OCEAN CITY - A group of about 25 collegiate-aged men's soccer players in blue uniforms worked through practice drills at Carey Stadium one evening last week. Their speed and agility were impressive.
Most of their names and faces would be unfamiliar to area soccer fans.
But maybe not for long.
The team was the revamped Ocean City Nor'easters, who return only seven players from last year's squad.
The United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League team's 16th season is underway. The Nor'easters opened with road games at the Baltimore Bohemians (a 2-0 win) and Jersey Express (1-0 loss) but will play their home opener at 7 p.m. Sunday at Carey Stadium against the Central Jersey Spartans.
Ocean City has a new head coach, Tim Oswald, a new outlook and a roster with several young players.
"This year we've got a younger, more dynamic group," Oswald said. "They have a lot of speed and pace. We'll have a balanced attack on offense and defense, and we have exciting players who can play high-quality soccer."
Oswald, who is also the Rutgers University-Camden men's soccer coach, was hired in late September to replace Neil Holloway, who remains the team's general manager. Oswald had been an assistant for the Ocean City team, then called the Barons, in 2007.
"I've known Neil for a long time and he's a great guy," Oswald said. "I'm looking forward to having him as my mentor and colleague."
The Nor'easters hope to turn the page on last year's disappointing 2-6-8 season, which saw several potential wins and ties slip away into ties and losses. Ocean City also must replace the retired Byron Carmichael, the franchise leader with 62 career goals.
The returning players include three former area high school standouts: forward Glenroy "Junior" Chapman (St. Augustine Prep) and defenders Kevin Curran (Ocean City) and Alex Weidman (Mainland Regional). The other returnees are forward Terry Gibbs, midfielders Max Hamilton and Gio Tacconelli and goalie John McCarthy.
"We didn't finish out games last year," said Curran, 20, a Loyola University player and Upper Township resident. "We have to play 90 minutes, not just a half. We have a lot of energy this year and our guys are hungry."
Chapman, 20, a La Salle University player and Sicklerville resident, added, "This year we'll keep the game at a good pace and be more effective. I love playing in front of the hometown crowd."
New players include forwards Scott Davis (Bradley University) and Markhus Lacroix (University of Pennsylvania); midfielder Tapiwa Machingauta (Bradley); defenders Nick Bibbs (Syracuse), Alexi Davies-Campbell (Bradley) and Jonathan Dolezal (Penn); and goalies John Fogarty (Villanova University, Ocean City High School) and Tyler Miller (Northwestern University).
Contact Guy Gargan: