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Year in Review: Wilmington Hammerheads FC

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 11/15/16, 12:37PM EST


Struggles in second half of season saw playoff hopes come up short

Photo courtesy Jay Schulman / Wilmington Hammerheads FC

Midway through the 2016 USL regular season, Wilmington Hammerheads looked in good position to make a return to the postseason, sitting with 26 points off a 6-5-5 record. The Hammerheads came up short, however, as a run of only eight points in their final 14 games of the season – including victory in their season finale – left them one point short of Orlando City B.

There were positives from the season. Wilmington’s run to the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was impressive, as was a performance that saw them fall on the road in a penalty shootout against Real Salt Lake. As a playoff berth sat waiting to be claimed, though, dropped points against Bethlehem, Pittsburgh and Montreal left the Hammerheads on the outside.


Record: 8-12-10, 34pts
Place: Ninth in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 37
Goals Against: 47
USL Cup Playoffs: N/A

2016 leaders: Bruno Perone (8 goals), Mael Corboz (4 assists), John Smits (51 saves)


The new additions to the Hammerheads had the desired effect, in particular experienced center back Bruno Perone, who finished the season with eight goals, a number of which came from the penalty spot. Players like Austin Martz and Kyle Parker – both of whom accompanied New York City FC on its trip to face Necaxa in a postseason exhibition – also performed well, while Liam Miller and Justin Moose’s experience was a plus.


In the first half of the season, the Hammerheads were winning the game they needed to stay in playoff contention. In the second half, those wins dried up, with a pair of 4-1 defeats by a Pittsburgh Riverhounds side that won only six times all season jumping out as major blots on the season. Another factor was the lack of punch provided by the Hammerheads’ forwards, who combined for only 12 goals – one fewer than Perone (8 goals) and fellow center back Ashani Fairclough (5 goals). 


The opening game of the season brought a first professional goal for Logan Miller, and it was a beautiful game-winner against Orlando City B.

Midfielder Liam Miller scored only once in the regular season, but it was a fine late finish to the top corner that earned a point on the road in Orlando.


Eric Ati had numerous memorable moments in goal for the Hammerheads, including this save against Toronto FC II that preserved a shutout late on.

Ati also earned USL Team of the Week honors for his seven-save performance against the Charlotte Independence, which included this reflex stop.


“One of the main reasons I came back to Wilmington originally to play was because of the atmosphere that was at Legion when I first played here in 2009. We’ve got fantastic supporters, and when Legion is full, and when our supporters are behind us and cheering the team on, it’s a 12th man.” – Wilmington Hammerheads FC Head Coach Mark Briggs

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