OCEAN CITY — John Thompson watched from the press box as snow fell on Carey Stadium on Friday afternoon.
On the turf, more than 40 soccer players from across the nation were hoping to catch his eye as they showed off their skills on the Ocean City High School field. Their goal: making one of the three Ocean City Nor’easters teams (U-20, U-23, Premiere Development League) for 2017.
Thompson was named coach of the Nor’easters PDL team this month. He replaces Tim Oswald, the winningest coach in the club’s PDL history, who left to focus on his family and his role coaching the Rutgers-Camden men’s team.
But the new coach is not the only one who will be asked to replace a key member of the club.
The Ocean City Nor’easters announced Monday one of their former star players will be their n…
The staff must fill the positions that were held this year by standouts such as Chevy Walsh, who was named the PDL Most Valuable Player before being offered a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League.
On Friday, with temperatures in the 30s and a swirling wind, hopefuls gathered to try out to replace all but the six players who are expected to return from this year’s PDL semifinal team.
“We recruit players from anywhere,” Thompson said. “We go to college finals to find talent. We look at every college division and even high school in some cases. We have international players from all over the world.
“We leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding those top 20 players for our teams.”
Among those hoping to impress the Nor’easters’ was 2016 Ocean City High School graduate Tucker Perkins.
“The talent level here is just tremendous,” Perkins said. “The program here is so successful, and the coaching is excellent. I couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of it.”
After playing for four years with the Red Raiders, Perkins played with the Nor’easters U-20 team this past season. Once fall hit, he was in Florida as a red-shirt freshman for NCAA Division II University of Tampa.
“The speed of the two levels of play is about the same because a lot of the Nor’easters are also college players,” Perkins said, “but because of players coming from different areas of the country and the world, you get to be introduced to so many different styles and talents within the sport.”
Bringing the talent to South Jersey is simple for Thompson, who played for the Nor’easters from 2002-06.
“Ocean City is such an easy sell,” Thompson said. “Not only do we have a successful program, but we get to tell players from all over that they can come play soccer right next to the beach. It doesn’t take a lot of persuading to get talent to look at our program.”
But there is more to it than that.
“We have great players with us and can bring players here, but that’s only half the battle,” Thompson said. “We have to get the best guys, and then we have to make them work together. You can have amazing talent but poor team chemistry. We want the best players and to have them mesh together to be the most successful team we can be.”
That happened this summer. The Nor’Easters went 9-5, finishing second in the Mid-Atlantic Division, and made a deep playoff run.
Note: The Nor’easters will hold their final tryout session in March, and their season will kick off in late spring.