Carey Stadium ("The Beach House") in Ocean City, NJ
UPDATE: Ocean City’s protest was unsuccessful, so the Third Round match against the Philadelphia Union will take place, as announced, at PPL Park.
Round two of the 100th edition of the US Open Cup kicked off in Ocean City, New Jersey tonight as the Ocean City Nor’easters of the PDL took on USL Pro side Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Nor’easters, victors over the RBNY U-23s were taking on a Riverhounds squad that needed extra time and penalty kicks to overcome USASA side RWB Adria in the previous round.
The Nor’easters emerged victorious 1-0 thanks to a stout defense and a 68th minute goal by Ken Tribbet to give the club their fifth upset of a professional team in team history. Among amateur teams, only the Michigan Bucks (9) have more pro team upsets in US Open Cup play in the Modern Professional Era (1995-present).
However, shortly after the final whistle blew, the Nor’easters front office, led by general manager Neil Holloway filed a protest with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) over the location of their Round 3 match. It was previously announced that if the Nor’easters defeated the Riverhounds, the Philadelphia Union would host. However, according to Ocean City, they should be hosting.
According to Holloway, there are two main issues. First, the Nor’easters did not receive a copy of the 2013 tournament rules prior to the venue declaration deadline, so they were unaware their home, Carey Stadium, was three yards shy of the Open Cup standard width of 68 yards. The club submitted their venue declaration form, with the width listed as 65 yards and they won the hosting coin flip for the first two rounds. When the team received the 2013 handbook on May 7, the day the Preliminary Round began, Holloway realized that his field was not up to standard and moved quickly to widen the field to 71 yards.
Despite declaring a month in advance that the field was 65 yards, the Nor’easters won the hosting coin flip and were awarded home games for Rounds 1 and 2 because, as Holloway learned from a USSF official, the federation waived their minimum standards for those two games. However, after Ocean City won the hosting coin flip for Round 3, USSF chose not to waive the minimum standards, thus giving the home game to Philadelphia. Based on that scenario, Holloway’s complaint is there being different rules for different teams.
With the Third Round less than a week away, the Nor’easters expect a relatively quick ruling on their protest.
“I contacted [USSF] less than 12 hours after the Round 3 announcement had been made,” said Holloway. “They had an opportunity to overturn it, but they chose not to.”
The club sees this as an opportunity to bring professional soccer to South Jersey, but doesn’t deny the financial stakes in play when it comes to hosting an MLS team.
“If USSF is trying to grow the game, having a game like this in Ocean City would be a tremendous event,” said Holloway. “Financially-speaking, it could set our club’s budget for the next three to four years. However, if we have to travel to Philadelphia and we don’t get a percentage of the gate, or anything.”
Regardless of where the game is ultimately played, this will be the second MLS team that Ocean City has played in franchise history. The first time they reached Round 3 was in 2009 when the club dropped a close 2-0 decision to DC United at the Maryland Soccerplex.
Pittsburgh controlled the play and possession early on in the match, winning a free kick only a few minutes into the game. The free kick was lobbed into the box, but the Nor’easter keeper Brian Billings managed to collect it with ease. Pittsburgh kept the pressure on though throughout the opening minutes of the half. Ocean City were keeping it together though, handling everything that the Riverhounds threw at them. Eventually, the Nor’easters starting making their way into the game. Not only absorbing the Pittsburgh pressure, but stringing together a counter attack as well.
The Nor’easters had a good opportunity in the 12’ when a cross was sent into the box, only to be headed out of play for a Pittsburgh goal kick. Both teams struggled to get a threatening attack going, play began to level out. Anthony Asante was lead into the Riverhound’s 18 yard box on a great through ball, but it was just out of his reach. The Nor’easters continued their attack, this time moving to the wing, but each attack proved unsuccessful. The Pittsburgh defense managed to repel each attack that came their way on the wing.
Asante was again lead in on goal by another great through pass in the 20’, but like his earlier attempt, it was just out of his reach and into the Riverhounds’ keeper’s hands. Possession slowly became equal between the two teams as each team’s attack stalled out in their opponent’s attacking third. Ocean City returned to attacking on the wing in the 27’, but once more, the Pittsburgh defense managed to repel the attack. Duke Lacroix put Asante in for a third time, but the ball seemingly rolled into Riverhounds’ keeper Greg Blum’s hands.
Play was end to end on the pitch starting in the 30th’ as both teams searched for the opening goal. Riverhounds midfielder Kevin Kerr had his shot scooped up by Billings, the Nor’easter keeper handily. The Nor’easters responded with Lacroix had a shot from the top of the box handled easily by Blum who started the Riverhounds counter attack. The shot from almost the same spot, just opposite end, as Lacroix’s shot went well wide of the Nor’easter goal. Minutes later, Pittsburgh managed to get a cross into the Nor’easter box, but there was no one on the other end of it and it was cleared quite quickly.
In the 41st’, Pittsburgh forward Jose Angulo challenged Billings with a hard low shot, but Billings managed to hang onto it. As for Angulo, he went down almost immediately after the shot went off, having to be subbed off soon after for midfielder Seth C’debaca. That was the last of the action for the first half, with the first half finishing 0-0.
The second half began with two subs, one for each team. Forward Emmanuel Kollie came in for midfielder Abraham Keller, while forward Mike Seth came in for the Riverhounds. Almost immediately after coming into the game, Mike Seth managed to get the game’s first yellow card for a hard challenge on a Nor’easter player. Pittsburgh began the second half as they began the game, pressing hard, looking for that opening goal.
Ocean City’s next good attempt came when a ball fell to the feet of Emmanuel Kollie right in front of the Riverhounds goal. Unfortunately, Kollie’s shot was shot wide left and out for a goal kick. Pittsburgh won a free kick a few yards from the Nor’easter 18 yard box, but the attempt fell right into the hands of Nor’easter keeper Billings. Ocean City won the game’s first corner, which came in the 59th’. The corner came in high, but managed to get worked out for throw in near the corner in favor of the Nor’easters. The resulting throw in was quickly cleared by the Riverhounds defense once more.
Play continued to be a battle in the midfield, but allowed for Ocean City to get off a long ranged effort that went well over the Pittsburgh crossbar. However, a foul was called against the Riverhounds, giving the Nor’easters another shot on goal about 35 yards from goal. The shot, taken by Kollie, barely went over the Pittsburgh crossbar. The Riverhounds managed to break into the Nor’easter attacking third, toying with the ball just outside the OC box. The resulting shot ended up going well wide of the Nor’easter goal.
Ken Tribbet had the game’s very best effort when his shot hit the side netting, via a slight deflection. During the ensuing corner, the ball was ping ponged around the Riverhounds box, until Tribbet hit the ball home past Blum giving Ocean City a 1-0 lead in the 68th’. Pittsburgh attempted to respond via Jhonny Arteaga, but the Nor’easter defense proved too much and his attempt trickled out for a goal kick.
As the game approached the final ten minutes, Ocean City found themselves on the attacking end of things rather than on the defensive. Nor’easter forward Frank Tweneboa was sprung free in the 80th’, but his touch near the 18 yard box was too heavy to cause any problems. Moments later, Pittsburgh were given a free kick just outside the Nor’easter 18 yard box, but the kick went well wide of the Nor’easter goal. The Riverhounds continued to press on, but had trouble finding their equalizer.
Pittsburgh’s final attempt on goal came in injury time as Brian Billings was tested by the Pittsburgh offense, but Billings kept the Hounds off the board with a series of great saves. Moments later, the ref concluded the game, ending Pittsburgh’s cup run and continuing Ocean City’s journey, 1-0 to the Nor’easters.
Riverhounds coach Justin Evans had this to say about the result: “”its disappointing, its a game we should have won but we let it slip away from us”
The result adds to their total number of Open Cup wins by a PDL team, bringing the number to eight wins.