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First Goal Wins

STLvILM


Tonight the Hammerheads made a valiant effort to take a few points away from St. Louis FC in front of a crowd of over 4,000 people.

Let me just say that this match was a fine display of beautiful soccer. Great defending, smart moves, effective tackles, plausible shots, and tremendous saves abounded. Most notably, I saw some really fancy footwork from a few Hammerheads that allowed them to keep the ball, and both goalies were in top form. Both sides played wonderfully, and I can’t stress that enough. Although there were a few yellow cards, the game overall was exceptionally clean.

The match was also a fine display of this diamond formation that so many writers and commentators have been talking about. The Hammerheads have been dedicated to this formation all season, and tonight it really worked. Perhaps the formation has been working before this game, but it was the first time I’ve really noticed the benefits of the diamond.

Two teams gave their all, but only one of them gained points. This game highlights the extreme level of competition that exists in USL this season. There are no guarantees. No team is immune to less than desirable results, and there are no teams automatically entitled to victory. All the clubs in the league are of such quality that no one can afford to waste opportunities.

Wasted opportunities are the single fault of Wilmington and St. Louis. Both teams did excellent jobs. Both goalies made incredible saves. It all came down to which team could get one of their many shots to touch the back of the net. As the game dwindled down to the final minutes, it became clear that whichever team was able to make the accomplishment first would take the victory. In the end, St. Louis scored the first and only goal.

For the Hammerheads, this is certainly an improvement! This match is the best I’ve seen them play all season, even better than the 3-0 win against NYRBII. Losing 1-0 is significantly better than losing 4-0, but…

Here’s the issue: The Hammerheads were already hovering around the bottom of the table, and this result, as undeserved as it may be, is going to make them sink lower. The tenacity and skill I saw on the field tonight makes me believe in this team. I do believe the wins will come, but the question is when? Will it be too late? Teams, such as the Charleston Battery, which has yet to lose a game, are already solidifying strong leads at the top of the table. Will the Hammerheads be able to catch up by the time it’s all said and done? Maybe my concerns are premature, but when teams are scrambling for playoff spots at the end of the season, every point counts.


The next Hammerheads game is next Tuesday versus Louisville. I hope the club plays the same way it did tonight. 

--Marissa Blackman

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