Photo courtesy of Wilmington Hammerheads FC
WILMINGTON, N.C. – Wilmington Hammerheads FC knew that only a win would keep the club’s postseason hopes alive, and the host side did what it needed to do as it defeated the Richmond Kickers 2-0 on Saturday at Legion Stadium. Matthew Barnes-Homer tallied a first-half goal and Michael Mecham provided a tally in the second half as Wilmington improved to 8-12-10 (34 points) overall and moved into eighth place. That puts the Hammerheads two points ahead of Orlando City B in the quest for the final Eastern Conference slot in the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs. Orlando is 8-13-8 (32 points) and needs to win its road match Sunday against Bethlehem Steel FC. Wilmington improved to 5-5-5 at home and ended up tying the season series with Richmond at 1-1-1. The playoff-bound Kickers dropped to 12-9-9 (45 points) overall and 4-7-4 on the road. Richmond is a No. 7 seed in the East and will face No. 2 Louisville City FC on Sunday, Oct. 2, in the conference quarterfinals.
17’ – WIL – Matthew Barnes-Homer (Liam Miller)
63’ – WIL – Michael Mecham (Tom Parratt)
Three Things That Mattered:
1. With the season in the balance, Wilmington pressured heavily and could have struck multiple times in the opening 15 minutes if not for the alertness of Richmond goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra who made several impressive saves in the early going. The Hammerheads didn’t let off, though, and they finally broke through in the 17th minute. When Richmond was unable to clear a Wilmington corner kick, Liam Miller played a bicycle kick toward the left side of the box and Matthew Barnes-Homer headed it into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead. It was Barnes-Homer’s third goal and Miller’s third assist of the season.
2. The Hammerheads pushed the lead to two goals thanks to a free kick sequence from the right side. Tom Parratt drove the ball in toward the edge of the six, and Dykstra appeared to have a handle on things, but it went beyond his grasp and Mecham redirected into the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage in the 63rd minute. It was Mecham’s second goal of the season and Parratt’s second assist.
3. For Richmond, the club wants to head into the postseason healthy, and the Kickers played things cautiously when Braeden Troyer suffered a non-contact injury in the 31st minute as he tripped on the Legion Stadium playing surface as he ran up the right side of the pitch. Troyer was eventually able to stand up and walk under his own power, but Richmond took no chances. Alex Lee replaced Troyer in the 34th minute.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Michael Mecham, Wilmington Hammerheads FC – Mecham tallied the team’s second goal and also came up with a good header clearance on a Kickers corner kick sequence when Richmond’s attack stepped up down the stretch.
Wilmington Hammerheads FC: TBD
Richmond Kickers: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, at No. 2 Louisville City FC - Sunday, Oct. 2, 7 p.m. ET - Slugger Field