, Pa., the Nor'easters lost two of their top defenders in the first half, one due to injury and the other to a red card, which left the team shorthanded for the majority of the match.
Khori Bennett scored both goals for Reading as Ocean City falls three points behind United for second place in the Mid-Atlantic Division. The top two teams in the division qualify for the PDL playoffs.
Ocean City now have three games remaining in the regular season and to have a chance at making the postseason, the Storm will have to win all three and get some favorable results in other games. The remaining three games will not be easy, but at least all of them will be played at the Beach House in Ocean City.
The Nor'easters (7-4-0) will host Reading United (8-1-0) on Sunday night (7 p.m. kickoff), and then a week later, on Sunday, July 9, they will host division leaders New York Red Bulls U-23s (10-1-0). Then, the regular season finale will be at Carey Stadium on Wednesday, July 12 against Lehigh Valley United.
The Nor'easters got off to a poor start on the road with Reading scoring the game's first goal in the 4th minute of play. Jelani Pieters beat his defender on the right wing, entered the box, dribbled past another defender to free up space near the touch line. Pieters then played the ball into the middle to a wide open Khori Bennett who tapped it into the back of the net.
Reading held most of the possession and with Ocean City chasing the game, trailing by a goal, they lost a key player in the 15th minute. Starting center back and last year's Young Player of the Year, Daniel Nimmo (Lithigow, Scotland / Campbellsville) took a hard challenge in midfield and had to leave the game due to injury.
With United keeping the pressure on, the game took a turn for the worse for Ocean City just before halftime. Bennett received a through ball in the middle of the field and the Northeastern University forward was goalside on Nikola Fimic (Novi Sad, Serbia / Oklahoma Wesleyan) who knocked him to the turf to prevent a free path to goal. By taking him down as the last defender, Fimic, who has played in every game for the Nor'easters, was shown a red card and was sent off.
It was a physical first half with Ocean City accounting for 9 of the 13 fouls.
Five minutes into the second half, the Nor'easters' put themselves in a deeper hole as Readin'gs Evan Finnegan crossed the ball and found Bennett who headed it past goalkeeper Todd Morton (West Chester, PA / Delaware) to make it 2-0. Despite the two goals allowed, Morton played well, making four saves for the shorthanded visitors.
Down a man, the Nor'easters didn't give up and they had a golden opportunity to cut into the lead in the 58th minute. After a foul on the left wing, the Storm set up for a free kick which was lofted across the box to the far post where Daniel Kozma (Budapest, Hungary / Grand View) was wide open and had a free header right on the doorstep of the goal. He put it on goal but Reading goalkeeper Ben Lundt dove to his left and somehow kept the ball out.
That would prove to be the best chance of the second half as Reading's backline held strong and repelled Ocean City's attempts at getting back into the game.
It was a physical game, with 29 fouls between the two teams, including five yellow cards shown to the Nor'easters, compared to Reading's one.
MID-ATLANTIC DIVISION STANDINGS (Updated after 6/29/17)
|NY Red Bulls U23s||11||10||1||0||30||38||10||+28|
|Reading United AC||9||8||1||0||24||24||8||+16|
|Lehigh Valley United||9||3||5||1||10||15||19||-4|
|FA Euro New York||10||2||8||0||6||6||22||-16|
New York Red Bulls U-23s
Sunday, July 9 - at Ocean City Nor'easters
Wednesday, July 12 - home vs. FA Euro New York
Saturday, July 15 - home vs. Evergreen FC
Reading United AC
Wednesday, July 5 - at Lehigh Valley United
Saturday, July 8 - home vs. Jersey Express
Wednesday, July 12 - at Jersey Express
Saturday, July 15 - at Lehigh Valley United
Ocean City Nor'easters
Sunday, July 2 - home vs. Reading United AC
Sunday, July 9 - home vs. New York Red Bulls U-23s
Wednesday, July 12 - home vs. Lehigh Valley United