Playing close to the ocean is one of the big draws for elite college players spending their summers playing for Premier Development League club Ocean City Nor’easters.
Through four games this season, the players on this year’s Nor’easters roster have yet to play a game at their home venue affectionately known as The Beach House. Two of those games were scheduled road games in league play but the other two road games were the simple luck of the draw in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
As a team, the Nor’easters have already surpassed 2,000 miles of travel with their latest journey to Cary, North Carolina, for tonight’s game against professional USL side North Carolina FC. They’ve also traveled to New York twice for league games and to Matthews, North Carolina, and Ypsilanti, Michigan, in a two-week span.
“It’s tough to travel a lot but we manage everything very well,” said defender Spencer Patton, a Philadelphia native who plays college soccer at Virginia. “It’s really a collaborative effort from everyone.”
So much travel requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work on the logistics of travel but also an attention to details for players like food preparation and hydration, Patton noted.
The Nor’easters defeated AFC Ann Arbor 3-0 in their first road trip in the first round of the tournament, then followed that up with a 3-1 win over USL club Charlotte Independence a week later in North Carolina. Their reward for that win — the sixth in club history over a professional squad — was another trip to North Carolina to face another pro team.
“This club has a such a great history in this tournament, and we are here to add to that,” head coach John Thompson said after last week’s win, the team’s 11th in the competition as a PDL club and 12th overall.
That history includes twice facing MLS teams in the competition, which is the likely reward if they are able to pull off another upset tonight. Previous teams lost to D.C. United in 2009 and the Philadelphia Union in 2013. Both games were played in the third round.
“The win versus Charlotte Independence had the whole squad buzzing and hungry for more,” Patton said. “After that win I think it really set in for a lot of guys that a far run in this tournament is tangible.”
Patton, who redshirted his first season at Virginia last fall, said the deeper the team goes the more opportunity players have to measure themselves against professional-level talent.
“The Open Cup is a fantastic tournament for younger talent to prove themselves in front of professional coaches and scouts,” he said. “Its best attribute from my perspective is the amount of exposure from each game.”
Tonight’s game — the only on the U.S. Open Cup schedule — will be streamed live at www.northcarolinafc.com/Watch.