Wilmington Hammerheads fans got a first look at the 2015 team and its newest additions Friday, March 6 as the Hammerheads took on the University of North Carolina Wilmington men’s soccer team at the UNCW soccer stadium.
The two teams battled evenly in the midfield but the Seahawks found gaps in the Hammerheads’ defense and capitalized with first-half and second-half goals. Striker Aaron Wheeler, a new addition to the Hammerheads team, converted a late penalty kick, but the Seahawks held on to win 2-1.
Head coach Carson Porter, who took over coaching duties when David Irving stepped down in August 2014, said the game was a good starting point. More important than the final score, he said, was giving his entire roster playing time and getting his new group of players acquainted with each other’s playing styles.
“For a first run out there I thought it was good,” he said. “The guys got 45 minutes each and we came out pretty much without any injuries. . . . Those were probably the two main goals . . . it’s something to build on.”
He was pleased with his team’s possession across the field, he said. The Hammers’ offense attacked repeatedly but the solid UNCW back line shut down its attempts on goals.
“The closer we get to goal, the more precision our passing needs,” Porter said. “What I say to the guys is we have to chase perfection.”
He also wasn’t overly concerned with the defensive errors. So far, training sessions have focused on team chemistry and passing, he said. Next, the team will work on defense and organization.
“Preseason is the one time during the year when time is on our side,” he said. “We can really focus on certain categories of our game.”
During the UNCW scrimmage, Porter gave each team member at least 45 minutes of playing time. At the Hammers’ next two scrimmages, against a South Korea-based professional team and the University of North Carolina Tarheels, he will begin to formulate a starting lineup.
Porter said this year’s team is a mix of experienced players and new talent, with returning Hammerheads Will Heaney, Paul Nicholson, Troy Cole and Tom Parratt providing wisdom and guidance for the younger players.
Cody Arnoux will spend another season playing professional soccer in his hometown after several years playing in other countries, first for the English Premier League club Everton and later for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
During Friday’s scrimmage, Arnoux provided creativity and speed as the team’s target striker. This season he will be joined in the attack by another North Carolina product with experience playing overseas.
Justin Moose made his debut in the Hammerheads’ midfield after a stint with the Vancouver Whitecaps and clubs in Thailand and Finland. His speed on and off the ball in the midfield generated many of the Hammerheads’ chances Friday night.
“Whenever you go to different parts of the world, the game is played in different ways, so it’s interesting to have conversations with Justin as to how he sees the game,” Porter said. “He brings quickness, skill and creativity that … gets people excited.”
One of the exciting aspects of coaching, Porter said, is watching young players like Ross Tomaselli at the very beginning of their professional soccer careers. Tomaselli, another Wilmington native, is playing his first full season of professional soccer after four years at Wake Forest University that culminated in captaining his team to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
“Ross is another guy who’s got high ambitions and he’s doing really well for us,” Porter said. “That’s the fun part. … We have really good professional players who are trying to push themselves. … Hopefully one day you’ll watch an MLS game or U.S. National Team game and one of our guys is out there, and we all remember when they were playing with the Hammerheads.”
The Hammerheads play their first regular season game Saturday, March 28 at Legion Stadium against the Richmond Kickers.