Saturday, July 27, 2013
OCEAN CITY, N.J. -- The Ocean City Nor’easters booked their ticket to the 2013 USL PDL Eastern Conference Final by beating a tough Carolina Dynamo team 5-3 in a penalty shootout after a tense and action packed 0-0 on Saturday evening at the Tennessee Avenue Soccer Complex. The Nor’easters will face the Ottawa Fury at Carey Stadium on Sunday at 7 p.m. after Ottawa took a 3-2 victory against Reading United in the first semifinal.
The Nor’easters started strongly against the Dynamo, with both teams playing at a frantic pace. Clear cut chances were few and far between with Dwayne Reid being pulled back just offside and Dynamo flashing a shot past Michael O’Keeffe in the Nor’easters net. The Nor’easters found a lot of joy down the left side, with the club's longest serving player, Kevin Curran, bombing on from left back and delivering some quality crosses, but the teams went to the halftime break scoreless.
The second half begun in much the same way as the first, with half-chances being made for both teams as the tenseness increased with both teams understanding how close they were to advancing. The game completely changed as a contest after Nor’easters defender Richardo Israel was sent off. To the Nor’easters supporters it looked like the referee waved off a foul but over a minute later once the ball had gone out of play he conferred with his assistant and went back to send Israel off and gave Dynamo a free kick. However, even after going down to 10 men it was the Nor’easters who looked the more dangerous through Reid and the tricky Emmauel Kollie. With both teams tiring and a last few chances going without a payoff, the game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes and headed into extra time.
Extra time had a slower, more tired feel to it, but the work-rate from both teams was second to none. Both sides gave their all, but the clock kept ticking toward the penalty shootout. Before the penalties would be taken there was another added piece of drama as Carolina's Alex Martinez, who had been substituted earlier in the game, was sent from the bench after appealing for a penalty too vociferously.
The sun was setting as the shootout began, and this gave an amazing background for the most dramatic of scenarios. The Nor’easters went first and top goal scorer Dwayne Reid stepped up to score and put the pressure onto the Dynamo, Carolina’s Mahdi Ali and Hakan Ilhan scored, as did Nor’easters skipper Curran and Ken Tribbett before the Dynamo’s Holden Fender had his well-struck penalty saved low to O’Keeffe’s left. Zoncher Dennis scored for Ocean City to make it 4-2. The Dynamo’s James Smith scored to keep them in the contest but then Kollie stepped up for Ocean City to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and send the Nor’easters into the USL PDL Eastern Conference Final.
In the opening semifinal, Ottawa had to rally twice to take victory as leading scorer Carl Haworth scored twice to lead his side to victory. Reading took the lead through Kadeem Dacrees in the 16th minute before Ottawa’s Eddie Jones tied the game in the 27th minute to send the sides to the break level.
Mario Pinto restored Reading's lead in the 71st minute as he put home a chance created by Steven Neuman, but it only took the Fury four minutes to equalize through Haworth. The standout midfielder, who helped FC London claim the PDL Championship a season ago, then struck again with four minutes to go after the Fury were awarded a penalty kick. Haworth stepped up and scored his fifth goal in two playoff games to send his side through to the final.
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