By Marissa Blackman
Wilmington Hammerheads FC and Richmond Kickers, who compete tomorrow for the second time of the USL season, are two teams in the same boat.
Both clubs currently sit in the middle of the table. Richmond is in fifth place while Wilmington is in eighth. Both teams have recently lost an integral player. Ryan Taylor, Richmond's usual starting keeper, has been sidelined by season ending knee injuries. The Hammerheads have released Josue Currais Prieto for personal reasons. Both clubs have also lost at least one match where a controversial call played a huge role in their defeat.
At this point, both clubs have completed six of thirty regular season games. Exactly twenty percent of the season has elapsed, and there are seventy two points still available for either club to grasp. Wilmington has had two of each possible result, and Richmond has managed three wins, two losses, and one draw
The two clubs also face an interesting predicament as far as standings. The Eastern Conference table is an extremely close race. First and second place are the only consecutive spots separated by more than three points. Second place and sixth place are separated by only three points. Goal differential is an extremely important factor in current standings and could be a crucial deciding factor in which teams clinch playoff berth.
Victory for either Richmond or Wilmington could be the first step toward edging ahead of the rest of the pack, and a win with plenty of goals could prove to be a priceless advantage at the regular season's end.
Coincidentally, a win for either club may not make as much of an impact as expected in the current table.
Four other games (Bethlehem v. Orlando, New York v. Pittsburgh, Montreal v. Charlotte, and Cincinnati v. Harrisburg) will all be occurring tomorrow. A Hammerhead win would give the Wilmington club eleven points, and a Kickers win would give the Richmond club thirteen points. However, the four other games happening simultaneously will also make their mark on the table.
Here are possible scenarios:
Bethlehem v. Orlando
If Richmond wins, the club will advance past both Bethlehem and Orlando regardless of the outcome of their match. If the Hammerheads win and Bethlehem also wins, Wilmington would only tie Bethlehem.
New York v. Pittsburgh
The Riverhounds can't touch either team regardless of the result. The Red Bulls are already above both teams. If both a Hammerheads victory and Red Bulls defeat occur, Wilmington would tie Richmond.
Montreal v. Charlotte
If the Hammerheads win, the club will still be behind Charlotte. The Kickers can only get ahead of Charlotte if the Independence loses. Regardless of the result of either game, Montreal cannot tie or surpass either Richmond or Wilmington tomorrow.
Cincinnati v. Harrisburg
A Wilmington defeat coupled with a Harrisburg victory will push Harrisburg ahead of Wilmington. Harrisburg cannot move pass Richmond, and Cincinnati has already surpassed both clubs. Richmond can only advance past Cincinnati if FC Cincinnati looses and Richmond wins.
These hypothetical scenario disregard the fact that any of the matches could end in ties.
Regardless of the standings, the Hammerheads and the Kickers usually put on an entertaining show every time they battle each other. I'm sure tomorrow will be no different.
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