Short-handed Wilmington Hammerheads look for results against reeling Pittsburgh

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WILMINGTON – On the outside looking in when it comes to the United Soccer League (USL) playoff picture, the Wilmington Hammerheads look to right the ship this Saturday night when the Port City’s only pro soccer club entertains the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Legion Stadium.

Coming off a stoppage time goal by Liam Miller this past weekend to grab a 2-2 draw against Orlando City, the Hammerheads sit in 10th place with a 6-7-6 record and 24 points in the USL Eastern Conference Table. Wilmington has had a tough go at it as of late when it comes to finding the back of the net, scoring just four goals in their last four matches.

Liam Miller. Photo courtesy- Wilmington Hammerheads FC.
Liam Miller. Photo courtesy- Wilmington Hammerheads FC.

“Every game we play right now is a massive game and Pittsburgh is no different,” said Wilmington Hammerheads FC Head Coach Mark Briggs. “I think their position in the table doesn’t relate to the quality of players they have.”

Pittsburgh enters Saturday’s contest with just 10 points in 18 matches, with a 2-12-4 record. The Riverhounds have dropped four straight heading into the first of two games scheduled against Wilmington between now and the end of the regular season.

While the Hammerheads have been strong from the opening whistle in many of their positive results this season, Wilmington will be without two of their key defenders as Bruno Perone and Ashani Fairclough have been suspended for one game by the USL. Perone received a straight red card during play against Orlando this past Sunday, while Fairclough will miss time due to yellow card accumulation. That could pose a problem for a Wilmington side that has a minus-4, 24/28 goals for/against average.

Pressuring Wilmington’s defense this weekend will be Romeo Parkes and Corey Hertzog. Both players lead Pittsburgh with five goals each. Hertzog may be a familiar name to Hammerheads fans as the former MLS player spent the 2012 season on loan from New York Red Bull to Wilmington. During that season, he scored nine goals in 17 appearances.

Players to watch this weekend for the Hammerheads include: Liam Miller, Stefan Defregger and newcomer Michael Binns.

 Photo courtesy- Wilmington Hammerheads FC
Photo courtesy- Wilmington Hammerheads FC

Miller is a dedicated and experienced midfielder, who notched his first goal of the season last week. Defregger has been used as a defender for much of the season and will be asked to play a big role on Saturday due to the shorthanded backline. Binns saw his first action against Orlando after being signed by the Hammerheads following three Copa America games with his native Jamaica.

With five goals this season, Perone also serves as the leading scorer for Wilmington, which poses an issue for a team that has had problems when it comes to the scoring sheet for much of the year.

“It will be a difficult game for us Saturday night, but one we are relishing after a positive result in Orlando,” Briggs added.

Heading into the final two months of the regular season, Wilmington still controls its own destiny sitting one point out of the eighth and playoff spot in the eastern conference table.

Kick-off between the Hammerheads and Pittsburgh is set for 7 p.m. at Legion Stadium on Saturday, July 30.