A brief synopsis of events regarding the Wilmington Hammerheads that have occurred since last season.
By Marissa Blackman
Temperatures have shifted from arctic to comfortable. Bees are back to buzzing, flowers are back to blooming, and USL is back! It’s been less than a year since last season ended, but much has happened with the Hammerheads and with USL itself.
WHFC is in the midst of preseason. The club has already suffered two defeats (WHFC lost 2-1 to UNCW and 4-0 to Seoul E-Land FC of the Korean K-League). The final preseason match, against UNC Chapel Hill, takes place this Saturday.
At the end of last season, Carson Porter, at the time newly appointed technical director, was acting as interim head coach in the absence of David Irving. It was thought that the club would search for a permanent head coach during the off-season, but Porter has since been announced as the official head coach. (There was a similar change in management within the USL itself. Tim Holt resigned from his position of USL President and has been replaced by former VP Jake Edwards.) As for ex-Hammerheads coach David Irving, he is now head coach for western conference side Tulsa Roughnecks.
The Western Conference is one of the major USL changes since last season. Last year 14 teams, all in one table, competed in USL PRO. This season, 24 teams, divided between an eastern and western conference, will compete in USL. The Hammerheads are still competing in the United Soccer League, but, as a part of rebranding, the name and logo have changed.
Similar to the new, team-specific crests in MLS, the format of the new USL logo allows for personalization by each team. MLS and USL are still very closely affiliated. The hope of seasons past has finally come to fruition. Every MLS club either has a team of its own in USL or is affiliated with a USL team.
NYCFC and WHFC have a year-long affiliation deal. Corben Bone, a Hammerheads player, has already spent some time training with NYCFC, and coaching staff from both teams have visited each other’s facilities. Claudio Reyna spoke with Hammerheads Youth players at the Carolina Challenge Cup, an annual preseason tournament hosted by Charleston Battery in which NYCFC participated. The Hammerheads have not received any loans from NYCFC yet.
With or without any more additions, the Hammerheads already have a strong roster. A significant amount of players from last season have either signed new contracts or are still completing multiple year contracts. The returning players include: Troy Cole, Will Heaney, Ross Tomaselli, Cody Arnoux, Sunny Jane, Ashani Fairclough, Matt Glaeser, Brain Ackley, Tom Parratt, Andrae Campbell, and Marc Godelman. Corben Bone, who was loaned in from Philadelphia Union towards the end of last season, has been signed. Justin Moose, Larry Jackson, and Anthony Peters have also joined the team.
The upcoming season is certainly going to be unpredictable. The new conference systems mean a change in playoff format. Orlando City SC, the “top dog” of previous seasons, is now competing in MLS. Sacramento Republic FC, last year’s champion, proved that an inaugural season championship victory is not impossible, and there are fourteen new teams. Several clubs in both conferences have promising roosters and experienced coaches. It’s difficult to make any predictions about which teams will succeed or fail. Where will the Hammerheads stand?
I spoke to Carson Porter about his biggest source of confidence, along with his biggest source of worry, as the season approaches. He said he was confident in the work that he and the team have been doing and in his personal experience. “It’s like studying for a test. When you get to that test, if you've done all the work, then you’re confident going in." As for his biggest worry: “We all have off days. Every once in a while we’re not always at our best. My biggest worry going into the season is that when we start maybe...we’re not having a great day.”