Wilmington Hammerheads FC embarks on a two-match road swing beginning Saturday, April 30 with the club’s first visit to Nippert Stadium for a date with one of the newest expansion sides of the United Soccer League (USL).
Following a 1-nil defeat to New York Red Bulls II, Wilmington stands 2-2-1 overall and should be playing in front of its biggest crowd of the young season come this weekend. FC Cincinnati drew nearly 15,000 fans to its first home game and set a USL regular-season record attendance of 20,497 fans two weeks back.
Not only do the Hammerheads have a big test coming up against a side they’re looking up at within the Eastern Conference Table, several former Wilmington players also received an opportunity to play for FC Cincinnati moving into their first year of existence.
Corben Bone has already settled into his new threads nicely in southwest Ohio with two assists, helping guide FC Cincinnati to nine points in the standings, with a 3-2-0 record. Ross Tomaselli and veteran defender Paul Nicholson are also pair of familiar names to the Wilmington area, who will be wearing the opposite kit come Saturday night.
Nicholson signed his first professional contract in February of 2011 with the Hammerheads. He scored his first professional goal for the local club, helped coach within the Wilmington Hammerheads FC Youth organization and signed a two-year contract with Wilmington for the 2014-15 seasons before landing on the inaugural signing class for expansion side FC Cincinnati.
Tomaselli signed with his hometown USL Club Wilmington Hammerheads in 2014. He played soccer at Wake Forest University from 2010-13 and graduated from New Hanover High School.
While Nicholson hasn’t seen as much time on the pitch through five matches as he’s accustomed to, Tomaselli has logged 376 minutes in the midfield.
FC Cincinnati stands third in the Eastern Conference, having outscored opponents 8-7 this season. Omar Cummings notched his first goal for the club on Sunday afternoon to earn his side a dramatic late victory against Toronto FC II. Cummings scored with six minutes to go as Cincinnati earned its third win of the season.
Wilmington had its fair share of chances in the defeat to New York, but Red Bulls II posted its fourth consecutive clean sheet as the number one team in the USL’s Top 10 Power Rankings for the second straight week.
Hammerheads midfielder Jeff Michaud had the game’s first close chance in the early going in the 14th minute, while Qudus Lawal continued to challenge on the attack.
Last week’s match also ended with some controversy. In stoppage time, Bruno Perone thought he had the equalizer for Wilmington with a side volley, but a foul had already been called against the Hammerheads for hitting York goal keeper Rafael Diaz before Perone’s shot. Multiple replays showed a flying Kyle Parker making clean contact with Diaz before Perone buried what would have been the game-tying score.
With seven points in the Eastern Conference, the Hammerheads sit in a four-way tie for fourth place in the 14-team division. They have a 5-4 goals for/against average heading into Saturday’s tilt.