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August 7, 2012
Week in review: Hammerheads Take Key Victory

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Wilmington Hammerheads moved into a tie for third place in the USL PRO standings as goals by Gareth Evans and Corey Hertzog earned a 2-1 victory against the Charleston Battery on Saturday night at Legion Stadium.

The win, coupled with the 2-2 draw between the two teams the previous night, continued to tighten the race for the playoffs, with five teams now separated by five points for the final four playoff positions.

Wilmington had rallied to earn a point in Friday night’s game at Blackbaud Stadium, with Steven Perry scoring in the 81st minute to answer Taylor Mueller’s 77th-minute strike for the Battery that had put them ahead. The Hammerheads had to rally again on Saturday night after Charlie Romero gave the Battery the lead in the 17th minute, the rookie finishing from close range.

Wilmington hit back in the 34th minute as Evans scored his first professional goal, rising to head home Hertzog’s long throw-in to tie the game. Hertzog then gave the Hammerheads the lead just before the halftime whistle, as the on-loan striker from the New York Red Bulls fired home a cross by Paul Nicholson for his eighth goal of the season.

The Battery still control their own destiny, with a game in hand on the Hammerheads, and still have the opportunity to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs by overtaking the Rochester Rhinos. Charleston makes a pivotal road trip this week as it visits the Harrisburg City Islanders on Wednesday night before visiting the Rhinos on Friday night at Sahlen’s Stadium.

The Hammerheads, meanwhile, will close the regular season with a pair of games against the Charlotte Eagles that will be pivotal in the USL PRO playoff race.

: The Los Angeles Blues ended their final road trip of the season with victory as goals by Brian Farber and Max Griffin earned a win against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Chartiers Valley Stadium. The win allowed the Blues to draw level with the Charlotte Eagles in a tie for seventh place in the USL PRO standings, three points behind the Richmond Kickers.

Pittsburgh came closest to opening the scoring early in the first half as Seth C’de Baca hit the crossbar in the 16th minute. The Blues were able to take the lead seven minutes before the halftime break as he scored his second goal of the season to give Los Angeles a halftime lead.

The Blues doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half as Max Griffin scored his second goal since arriving on loan from Orlando City earlier this month. Los Angeles had a chance to add to its lead from the penalty spot with just more than 20 minutes remaining, only for Riverhounds goalkeeper Greg Blum to save, but the Blues were able to maintain their lead and take a crucial three points.

The Blues return home for a weekend off before they host Antigua Barracuda FC on Thursday, August 9 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. The Riverhounds will next host the Charlotte Eagles in their final home game of the season on Friday, August 10 at Chartiers Valley Stadium.

: Orlando City got a pair of goals from Jamie Watson as the Lions took victory against the Harrisburg City Islanders at Skyline Sports Complex. Dennis Chin added a goal and an assist, extending his league lead to 11 goals this season.

Watson got the Lions out to an early lead as he scored off the rebound of his own shot from the top of the penalty area, tucking home from eight yards after Harrisburg goalkeeper Nick Noble could only parry in the sixth minute. The City Islanders hit back quickly, Garret Pettis’ diving header after a good piece of work by Brian Ombiji to knock J.T. Noone’s cross back across the six-yard box tying the score.

Orlando went ahead for good in the 31st minute, however, as Chin found space down the left side and cut into the penalty area. Noble was able to parry his right-footed shot aimed at the far corner, but the rebound came straight to Watson, and he headed home. The Lions added to their lead just past the hour mark as Erik Ustruck finished off the rebound after Chin’s shot capping a quick counter-attack was parried, and Chin got on the score sheet himself with 15 minutes remaining as a clever lob left Noble stranded.

Harrisburg pulled a goal back with eight minutes remaining as Orlando defender Wes Allen redirected a cross by Jimmy McLaughlin into his own net, but the deficit was too great for the City Islanders to bridge, giving the Lions their 16th win of the season.

The Lions continue on to face the Rochester Rhinos on Friday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at 7:35 p.m. ET, while the City Islanders remain at home for their next outing as they host the Charleston Battery on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

: Gerson Dos Santos’ late goal earned the Richmond Kickers a vital victory in their pursuit of the playoffs as they defeated Antigua Barracuda FC at City Stadium. The victory was the Kickers’ second consecutive, and moved them six points clear of the seventh-place Charlotte Eagles and eighth-place Los Angeles Blues in the race for the playoffs.

The Barracudas threatened twice in the opening 10 minutes as Tamarley Thomas first capped a long run with a shot over the crossbar, while Kerry Skepple also had an opening, only to shoot wide. The Kickers then started to take more control, and Stanley Nyzamaba went close with a chip that went over the crossbar in the 26th minute. William Yomby also tested Antigua goalkeeper Molvin James with a header eight minutes before the halftime break.

Richmond went even closer to taking the lead five minutes into the second half as Matt Delicate’s header from Kalungi’s cross went off the crossbar before being cleared. Luke Vercollone also went close after being found by Chris Agorsor, but with six minutes remaining, Dos Santos finally found the net to put his side ahead. Delicate then assured the victory in the 90th minute, adding a second to secure the victory.

Richmond will remain at home this weekend as it hosts the Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, while Antigua will head to Charlotte on Saturday night to face the Eagles at 7 p.m. ET.

ORLANDO CITY FC 1, ROCHESTER RHINOS 0: Jamie Watson scored the only goal of the game as Orlando City took a 1-0 victory against the Rochester Rhinos at Sahlen’s Stadium. The victory allowed the Lions to complete a season sweep of the Rhinos, giving them their third consecutive victory.

The Lions had the better of the opening 10 minutes, but the Rhinos went close to taking the lead in the 12th minute as Isaac Kissi’s low cross rolled through the six-yard box, only to be cleared. Orlando continued to have the better of the possession, George Davis IV shooting just wide from the top of the penalty area, but it was the Rhinos who came closest to opening the scoring before the break, George Kyriazis’ header first being saved by Sean Kelley before he blasted the rebound over the crossbar.

Watson went close before opening the scoring, forcing Rochester goalkeeper Kristian Nicht to punch away his effort in the 63rd minute, but two minutes later the forward scored his third goal in two games as he capped a counter-attack with a cool finish.

Rochester almost hit back immediately, only for Danny Earls’ free kick to come off the crossbar and be cleared to safety. Both sides were then reduced to 10 men, with Rochester’s JC Banks and Orlando’s Adama Mbengue both being shown their second yellow cards in the 76th and 80th minutes, respectively. The Rhinos almost pulled out a dramatic equalizer late in stoppage time, but Andrew Hoxie’s header was denied by Kelley’s spectacular save that preserved his shutout and the Lions’ three points.

Orlando returns home for its final game of the regular season on Friday, August 17 against the Dayton Dutch Lions, and will host one of the USL PRO Playoffs semifinals two weekends later. The Rhinos, meanwhile, will host the Charleston Battery Saturday night, with second place in the USL PRO standings potentially on the line.

: The Charlotte Eagles cruised to victory, moving within a point of the sixth and final playoff position, as they defeated Antigua Barracuda FC at Charlotte Christian Stadium. First-half goals by Juan Guzman, Darryl Roberts and Josh Rife put the Eagles on top early as they maintained their pursuit of the playoff berth.

Mauricio Salles had gone close to opening the scoring for the Eagles, only to be denied by Molvin James, but in the 17th minute Guzman fired a long-range effort that found the back of the net. Seven minutes later, Roberts recorded his team-leading sixth goal of the season off a cross by Jorge Herrera, and Rife capped a great 10-minute spell with his first goal of the season.

Antigua tried to get back into the game just before the hour-mark, Orlando Mitchum being denied by Eric Reed in the Charlotte goal. But just more than 10 minutes later Herrera added a goal to his earlier assist, capping the victory in the 68th minute for his fifth goal of the season.

The Eagles will head north this weekend as they visit the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Dayton Dutch Lions for a pair of games. The Barracudas will complete their road trip as they visit the west coast for a pair of games with the Los Angeles Blues starting on Thursday night at Titan Stadium.

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