Another week, another win for Wilmington, and another goal for a player on loan from Toronto FC. This weekend the Hammerheads picked up their fourth straight win in USL Pro by avenging their only loss of the season with a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Eagles. The last time the two teams met the Eagles handed Wilmington their only defeat when they beat them 2-0 at Legion Stadium.
This time the Hammerheads were on the road but were also a much different looking team having found their scoring form in recent weeks. Coming in with three straight wins they were certainly not lacking in confidence and they took the game to the hosts right from the opening kickoff.
It took Wilmington just 12 minutes to find the back of the net as Sammy Ochoa played a nice ball through for Manuel Aparicio who was able to slot it home past the Eagles' keeper. It was a great move by the Hammerheads with Aparicio doing most of the work as he collected the ball near the top of the Eagles box before laying it off to Ochoa. After making the pass, Aparicio made a good run towards the net and was rewarded with a nice pass from Ochoa. Aparicio was in behind his defender and beat the Eagles keeper to the ball and after that it was just one touch and in to the back of the net.
On the whole, Aparicio played his best game of the season so far for the Hammerheads. He was able to find space for himself in dangerous areas and saw plenty of the ball. He even managed to create another chance for himself before being taken off in the 74th minute.
The other end of the field saw Quillan Roberts return to action after his one game suspension. Roberts did not have the busiest of nights in goal but he did stop 2 of the 3 shots that he faced and picked up his fourth win of the season. The goal that Roberts did give up came after the 90th minute and was a shot that he could not have done anything with. Wilmington have now given up just 7 goals in 8 matches and the play of Roberts has been a big part of that success.
For Jordan Hamilton, the game marked his return to the bench. Despite scoring in two straight games and being the MOTM last weekend he started off on the bench in this game. Hamilton did see some time as he came on for Ochoa in the 76th to help see out the victory. He was once again lively in his short shift earning his team some free kicks and getting a shot on target from the top of the area.
Charlotte had one familiar face in their lineup as former Toronto FC draft pick Matt Gold went the full 90 for the Eagles in defence. He was joined by another former MLS player in Bilal Duckett as they formed a reliable defensive unit. That duo is one of the few bright spots for the Eagles this season as they have struggled for the most part picking up just 10 points from their first 9 matches.
The win keeps the Hammerheads right in the mix near the top of the USL Pro standings. They continue to have games in hand on the teams above them but are now up to fifth in the standings with 17 points. When it comes to points per game Wilmington are second in the league behind only Orlando City but even with they won all four of their games in hand they would remain one point behind Orlando's current total.
The Hammerheads will be happy to just keep on rolling. It is now four wins in a row and it seems that they have found their offence after a very slow start on the attacking side of the ball. For TFC fans it is good to see the players out on loan not only playing solid minutes but also being real contributors to the team. With Aparicio having his best game of the season on the weekend there is plenty to be excited about.
Next up for Wilmington is an expansion side in the OKC Energy. The Energy are coached by former MLS goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and are partners with Sporting Kansas City. They also have a former Toronto FC player on their roster in Michael Thomas. It was Thomas who scored the winner for the Energy in their last outing as they picked up their third win of the season by knocking off the New York Red Bulls reserves. That game takes place on Friday evening at Legion Stadium.