Saturday, August 25, 2012
RICHMOND, Va. – The Wilmington Hammerheads advanced to the semifinals of the USL PRO Playoffs as they took a thrilling 3-2 victory against the Richmond Kickers on Saturday night. Tom Parratt scored the winning goal in second-half stoppage time, earning the Hammerheads revenge for their elimination from the playoffs a season ago at the hands of the Kickers, and into a contest on Friday night against Orlando City for a place in the USL PRO Championship game.
Richmond dominated the early stages of the match, with Matthew Delicâte hitting the crossbar with his headed effort in the third minute. Wilmington’s starting goalkeeper Alex Horwath picked up a hamstring injury in the seventh minute, and backup keeper Troy Hernandez entered the game to earn his first minutes of the season. Delicâte earned a free kick just outside the box in the 11th minute, and Sascha Goerres provided the first test of the night for Hernandez with a curling strike around the wall. The Wilmington keeper got a hand to it, but it deflected straight to Jason Yeisley inside the six-yard box. The Richmond forward slotted his shot into the empty net to give the Kickers the early lead.
Wilmington came into the game following the goal and nearly scored with a dangerous free kick of their own in the 13th minute, but Ronnie Pascale was able to make the save. Yeisley nearly added a second for Richmond in the 28th minute, but his powerful header was cleared off the line by the Wilmington defense. Hagop Chirishian put a 35th-minute Wilmington free kick on target, but Pascale was able to punch the shot over the bar to safety, keeping his side ahead at the halftime break.
The Hammerheads started the second half brightly, with striker Andres Cuero testing Pascale from close range in the 47th minute, but the shot-stopper was equal to the task. Edson Elcock replaced Stanley Nyazamba for the Kickers in the 54th minute, and the pacy forward nearly doubled Richmond’s lead with his 68th minute individual effort that came off the crossbar.
Wilmington countered quickly following the shot by Elcock. Substitute Steven Perry played a ball to Chirishian at the penalty spot, and the midfielder blasted a low shot under the diving Pascale to tie the score. Perry added a goal of his own three minutes later when Chirishian’s corner kick skipped through the crowd of players in front of the goal to the back post, where the forward tucked his shot into the bottom corner of the net.
The Kickers introduced Mike Burke, Nozomi Hiroyama and Christopher Agorsor after Wilmington took the 2-1 lead, and the substitutes made a positive impact in the final third for Richmond. Mike Burke curled a ball to the near post from a 79th minute corner kick, and fellow substitute Elcock snapped a header into the top corner to level the score again.
Wilmington pushed forward in waves in the final 10 minutes of the match and Richmond escaped going behind in the 89th minute when Corey Hertzog turned his shot over the crossbar from close range. Richmond appeared to have escaped the onslaught when they cleared the ball in the final minute of stoppage time, but Wilmington defender Tom Parratt kept the ball in play along the touchline. Parratt swung in a deep cross from the right side that floated over the head of Pascale and nestled into the side netting on the far side to give the Hammerheads the 3-2 victory and a place in the semifinals.