OCEAN CITY - The improbable matchup of the Ocean City Nor'easters and the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer is now a reality.
Ocean City midfielder Ken Tribbett scored the only goal of the game as the Nor'easters beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-0 Tuesday in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup second-round game at Carey Stadium.
The Nor'easters (3-0) are a United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League team mostly composed of college students, while the Riverhounds (2-5-4) are in the USL Pro League.
With the win, the Nor'easters advance to the third round of the Open Cup against the Philadelphia Union at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Union's home field of PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
The Open Cup is a national tournament that puts soccer teams of different levels against teams from Major League Soccer. MLS teams enter the tournament in the third round.
"I feel great," said Ocean City coach Tim Oswald. "It's a great win for our boys and the whole organization. It's our second chance at this, and we're going to enjoy the moment. Then we'll get back to the drawing board."
Ocean City played D.C. United of MLS in the Open Cup in 2009, losing 2-0 after playing a very competitive game. The Nor'easters franchise was then known as the Ocean City Barons.
The Nor'easters were outplaying Pittsburgh in the second half of a scoreless game, when the ball went in front of the Riverhounds' net in the 68th minute. O.C. forward Emmanuel Kollie was trying to tee it up at the left post and the ball slipped in front of Tribbett, who fired into the right corner to make it 1-0.
Tribbett, 20, is a Drexel University senior and a resident of Centennial, Colo., near Denver. The goal was his second of the season.
"The ball came perfectly to me in front," Tribbett said. "There was lots of traffic in front, so I had to smash it. This is like a dream come true. A lot of people dream of playing an MLS team and don't get the chance to do it."
Only Kevin Curran remains of the team that met D.C. United in 2009. The Ocean City High School graduate combined with defensive teammates Tyler Hilliard, Tapiwa Machingauta and Shawn McLaws to keep the Riverhounds from getting big opportunities. The visitors passed the ball well, but didn't capitalize on their chances around the net.
Curran, an Ocean City resident, is a recent graduate of Loyola University (Md.).
"I feel like the old man," said the 21-year-old Curran of being on the 2009 team. "A lot has happened in four years.
"We possessed the ball when we needed to, and got it out when we had to. They knocked the ball around a lot, but we weathered through the storm. A good team will bend, but not break."
Kollie, who goes to Syracuse, admitted to being a bit nervous going into the game with Pittsburgh.
"The team was up, but I wasn't confident," said Kollie, 20, of Liberia. "We were more confident in the second half, and we kept them from possessing the ball.
"I never played an MLS team before. It's very exciting. We'll look at a lot of film and work on technical stuff."
Riverhounds forward Jose Angulo, the team leader with four goals, re-aggravated a groin injury as he took a shot 41 minutes into the first half. He didn't return to the game.
"Having Jose come down with the injury really hurt us," Pittsburgh coach Justin Evans said. "Our attacking hasn't been as clean as we'd like. We'd put heavy touches on the ball, or wouldn't get the final piece right. We played a good first half, but you have to score goals. Obviously, their team was up for it. Any team would be up for a chance to play an MLS team."
The Riverhounds had one last chance, but Ocean City goalie Brian Billings made a diving save on Pittsburgh's Mike Seth in stoppage time of the second half.
Contact Guy Gargan:
Pittsburgh 0 0 - 0
Ocean City 0 1 - 1
Goalies-Blum (3) P. Billings (5) OC.
Records-Pittsburgh 2-5-4, O.C. 3-0.