WILMINGTON, N.C. – It was imperative for Wilmington Hammerheads FC to earn a strong result against the eighth-place Orlando City B in the battle for the final postseason slot within the Eastern Conference. Wilmington rose to the occasion in the second half as Bruno Perone recorded a brace and Jeff Michaud added his first goal en route to a 3-0 victory on Wednesday at Legion Stadium. Michaud scored shortly after halftime. Then Perone converted a penalty kick in the 71st minute and added a volley in the 78th minute to put it away. With the win, Wilmington ends a 10-game winless streak (0-6-4) and more importantly narrowed the gap with OCB as only two points separate the clubs. Wilmington improves to 7-11-9 (30 points) overall and 4-4-5 at home, earning its first victory since a 2-1 win at the Charlotte Independence on July 9. Orlando dropped to 8-11-8 (32 points) overall and 4-6-2 on the road. OCB is now winless in six straight (0-5-1). Wilmington posted a 2-0-1 record against Orlando this season.
48' – WIL – Jeff Michaud (Matthew Barnes-Homer)
71' – WIL – Bruno Perone (penalty)
78' – WIL – Bruno Perone (Liam Miller)
Three Things That Mattered:
1. The Hammerheads' offense found a spark late by team goal-scoring leader Bruno Perone during a match that was eerily quiet at the start. Shortly after subbing in the second half, Jermie Lynch drew a foul in the box that led to Perone's PK, which he fired right-footed into the left of the frame in the 71st minute as OCB goalkeeper Mark Ridgers had guessed the opposite direction. That gave Wilmington a two-goal cushion. Then seven minutes later, Perone put the match well out of reach when he volleyed home a Liam Miller cross from the right to make it 3-0. Perone now has eight goals on the season.
2. In the early minutes of the second half, Wilmington pieced together a nice buildup, stringing together double-digit passes and finding the game's first goal in the 48th minute. After a cross from the left flank, Matthew Barnes-Homer collected and dropped it off to Jeff Michaud positioned at the top of the 18-yard box. Michaud snuck his shot inside the right post and past a diving Ridgers for a 1-0 lead. It was Michaud's first goal of the season and Barnes-Homer's second assist.
3. Wilmington and Orlando toiled through an opening half that was incredibly quiet, to put it lightly. The Hammerheads did have the advantage in possession, and they had some potential buildups – many of them through crosses from Tom Parratt on the right flank. Wilmington's best spell came in the 18th and 20th minutes, when a Parratt cross was close to connecting with Barnes-Homer, only to see Ridgers leap over him for the interception. Then the first shot on goal for either side in the 20th minute off the foot of Kyle Parker was easily collected by Ridgers at the near left post. Orlando's offense was completely absent, and with three more road games down the stretch, the final postseason slot is quite certainly still up for grabs.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Bruno Perone, Wilmington Hammerheads FC – Perone's brace led the way for Wilmington in posting a vital victory to stay in the postseason picture.