By AARON CRANFORD
Nine red cards and one massive scuffle.
USL Pro had an entertaining weekend, as nine red cards were produced, and an altercation occurred between members of the Wilmington Hammerheads and the Orange County Blues on Saturday night.
Wilmington Hammerheads’ Sunny Jane scored the first goal in the 72nd minute by shooting a low drive into the far corner of the net on a breakaway. The Orange County Blues equalized in the 82nd minute with a clever through ball from Alex Martinez to set up Christopher Santana, who calmly slid the ball past the onrushing Hammerheads’ goalkeeper.
With both sides needing all three points, tempers and emotions escalated in the waning minutes. Before a corner kick, the Hammerheads’ Andrae Campbell and OC’s Thomas Garner were ejected in the 92nd minute for an altercation in the box. As Campbell walked toward the locker room, Hammerheads’ goalkeeper and assistant coach, Matt Glaeser, walked on to the field and kicked the stagnant ball away from the corner flag and into play.
The time-wasting tactic frustrated Alex Martinez, who was waiting to cross the ball into the box. Martinez walked over to Glaeser and shoved him. The head official walked toward the corner flag and ejected Martinez, and then, tempers quickly escalated as a fight occurred behind the locker room. Both sides were involved, and players disappeared from the field for a few minutes.
Play resumed, and in the 99th minute of the match, Ashani Fairclough converted an open header in the box to give the Hammerheads all three points.
USL Pro released a public statement stating the USL Pro Disciplinary Committee is in the process of gathering all reports, statements, video, and other information regarding the altercation that took place in the late stages of Saturday’s game. The Committee will have a thorough review before making any decisions, but all players who received a red card will serve the minimum one-game suspension.
The Blues suffered a disappointing result, and they still lie in the penultimate position in the standings.
Here is a look at more USL Pro action this weekend:
ARIZONA UNITED TOP ENERGY FC DESPITE MULTIPLE RED CARDS
The first match of the weekend foreshadowed edgy emotions. Just before halftime, the first red card was presented to OKC Energy FC’s Mark Howard for a rough challenge near the Energy’s box.
In the 76th minute of play, Arizona United SC’s Scott Morison beat the Energy’s goalkeeper, Samir Badr, with a shot to the near post. Badr parried Jonathon Okafor’s shot from just inside the box, but it fell into the path of Morrison, who calmly finished it.
The Energy’s Tarek Morad tackled Okafor in the box and received a red card in the 90th minute. Badr saved Kadeem Dacres’ ensuing penalty, and one minute later, Dacres received a red card for a late tackle.
With the win, Arizona continues their good form. They currently are on a three-game win streak, so they will be hoping to win their last two matches and make the playoffs.
MOLINO BREAKS USL RECORD IN 3-2 ORLANDO WIN
Kevin Molino netted his 16th goal this season, which broke Dom Dyer’s and Jose Angulo’s record for most goals scored by a single player in the USL Pro regular season.
In the 8th minute, Orlando City SC’s Valdmiro Lameira blasted a shot through traffic to begin the scoring. Molino scored his record-breaking goal, bending the ball past the keeper in the 52nd minute. Richmond Kickers’ George Davis IV immediately responded with a goal in the 53rd minute.
In the 70th minute, Orlando City’s Rafael Ramos weaved by three defenders and beat the Richmond’s keeper with a shot at the near post. Nate Robinson scored his first goal of the season, finishing a pass from Davis IV in the 78th minute.
The Kickers were unable to finish any more of their late chances and fell 2-3, which leaves them in second place. With four games remaining, Orlando still sits in first place, but these two teams will meet in their last regular season match on Sept. 6.
DAYTON ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF PICTURE
After losing to the Colorado Rapids Reserves, the Dayton Dutch Lions are now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Colorado’s Carlos Alvarez slotted the first goal past the goalkeeper in the 28th minute.
Dayton’s Karamba Janneh converted a penalty in the 60th minute, but in the 90th minute, a misunderstanding lead to a Dutch Lions own goal. The heartbreaking loss knocks them out of the playoff picture, but they will play two important games to finish the year.
The Dutch Lions will visit Orlando City SC next Sunday and play the Wilmington Hammerheads at home on Sept. 5.
ISLANDERS, RHINOS DRAW TO STAY IN PLAYOFF POSITIONS
These two sides scored all of their goals before the hour mark. In the 8th minute, Rochester Rhinos’ Tony Walls curled a free kick from the top of the box into the net. Harrisburg City Islanders’ goalkeeper, Nicholas Noble, was ejected in the 33rd minute for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity, but being a man down did not stop the Islanders from scoring two goals before the end of the half.
Clesio Bauque scored a brace before halftime, and both goals were assisted by Yann Ekra. A penalty was called in the 52nd minute for an obvious handball inside the box, and Rochester’s JC Banks stepped up and scored in the 54th minute.
The sixth-placed Islanders have three games remaining, and they will play the Rhinos again next Saturday.
LOS DOS EQUALIZE HAMMERHEADS LATE
The LA Galaxy II scored late to earn a draw against the visiting Wilmington Hammerheads Sunday afternoon. Galaxy II’s Chandler Hoffman scored in the fourteenth minute, and Jose Villarreal was credited with the assist.
Jaime Villareal was involved with Los Dos’ second goal. He was tackled in the box and subsequently awarded a penalty kick. Hoffman stepped up, and once again, he slotted it past the keeper in the 53rd minute.
The Hammerheads started to surge late, and in the 77th minute, Sunny Jane scored in the box. In the 83rd minute, Jane scored again to level the score. Three minutes later, Mark-Anthony Kaye gave the Hammerheads the 3-2 lead with a quick strike.
In stoppage time, Los Dos scored from a free kick. Los Dos’ Rafael Garcia curled the ball past the wall and into the top-left corner of the goal to tie the game 3-3.
The dramatic tie leaves LA Galaxy II in fourth place on the table. Los Dos have three games remaining in the regular season, and the last two matches will be against the second-placed Richmond Kickers and the third-placed Sacramento Republic.
The Wilmington Hammerheads will await the Disciplinary Committee’s decision about the altercation Saturday night, but they will also need to focus on their remaining five regular season games because they are still on the outside of the playoff picture.
RIVERHOUNDS CONTROL FC DALLAS RESERVES AND FATE
Pittsburgh’s chances of making the playoffs increased Sunday afternoon. With a blast from the top of the box, The Pittsburgh RiverHounds’ Robert Vincent opened the scoring in the 20th minute of play against the FC Dallas Reserves. The Riverhounds’ Kevin Kerr added another to the score sheet in the 33rd minute of play.
In the 43rd minute, the keeper fumbled a simple cross into the box, and the FC Dallas Reserves pounced on the mistake, cutting the deficit in half. FC Dallas continued to have opportunities, but in the 52nd minute, the Riverhounds’ Mike Green powered a header into the net to give them a 3-1 lead.
The Riverhounds have three games remaining to sneak into the playoffs, and their remaining opponents are all sitting right above the Riverhounds in the USL Pro table.
BATTERY HAVE MORE ENERGY THAN OKC
In the last game of the weekend, OKC Energy FC suffered a disappointing 0-2 loss at home to the Charleston Battery.
Goals came late, as the Battery’s Amadou Sanyang scored off of a corner in the 79th minute of play. Haviel Cordoves added the second goal in the 90th minute. His shot had just enough behind it to give OKC’s goalkeeper Samir Badr trouble, and the ball found the back of the net.
The Energy lost both of their matches this weekend, and they will be traveling away from Pribil Stadium for both of their remaining matches. Meanwhile, The Battery are comfortably sitting in fifth place on the USL Pro table with two of their remaining matches being played at home.
Here are the mid-week games:
Arizona United SC vs. Seattle Sounders Reserves (Monday, 4:00 p.m.)
Real Salt Lake Reserves vs. LA Galaxy II (Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.)
Charleston Battery vs. Sacramento Republic (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.)
Oralndo City SC vs. Wilmington Hammerheads (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.)
What did you think of Week 23? How do you expect the USL Pro Disciplinary Committee to respond? Which results stood out the most to you?
Share your thoughts below.