Less than one week after Wilmington Hammerheads FC picked up three points with their first result inside Legion Stadium since late 2015, there’s no rest for the weary as the Port City’s only professional sports organization has a big test coming up on Friday.
While Wilmington was on the outside of the latest United Soccer League (USL) Top 10 Power Rankings, their opponents on deck look to be one of the premiere clubs within the Eastern Conference Table early this season.
New York Red Bulls II didn’t take victory against the defending champion Rochester Rhinos last week, but they continued to look sharp and created the sort of chances that on another day could have gone in. Still undefeated, they now sit one point behind Louisville City FC for first place in the division, but their win at Slugger Field two weeks ago in Louisville keeps them ahead of their Eastern Conference rivals as the top club in USL’s week four Power Rankings.
Goalkeeper Rafael Diaz earned a spot on the USL Team of the Week after coming off the bench in the 12th minute for his first action of the season. He recorded five saves as Red Bulls II played to a 0-0 draw against Rochester.
New York has outscored opponents 8-2 through four matches, with a 2-0-2 mark.
Wilmington shined with two scores against FC Montreal and news from training this week looks positive for attacking forward Qudus Lawal. Lawal left Sunday’s match in the 33rd minute after giving the Hammerheads an early 1-nil advantage following his first goal of the season. All indications show Lawal should be good to go against New York Red Bulls II.
The news was not so good for first-year defender Ferrety Sousa, who is expected to undergo surgery later this week for an unspecified injury, ruling Sousa out for the foreseeable future.
However, Wilmington has been tested in their depth on the back line through four matches, with former UNCW standout Michael Mechem already logging minutes alongside veterans Bruno Perone, Tom Parratt and Ashani Fairclough.
Perone was named to the USL Team of the Week after another strong defensive performance distributing balls well out of the back in the 2-0 victory against FC Montreal.
Wilmington has had five different scorers find the back of the net so far, with Mael Corboz playing a big role on set pieces and free kick situations.
The Hammerheads carry a 2-1-1 record into Friday’s match against New York Red Bulls II, two points back from Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC and one point behind New York.
Kickoff between Wilmington and Red Bulls II is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at Legion Stadium.