OCEAN CITY — The rapid improvement and jelling together of the new-look Ocean City Nor’easters men’s soccer team was obvious Sunday night in a 2-1 win over Jersey Express at Carey Stadium.

The Express had given Ocean City its only loss of the season, 1-0 on May 23 in Newark.

The Nor’easters continually rushed upfield and had several scoring opportunties, getting goals from Jonny Dolezal and Zoncher Dennis in the first half.

The win set up a showdown with unbeaten Reading United AC on Friday at Carey Stadium for first place in the USL Premier Development League’s Mid-Atlantic Division. Reading is 4-0-1 for 13 points while the Nor’easters are 4-1-0 for 12 points. Jersey Express suffered its first loss and dropped to 1-1-2.

“We held possession better today than the last time with them, and played for some more dangerous balls in transition,” Ocean City coach Tim Oswald said. “That gave us more opportunities and chances.”

Dolezal opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a header at the right post after Jason Plumhoff sent a corner kick from the left wing that curved to just the right spot. It was Dolezol’s second goal of the season.

“Jason saw me coming around the back of the net with no one on me, and he sent it perfectly,” said Dolezol, 20, a University of Pennsylvania player.

Dolezal nearly scored again in the 43rd minute but headed one off the crossbar and over the net from in front.

The Nor’easters continued to attack in stoppage time of the first half and Dennis finished up a great feed from teammate Markhus Lacroix to make it 2-0. The first half ended about 40 seconds later.

Lacroix’s pass went from left to right and Dennis, the team’s leading scorer, notched his fifth goal of the season.

Dennis, 20, is a Mount St. Mary’s University sophomore from the Ivory Coast.

“I saw Markhus coming down and I knew he would send it to me,” Dennis said. “It was a huge goal right before halftime. I said before the game that we would win 2-1.”

The Express made it close in the 62nd minute as Abdoulaye Coulibaly sent a left-footed blast from just inside the 18-yard line that beat goalie John McCarthy (three saves).

The visitors came close a few other times. McCarthy charged the ball and made a big stop right in front of the net in the 80th minute. Dolezal and fellow Ocean City defenders Nick Bibbs, Kevin Curran and Tapiwa Machingauta helped keep the Express from tying it.

“I have a great backline and they held it together at the end of the game,” said McCarthy, 19, a junior at La Salle University. “We’re looking forward to playing for first place.”

George Vichniakov, Jersey’s coach and a native of Russia, had a long talk with his team after the game but then didn’t say much more.

“Nothing to say. Great team. Great job,” Vichniakov said.

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210

Jersey 0 1—1

Ocean City 2 0—2

Goals—Coulibaly J. Dolezal, Dennis OC.

Goalies—Diaz (4) J. McCarthy (3) OC.

Records—O.C. 4-1-0, Jersey 1-1-2.