Photo: Paul Rudderow
The Ocean City Nor’easter’s story book run in the US Open Cup ended Tuesday night with a 2-1 third round loss to Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Along the way they gained some supporters, a few detractors, and a load of respect for their play.
Ocean City came into PPL Park and tried to play their game. They stuck to their 4-3-3 with wide forwards, but didn’t play quite up high like they usually do and their top, skilled players had precious little time on the ball.
But Ocean City stood toe-to-toe with the MLS team and nearly pushed the match to extra time.
Philadelphia native and Ocean City goalscorer Emanuel “GoGo” Kollie said of his dream equalizer, “I just try to put myself in a better position. I just wanted to put myself even with the goalkeeper hoping it was just going to come to me and that’s what happened.”
Kollie acknowledged there were some jitters in the beginning of the game. “Well, from the beginning I was kinda nervous because I thought we couldn’t do it but after five minutes in the game I got my confidence back.”
University of Pennsylvania sophomore Marcus “Duke” Lacroix, the Nor’easters crafty winger, said his team put in a lot of prep work going into the match. “We try to keep a professional atmosphere. The staff, the management, the coaches do a good job keeping things professional. I haven’t had the opportunity in the inner workings of the Philadelphia Union and how they run things but I think Ocean City keeps things professional and top notch and we kept the game close til the very end.”
Nor’easter coach Tim Oswald spoke with pride about his team after the match, which he said was a great showcase for players on his team that have MLS aspirations.
“It shows that not only can they compete at that level, but maintain,” said Oswald, who is also head coach of of the Rutgers-Camden men’s team. “They had a great opportunity to showcase not only themselves but Ocean City Nor’easters PDL and I think they did a valiant job and effort til the very end.”
Oswald said he wasn’t surprised to see a nearly full strength Philadelphia line up face his team, saying the Union fielded a strong side because they to win the Cup.
Team owner Giancarlo Granese, know affectionately by his players and staff as “El Presidente,” also glowed about his team. “I’m extremely proud of my team, they played beyond my expectations very happy with the effort,”said Granese. “We have roughly 12 or 13 full time employees working for the organization so we’re not just a little club. It’s a year round labor of love with this team. We do a lot recruiting year round and the coaches try to bring the best players and talent.”
One thing Ocean City received at the end of the match may be rarer than any cup or trophy in sports. They earned a standing ovation in the River End from the Sons of Ben.
I can think of no higher praise.