Photo: Courtesy of Ocean City Nor’easters
Before almost 1,200 fans on Sunday night, the Ocean City Nor’easters defeated the Brooklyn Knights 1–0 to win the Premier Development League Mid-Atlantic Division title. The Nor’easters have the best record in the Eastern Conference, with 39 points, making them the number one seed for the playoffs.
While Sunday’s game started at a high pace for both teams, it soon became apparent that it might be one of those hard to watch games for City’s fans: Despite eventually outshooting Brooklyn 23 to 11 and controlling possession for most of the game, the Nor’easters just couldn’t get that early goal.
Brooklyn keeper Strefan Manz recorded 10 saves, with many of Ocean City’s shots coming off the boot of Marcus “Duke” Lacroix. Nick Bibbs saw a shot hit the post and go wide. Frank Tweneboa saw one of his shots graze the keeper’s fingertips and then hit the post. The tension was rising as City was frustrated in not getting on the scoreboard.
Brooklyn had their only real chance in the first half. Playing a cross in from the right side, the ball was aided by a fairly strong wind that caused all kinds of problems for the Nor’easters defense. City goalkeeper John McCarthy was forced to attempt a tip clearance, but the wind drove the ball back toward the goalmouth. Junior Chapman, with a spectacular bicycle kick, cleared the line to foil Brooklyn’s best chance of the night.
The game then settled into one of nerves, with the Nor’easters controlling the tempo. As the second half commenced, Ocean City continued to be frustrated in front of goal.
With lighting flashing in the distance, Lacroix struck home the winner in the 79th minute, beating both the Brooklyn keeper and the approaching storm to the delight of fans and relief of City owner and president Giancarlo Granese. The Nor’easters then had only to see out a tense but uneventful final ten minutes to secure the win.
The victory followed Friday’s disappointing road loss to Reading United AC in a rivalry that continues to grow. The stakes were high Sunday because, with Reading winning earlier in the day 2-1 on the road against Central Jersey Spartans, a City loss would mean Reading would take the division. But the Nor’easters kept their composure to come away with a well-deserved victory to cap off a great turnaround season.
As of this writing it is still not clear where the conference playoffs will be held. The leading contender is Carolina for the Eastern Conference showdown that is scheduled to start this weekend.
Full disclosure: The author’s son plays for Ocean City.