The Ocean City Nor’easters have no problem with being the underdog in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
A 3-1 Second Round victory over their USL hosts, the Charlotte Independence, on a rainy Wednesday night marked the latest chapter in that story.
Midfielder Kyle Gurrieri scored twice in the match’s first seven minutes to lead the Nor’easters to their 11th all-time victory in Cup play as a PDL side. Six of them have been against professional teams. One of the more surprising stats of the evening is that of those six pro team upsets, this was the first time that Ocean City had allowed a goal.
Only two amateur teams in the Modern Era have more pro team upsets then Ocean City (Michigan Bucks with 10, Des Moines Menace with 7).
“This team is excited and motivated,” said Ocean City head coach John Thompson, who has been a part of most of those “Cupsets” as a player and assistant coach on the team before becoming head coach last year. “It’s a chance for them to prove themselves against a higher level of competition.”
They’ll get a chance at another in the Third Round, when they return to North Carolina to face North Carolina FC of the USL next Wednesday.
“We’re all eager and we all have hopes and plans,” said Gurrieri, who will play college soccer at the University of South Carolina in the fall after starting his college career at Syracuse. “We came down here to showcase ourselves, and it was an all-around great performance by the boys. We’re ready to move on to the next round.”
Gurrieri scored the game’s first goal four minutes in, knocking in a rebound of Williams N’Dah’s shot from the top of the 18-yard box. Three minutes later he gave Ocean City a 2-0 lead, when teammate Deri Corfe served the ball in from the right side and Gurrieri eased it past Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller at the back post.
“We pushed forward early and got some chances that we took advantage of,” he said.
The Nor’easters finished a dominating first half and took a 3-0 lead to the break when Fredlin Mompremier scored in the 44th minute. The Haitian striker who goes by the nickname “Fredinho” took a pass from Corfe at the top of the 18-yard box and finished at the back post.
“It was important that we come out with some energy,” Thompson said. “I didn’t expect that we’d get a couple of goals so early, but that helped us in the long run. We played a great offensive game in the first half and that allowed us to settle in and play defense in the second half.
The Independence, which didn’t score a goal in the month of April in USL play, appeared to have broken out of that slump with a 4-1 victory over FC Cincinnati last Saturday. But they struggled to put together meaningful chances against the visitors from New Jersey, despite dominating possession for long stretches after conceding the two early goals.
Charlotte’s only goal came in the 58th minute. Veteran forward Jorge Herrera scored it from the right side about eight yards out after taking Samuel Vines’ pass from just outside the 18-yard box. It was Herrera’s ninth career US Open Cup goal, which ties him with players like Dwayne De Rosario and Dom Dwyer in 11th place in the Modern Era (1995-present). It was also the sixth tournament that he has scored a goal in (2008, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018).