OCEAN CITY - The name "New York Red Bulls" sounds a bit scary, but the Ocean City Nor'easters soccer team was ready for the challenge of playing the Major League Soccer club's under-23 squad Tuesday night in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup first-round game.
Ocean City's Markhus Lacroix scored the winning goal in the first half and newcomer Nick Perea added a second-half goal as the Nor'easters won 2-0 at Carey Stadium. The game was the season opener for both teams.
The Nor'easters host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-4-3), a USL Pro League team, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22 in a second-round Open Cup game.
The Riverhounds played to a 1-1 draw with RWB Adria, of Chicago, on Tuesday, but advanced with a 5-3 edge in penalty kicks.
The United Soccer Leagues Pro League is a level above the USL Premier Development League, of which Ocean City is a member.
"We've only been together since last Thursday, so this was a great start to the season," Ocean City coach Tim Oswald said. "Our kids are still coming in after their (college) exams. It'll be great to have another week to practice before our next game."
Lacroix broke up the left wing in the 14th minute, took a long pass from new O.C. goalie Keasel Broome and beat Red Bulls goalie Max Brown to the far post from about 7 yards away.
"Duke (Lacroix) is so dangerous," Oswald said. "Once he gets his space in a wide area, he can really exploit it."
Lacroix is a returnee from last year's Ocean City team, which went 13-4 and won the PDL's Mid-Atlantic Division. Lacroix was chosen the Most Valuable Player of the game.
"He got it right to me," said Lacroix, 19, a New Egypt resident and University of Pennsylvania player. "I wanted to go the near post but the goalie was cheating a little (leaning toward to the near post) so I went far.
"I wasn't intimidated by their name. I'm from New Jersey, and I was on a different team that played one of (the Red Bulls') development teams. I've played against some of their players before."
The Nor'easters kept the visitors from getting scoring opportunities most of the game, keeping the ball at midfield or in the offensive zone. Defenders such as Tyler Hilliard, Kevin Curran (an Ocean City High School graduate), Shawn McLaws and Jhamie Hyde kept play moving forward.
In the 38th minute, O.C.'s Reco McLaren took a lead pass and hit the crossbar from inside the 18-yard-line.
The Nor'easters added an insurance goal in the 59th minute as Perea knocked one in from less than a yard out, after a cross from Frank Tweneboa at the right wing.
Tweneboa, a 22-year-old Pennsauken resident, is another returnee from last year.
"I saw the play coming, and it was the same play we scored on when we ran it in a scrimmage," Tweneboa said.
Broome only had to make two saves, both in the second half. Brown made four stops for New York.
"We haven't had too many (practices)," New York coach Simon Nee said. "Of course we'll get better the more we play together. We struggled to find the rhythm, but did better in the second half. Ocean City has a lot of quick, athletic players. We knew it would be a tough task. Number 14 (Lacroix) is a nice player. He was a handful at times."
Contact Guy Gargan:
New York 0 0-0
Ocean City 1 1-2
Goals-Lacroix, Perea OC.
Goalies-Brown (4) NY. Broome (2) OC.
Records-N.Y. 0-1, O.C. 1-0.