Preview: Nor'easters' playoff push continues at home vs. Real Central NJ
Real Central NJ makes the club's first trip to the Beach House
The Ocean City Nor'easters continue their push for a spot in the USL League Two playoffs when they host Real Central New Jersey on Friday night. It will be the expansion side's first trip to Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") in Ocean City, N.J., America's Greatest Family Resort.
The Nor'easters enter the match with a 6-1-3 record while sitting alone in second place in the Mid-Atlantic Division, eight points behind first place West Chester United. The Storm have played two fewer games and will play WCU at the Beach House on July 9. The top two teams in the division automatically qualify for the postseason, with the best third place team between the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Divisions also gets in.
Real Central NJ are 2-6-3 and were on a three-game unbeaten streak (1-0-2) before dropping a narrow 1-0 decision to Northern Virginia FC in their home finale on Wednesday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 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 last time these two teams met (which was the first time) was in the 2021 season opener back on May 12. Despite playing on the road, the game was a homecoming of sorts for the Nor'easters as the club played their home games at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, N.J. back in the 2003 season (one of the few seasons over the last 25 years that Ocean City played away from Carey Stadium).
Bakary Bagayoko (Cumberland / Bronx, NY) opened the scoring in the 4th minute on a goal assisted by his Cumberland University (TN) teammate Tyler Watson (Cumberland / Simi Valley, CA) In the second half, Bagayoko added a second goal just after halftime and Kyle Galloway (Rutgers / Manahawkin, NJ) came off the bench and scored the team's third and final goal in the 75th minute to put the game away. Jahmali Waite (UConn / Philadelphia, PA) made four saves to earn the clean sheet in the 3-0 win. It was the first win for Alan McCann as head coach of the Nor'easters.
Last week, the Nor'easters suffered theri first loss of the season, 2-1 at home to the Philadelphia Lone Star FC back on June 23. Akeim Clarke (North Carolina / Windsor, CT) scored his first league goal in his USL2 debut, but it wasn't enough as the Storm's 15-game unbeaten streak and 13-game home unbeaten streak was snapped. Both were the second-longest streaks in club history.
Ocean City, who is currently ranked No. 14 in the USL2 Power Rankings, bounced back last Sunday, June 27 with a dominant 3-0 win over Lehigh Valley United. Simon Becher (St. Louis Univ. / Brooklyn, CT) scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season, Caden Stafford (Maryland / Cincinnatus, NY) came off the bench and scored his first Ocean City goal in the 67th minute, followed by a gorgeous bending shot from outside the box by Austin DaSilva (Univ. at Albany / Brookfield, CT). DaSilva's goal was a finalist for the USL League Two Goal of the Week.
HIGHLIGHTS: Ocean City Nor'easters 3, Lehigh Valley United 0
Like most expansion teams, Real Central NJ's inaugural season has been challenging. After losing to Ocean City in the season opener at home, RCNJ bounced back by holding first-place West Chester United to a scoreless draw on the road, followed by their first win in franchise history: A 3-2 home win over Philadelphia Lone Star FC on May 25. After four straight losses, they have started to turn things around with a pair of draws against Reading United and a home win over Lehigh Valley United. On Wednesday, their unbeaten streak came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Northern Virginia FC on a 61st minute goal by Elijah Jones.
Real Central New Jersey's top scorer is Wesley Leggett with four goals in seven games. Leggett could potentially find himself matched up with his St. John's University teammate in Nor'easters defender Tony Herbert. Leggett, a Lawrence, N.J. native, started his college career at UConn before transferring.
2021 USL League Two Mid-Atlantic Division Standings (Updated June 30)
The Nor'easters will be following the state's COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of everyone attending Friday's game and throughout the entire season. The state of New Jersey does not have a capacity limit for venues like Carey Stadium at this time, and fans are not required to wear masks in an outdoor setting, but anyone who is not vaccinated is encouraged to wear a mask in any indoor setting such as bathrooms. For more information on the New Jersey Department of Health's guidance, please click HERE.