By FRANCO PANIZO
The Wilmington Hammerheads got off to a slow start in their first round playoff match against the Richmond Kickers, but an improved second half saw them find the back of the net three times en route to pulling off an upset on the road.
Tom Parratt found the back of the net in stoppage time to score the winner in Wilmington's 3-2 victory over Richmond on Saturday in a game that was a roller coaster of emotions for both sides. The fourth-seeded Kickers took the lead 12 minutes in, but two goals in a four-minute span midway through the second half saw the visitors take the lead before Edson Elcock buried an equalizer in the 79th minute.
Unfortunately for Richmond and its fans that did not translate into extra time, as Parratt booked the fifth-seeded Hammerheads' place in the USL Pro semifinals with a cross from the right that nestled into the sidenetting in the final minute of stoppage time.
Wilmington's prize for the late victory is a date at top seed Orlando City SC, a team that ran away with the regular season title by 16 points but only went 1-1-1 against the Hammerheads this season, with both the win and draw coming in Orlando.
In the other first round match on Saturday, the No. 3 seed Charleston Battery rallied from an early deficit at home to secure a 2-1 win over the No. 6 seed Harrisburg City Islanders.
Brian Ombiji put the City Islanders up in the 16th minute, but the Battery secured a lead before halftime that they did not relinquish. Nicki Paterson scored the tying goal on a penalty kick in the 40th minute, and Tony Donatelli netted the winner seconds before the intermission.
Charleston will face the Rochester Rhinos in the other semifinal matchup, a meeting between teams that split the two-game season series with each other.
Here are this upcoming weekend's semifinal games:
USL Pro semifinals
Aug. 31: (5) Wilmington Hammerheads at (1) Orlando City, Florida Citrus Bowl at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31: (3) Charleston Battery at (2) Rochester Rhinos, Sahlen's Stadium at 7:35 p.m.
USL Pro final
Sept. 8: TBD vs. TBD at 7:30 p.m.
What do you think of the Hammerheads' win over the Kickers? Surprised Charleston came from behind to beat Harrisburg? Who do you see advancing to the final?
Share your thoughts below.