What better place to start than an overview of the the USL. In the current league standings after Thrusday night's matches, our Rochester Rhinos are riding high on top of the Eastern Conference.
Both games on Thursday night affected the standings for the teams contesting tonight's match. While Rochester was the top-dog, Charleston had a game in hand over the Rhinos and could have reached 20 points with a win over struggling FC Montreal up in Quebec. Montreal's first win of the season, however, means that Rochester is in sole possession of the top spot. A rare win by Toronto FC II, the team's second of the season, on the road in Saint Louis allowed the Ontario team to leap-frog Wilmington ahead of Saturday's meeting with the Rhinos.
The Rhinos travel down south to play the Hammerheads this Saturday before coming back to host a U.S. Open Cup match next Wednesday against National Premier Soccer League side Greater Binghamton FC Thunder. Wilmington played on the road in Louisville on Tuesday night but apparently only showed up for the first ten minutes. After a strong start, the Hammerheads conceded three goals in the first half and Wilmington head coach Carson Porter looked as though he might spontaneously combust.
It's unclear whether the Wilmington coaching staff can turn around a sinking ship. Local sports reporter for the Star News Online, Vince Nairn was able to cram a whole lot of sports-ache into a single tweet.
Now seems like the perfect time to play this Hammerheads FC side and Rochester will look to add to Wilmington's considerable mountain of misery. With that in mind, I had a chat with Hammerhead FC fan and writer Sara Jenkins to discuss what's worked, what hasn't worked, and what might work for Wilmington against Rochester.
-What has been the biggest factor in the team's rough four game losing skid?
I wish I knew, I'm honestly kind of clueless. Our players seem to vacillate between pockets of brilliance to uninspired play and being unable to land a cross or take a shot from the box. I am not privy to what goes on behind the scenes (thankfully) so I can't really comment on details except that whatever is transpiring doesn't really seem to be helping the team's situation.
-Will that dreadful first half performance in Louisville drive the team to perform or push them farther into a rut?
I would hope it would drive them to perform better, but previous matches where the team has fallen behind weren't motivating enough to push ahead. We've seen a lot of sluggish play when the wind gets taken out of their sails, and I think we are all waiting for that fire to light up under our team.
-If the Hammerheads bounce back with a strong game against Rochester, who will be the key players?
Sunny Jane was a big piece of our offensive push but he is unfortunately off to Lesotho to play for his national team. Zimmerman is a strong force, and I really like the energy Will Heaney brings to the field. Tah and Bassogog are another pair of fresh, fast players that I hope to see contribute and grow with us.
Sunny Jane is a tremendous player at this level who has the energy and skill to change the game on a dime; it's great news that he won't face Rochester. Wilmington didn't exactly respond positively to a 4-0 home loss to Harrisburg City Islanders earlier this month as they lost the next two games.
Perhaps Rochester can score on an early surge forward and really take advantage of the low morale in Wilmington. The game kicks off at 7:00PM.