US Open Cup preview: Nor'easters embracing role of underdog against USL's Harrisburg City Islanders

Winner of Wednesday's game at the Beach House will play either New York Cosmos or Reading United in Round 3

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The Ocean City Nor’easters' run through the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup continues on Wednesday, May 17 when they play host to the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer Leagues in the Second Round. The game will take place at Carey Stadium, with a kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

OCEAN CITY NOR'EASTERS IN THE US OPEN CUP

2002 (as South Jersey Barons in D3 Pro League)
RD1 - at Vereinigung Erzgebirge (USASA), 4-0
RD2 - vs. Hampton Roads Mariners (A-Lg), 0-1

2004 (as South Jersey Barons in PDL)
RD1 - vs. Allied SC (USASA), 5-0
RD2 - vs. Syracuse Salty Dogs (A-Lg), 2-4

2005 (as Ocean City Barons in PDL)
RD1 - at NY Greek American Atlas (USASA), 3-0
RD2 - vs. Long Island Rough Riders (USL-2), 4-0
RD3 - at Richmond Kickers (A-Lg), 4-8

2007 (as Ocean City Barons in PDL)
RD1 - vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore (USL-2), 1-0
RD2 - vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2), 1-2

2009 (as Ocean City Barons in PDL)
RD1 - vs. Crystal Palace Baltimore (USL-2), 3-0
RD2 - vs. Real Maryland Monarchs (USL-2), 1-0 (AET)
RD3 - at DC United (MLS), 0-2

2013 (as Ocean City Nor'easters in PDL)
RD1 - vs. New York Red Bulls U23 (NPSL), 2-0

RD2 - vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL Pro), 1-0
RD3 - at Philadelphia Union (MLS), 1-2

2014 (as Ocean City Nor'easters in PDL)
RD2 - vs. New York Greek American Atlas (USASA), 0-2

2017 (as Ocean City Nor'easters in PDL)
RD1 - vs. Junior Lone Star (USASA), 3-1

The Nor'easters will look to build on their strong Open Cup resume. Out of the hundreds of amateur teams that have competed in the tournament in the Modern Era (1995-present), only two teams have more professional team upsets than Ocean City's five. The Nor'easters can add a sixth upset to their resume with a win on Wednesday.

While the Nor'easters are known for their goalscoring, most notably last year's PDL MVP Chevy Walsh who led the league in scoring before signing with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, it's been defense and a home field advantage that has been key to their upset success. In the five upsets over professional opposition, all five wins have come at the Beach House in Ocean City, and all five have been shutouts. The Nor'easters have outscored their professional opponents in those games by a combined score of 10-0.

If they do advance, they will either host the defending NASL champion New York Cosmos or they will travel north to take on their oldest rival, Reading United AC in Round 3. Teams that advance to Round 4 will play against a team from Major League Soccer.

The Nor'easters will look to continue the momentum they had when they defeated Junior Lone Star 3-1 in the tournament’s opening round last Wednesday. With goals from Fredlin Mompremier, Tyler Collishaw, and Akeil Barrett, the Storm picked up its 10th tournament win in franchise history (9th as a PDL team, third-most among amateur teams in Modern Era.).

The Nor'easters players are all looking forward to playing the City Islanders at The Beach House.

“The boys must be buzzing,” said Nor'easters head coach John Thompson. “Despite the lack of media coverage on the Open Cup, everyone in soccer knows that the US Open Cup is the 2nd oldest [continually-operating] knockout cup competition in the world, so just playing in such a historic tournament is an honor for any player in this county.”

The City Islanders are currently 12th in the USL Eastern Conference with a 2-3-2 record. Former PDL MVP Aaron Wheeler leads the team with two goals in seven appearances. In goal, Brandon Miller is the team’s top goalkeeper with five goals conceded in six appearances so far this season.

Wednesday's game will be the second all-time meeting between the two clubs. The game will be a rematch  from the Second Round of the 2007 US Open Cup when the City Islanders visited the Beach House in Ocean City and escaped with a 2-1 win. Ocean City, then known as the Barons, jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal from Leon Brown in the 42nd minute, only to see Chad Severs equalize for Harrisburg less than a minute later. David Schofield would score just after halftime for the visitors and that would prove to be the game-winning goal.

There were two former Ocean City players on the Harrisburg roster that day (Matt Nelson, Brian Devlin). There have been numerous Ocean City players who have turned pro and signed with the City Islanders: Tony Donatelli (Ocean City 2004-05), Ken Tribbett (2013), Keasel Broome (2013), Shawn McLaws (2013-14), Jason Plumhoff (2012, 2014), Justin Sadler (2003-04), Brian Devlin (2003-04), Danny Cepero (2006), Ryan Heins (2003-07), and JT Noone (2009)

“We have a finite time to get ourselves prepared for the season seeing how we have only been together for 10 days before we play them,” stated Thompson. “We have to focus on our game plan for the season, and not be overly concerned by what the opposition do.”

It's every young players' ambition to advance and play a professional team and have the chance to prove that they belong in that company. The 2017 Nor'easters will have that chance on Wednesday night and are hoping to take full advantage of the opportunity.

The 104th edition of the US Open Cup will feature a Modern Era record 99 teams, 21 of them from the Premier Development League (PDL). Based on their 9-5-0 regular season record, which ultimately led to Ocean City's second Eastern Conference championship in the last four years, the Nor'easters were one of the 21 PDL teams selected.

Modeled after England's FA Cup, the US Open Cup is a single-elimination tournament that is the second-oldest continually-operating competition of its kind in the world and has been the national championship for the United States since it launched in 1913. The tournament is open to professional and amateur teams from MLS to Sunday beer league teams and everything in between.

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