Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching Wilmington Hammerheads FC battle Dayton Dutch Lions FC. I love soccer and I love the Hammerheads, but that doesn't mean every game is enjoyable to watch. This game, however, was very entertaining.
From the first second, it was very fast paced and filled with action. Both teams were really pressing, and it was clear the match wouldn’t be goalless.
The first goal finally came in the eighteenth minute from number twenty three of the Dutch Lions. I personally wasn’t fazed by that goal because the Hammerheads were playing so dynamically I was sure they’d be able to at least equalize, which Cody Arnoux did only six minutes later.
The pace of the game really never did slow down after that. This season is coming to an end. The playoffs are coming up, and every team is giving these last few games all they can. This match was a reflection of that. There were several chances and lots of realistic shots. It was nerve-racking because every play could make or break the game. In just the first forty five minutes, the Hammerheads had eight shots on goal. After half time, it was pretty much more of the same.
There were close chances throughout the whole game, but the next bit of significant action didn’t happen until minute eighty six. If only you could have heard the sound of the crowd! Sunny Jane scored a goal. It seemed like the Hammerheads had finally taken the lead and were going to get those crucial three points, but, amidst all the cheering, the goal was disallowed. It had actually bounced off the post and into the goal keeper’s hands. Sitting in that stadium, it seemed as if it had thundered into the back of the net, but after re-watching the game online, I understand why the referee made that decision.
So then the game was back in that same spot. There was an equal score and both teams were pushing. Eventually it came to stoppage time and it looked as if it was going to end 1-1. Not so. A penalty was given to Dayton right in front of the goal. It went in, and that was the game.
There were so many chances so many almosts but in the words of Ariana Grande "Almost is never enough.". If the Hammerheads had been sloppy, this loss would be easier to accept. What makes it so painful is the fact that tonight was one of the best performances I've seen from them all season. As Christian Davidson put it, “It was a really cruel game.”
My feelings on this particular game range from disappointment to hope and pride. Obviously, the result is disappointing.
Regardless of what happens next, the Hammerheads should be proud of this game. Their display of soccer and sportsmanship was beautiful. The team performed better than ever and that really says something considering the significant changes in the roster that have happened in the past few weeks. In this match, I saw the same passing and possession strategies that were implemented when the Hammers played Richmond away, but possession was sustained throughout the game and these strategies led to even more shots. I loved seeing those kind of plays the first time around, and it was even better this time.
Now I'm doing all this talk of improvement, but the Hammerheads weren't a bad team to start off with. So despite obstacles, a great team is getting better, and I honestly believe they have the potential to be the best. Maybe I'm delusional. Maybe I'm just an overzealous fan. But maybe I'm not. Time will tell.
Another reason for hope is the general attitude within the Hammerheads camp. Of course, the players aren’t happy with the result of this game, but they aren’t giving up either. They realize they have work to do and the plan is to just keep on going. Here’s what they had to say:
"Today was a rough loss. We really needed it but we can't dwell on it anymore. We got four games on the road. Hopefully we can get some points. We just gotta keep our head up really.”- Yahaya Musa
“We're in a unique situation because at the moment we have games in hand against other teams. We have about nine games left. The problem is a lot of those are against top teams. We need points. It's not an ideal situation, but we do have time to make a run out of it and make a change. We all just need to take a hard look at ourselves, just be a little more but professional. We can’t give up penalties with just thirty seconds to go. We have to be a little bit more disciplined, and just get on with the game. But I don’t think were done and dusted yet. I think there’s still a lot of soccer to be played by the Wilmington Hammerheads. It’s a bummer but we have extreme highs and extreme lows in the season. This is an extreme low, but it just takes one game to turn it around.”- Cody Arnoux
“We’re right there in that last playoff spot depending on the other results tonight. We want to be in the playoffs. We have a chance to be in the playoffs. All we can really do is go out the last few games here and try to win a few. We’ve got a few road games coming up that we really have to capitalize and I think we’re going to be a playoff team.”- Matt Glaeser
“We’re going on a four game away streak, so that’s going to be kind of difficult. But we’ve just go to grind it out. That’s what the end of the season’s about , getting results when it matters, and we need those wins now. So that’s all were really focused on win one game at a time.”- Drew Ruggles
“We just got to take it game by game. This one is the past now we just go to look forward to New York next week.” –Brad Stuver
“Quite honestly a little devastated right now with the loss tonight, but we got a good team we got a good staff so I think we can bounce back and I think we just got to stay positive and keep working hard make a push for the end of the season.”-Brian Ackley
“It’s a rocky road for us right now. We just have to go back to the drawing board and work on our mistakes and our problems and try to solve them on these games coming up.”- Jason Watson
“As we go along, we’ve got some tough games coming up so the last three games and this game were games that we needed to get maximum points, and we didn’t so we just have to bite the bullet and keep fighting. You never know what’ll happen”-Andrae Campbell
As of just a few minutes ago, the result of the OC Blues v. Richmond Kickers puts the Hammerheads at ninth place (one shy of the playoffs). The standings in this league are extremely tight, and the Hammerheads still have nine games to play. Anything can happen.