Richmond, Wilmington finish 2-2

BigE

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Hammerheads finish in first on tiebreaker
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

RICHMOND, VA -- The Richmond Kickers played in front of 4,010 fans, their largest crowd of the season, against joint USL-2 leaders Wilmington Hammerheads on Saturday to determine the regular season champion. The Hammerheads scored either side of a Matthew Delicâte brace to claim a 2-2 draw, which was good enough to earn the Wilmington side the regular season title on number of league wins.

Each side showed glimpses of the talent and teamwork that earned them top honors throughout the regular season, and in the rubber match between the two sides, neither team came out on top.

The early stages of the game largely consisted of end-to-end play as each team felt the other out. The back-and-forth continued throughout the game, though the Kickers had the majority of the scoring chances throughout the match. Joey Worthen found Yomby William on a lofted free kick in the fourth minute, but the towering defender’s header was well-saved by Wilmington goalkeeper Chris McClellan.

The competitive nature of the match also paved the way for numerous physical battles on the field. Wilmington midfielder Mark Briggs was shown a yellow card in the 15th minute for a rash challenge on Gerson dos Santos. The Hammerheads settled into a spell of possession and in the 27th minute midfielder Ryan Solle found the ball at his feet inside the left side of the box. His low shot in the far corner past an outstretched Ronnie Pascale gave Wilmington the lead.

The momentum shifted almost immediately after the Hammerheads’ goal, however. On the half hour mark, the Kickers equalized after Sascha Görres played in a lofted ball into the penalty area. Matthew Delicate put his header on target, but McClellan got a hand to it. However, the keeper was unable to claim the ball before Delicâte slammed the rebound into the back of the net to equalize at 1-1.

Richmond forward Chris Carrieri was booked for dissent shortly following the goal. Soon after being booked, Carrieri played a dangerous ball into the box for Delicâte, but McClellan again came up big and made the interception as the striker arrived. Carrieri was again in the fray just before half time as he was dropped inside the box on a one-on-one scoring opportunity. Despite a big shout for penalty from the 4,000 fans, the referee waved play on.

McClellan made his fifth save of the first half in stoppage time when Luke Vercollone played a ball into Worthen, who temporarily lost possession before poking goalward with his toe. McClellan parried the ball over the crossbar to ensure both teams entered the locker rooms level at halftime.

New Richmond signing Edson Elcock replaced Worthen at halftime and added some more pace to the Kickers’ midfield. Elcock earned two corners in quick succession, the second of which was narrowly headed over the bar by Dos Santos. The Kickers’ pressure mounted throughout the opening minutes of the second half, and veteran midfielder Mike Burke nearly gave Richmond the lead after 53 minutes of play. Carrieri lofted a ball over the Wilmington defense to Burke, who was waiting at the back post to unleash a powerful side volley from eight yards out. The ball seemed destined for the back of the net, but McClellan made a point-blank save to keep the teams on level pegging.

The Kickers were finally able to break the deadlock in the 61st minute, again through Delicâte. Carrieri again sent in cross toward the back post, which McClellan could only palm onto the crossbar. The ball fell favorably to Burke, who slid a simple pass for Delicâte to finish his 13th goal of the season from inside the six yard box.

Richmond continued its dominance after taking the lead, and in the 70th minute, Wilmington goal scorer Ryan Solle slid in from behind with a hard tackle on Dos Santos. The dangerous challenge earned Solle a straight red card. With a one-goal and one-man advantage, the Kickers sat back and attempted to keep possession for the remaining 20 minutes. However, their efforts were short-lived and in the 73rd minute a short clearance by the Richmond defense saw Wilmington substitute Jyler Noviello slot the ball into the bottom corner past Pascale to once again level the score.

Each side reversed their tactics, and the Kickers pressed hard for a third goal as the Hammerheads played to the draw, which would be enough to earn them the league title. Despite creating several more scoring chances, including a Delicâte header from inside the six, the Kickers were unable to beat McClellan, who posted nine saves on the evening. The Hammerheads continued to play for the draw, and in the 90th minute, Graham Tatters was shown a yellow card for time wasting. The tactic ultimately proved successful, however, as the referee signaled for full time shortly afterwards and the Hammerheads celebrated their league victory.
 
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