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Eastern Conference Preview: Wilmington Hammerheads

Part 13 of our 13 part USL Eastern Conference Preview series. Links to previous precocious previews: Part I: Bethlehem Steel; Part 2: Charleston Battery; Part 3: Charlotte Independence; Part 4: FC Cincinnati; Part 5: FC Montreal; Part 6: Harrisburg City Islanders; Part 7: New York Red Bulls II; Part 8: Orlando City BPart 9: Pittsburgh Riverhounds; Part 10: Richmond Kickers; Part 11: Rochester Rhinos; Part 12: Toronto FC II

Ahh, the last place team in the Eastern Conference, and the worst overall team in the USL last season, The Wilmington Hammerheads. Sharks are cool!

Since we left the Hammerheads in our wake last season, the club announced a continued MLS affiliation with New York City FC. The Hammerheads were busy this offseason, signing a good number of players and even announcing a new head coach in Mark Briggs. Briggs, a former Hammerheads player since 2009, has a professional playing career that extends back to 1998. He has had previous stints with West Bromwich Albion, Herfølge BK, Notts County FC, Shrewsbury Town FC and Mosta FC of the Maltese Premier Division [Editor’s Note: The Famous Mosta FC!] to name a few.

Briggs spoke of his hopes for the 2016 season “I am very honored and excited to be named head coach of Wilmington Hammerheads FC. My goal is to continue the tradition of excellence in this community. Wilmington has become home and I am blessed and honored to lead this team.”

Wilmington retained defender Tom Parratt, midfielder Justin Moose and midfielder Will Heaney from the 2015 season, and used their second year options on midfielder Stefan Defregger and forward Qudus Lawal. Midfielder Zev Taublieb came back after a short 6 game rookie season, which saw him start 4 games and notch a goal. Forward Bryce Taylor, who had played 3 seasons with Wilmington before playing for Austin Aztex last season, also joins the ‘Heads for 2016.

Wilmington also added several new face to their 2016 roster:

  • Defender Michael Mecham brings youth and strong defense to the back line from the University of North Carolina -Wilmington. He led the defense who was second in the Colonial Athletic Association in goals allowed this season. In 2015 Mecham was selected to the North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association (NCCSIA) All-State Men’s Soccer Team as well as the All-Colonial Athletic Association Second-Team.
  • Defender Peabo Doue was added to their roster having played 4 seasons in the USL with Oklahoma City Energy. He will bring experience in the back for Wilmington.
  • Midfielder Logan Miller makes the jump from the USL PDL Kitsap Pumas to the Hammerheads. Largely a young and unknown talent, Logan did lead the Kitsap Pumas to an undefeated regular season, PDL Northwest Division Championship and a Ruffneck Scarves Cup title.
  • Defender Ferrety Sousa [Ed. Note: not pictured hereis a defender who has played in the NASL for the Atlanta Silverbacks and for French side FCM Aubervilliers CFA (whoever that is).
  • The news that made the most headlines was the addition of midfielder Liam Miller. Miller has played for clubs like Celtic FC, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland, and Cork City FC. He brings a decent resume of 300 Professional appearances, 10 Champions League appearances, over 120 English Premier League appearances and over 20 international appearances. Most of these appearances were not with Celtic or Manchester United (he made 35 appearances between the pair), so an expendable player for great clubs. Don’t go thinking they got a God among men; in that many appearances he scored a mere 20 goals (2 goals for Celtic and 1 for Manchester United). Against elite competition he could not make a good enough impact on the field to be considered a regular or squad member. He made more appearances for Leeds United in a year than his 4 years at Celtic. So Liam Miller will bring experience to Wilmington, but it likely is a ploy to get people to think Wilmington will be of Rochester or Louisville City’s caliber.
  • Bruno Perone brings Brazilian League, English Premier League and India Super League experience to the Hammerheads organization. He is 28 and made 160 appearances having played for 13 clubs, so nothing to brag about as he often was sent on loan or rarely has played making an average of 12 appearances for every club.

Wilmington Hammerheads may be bringing new talent or veterans to bolster their ranks, but I do not think the will be in playoff contention this year. They were 22 points off the pace to even break into playoff contention in 2015. Even if they did that goal difference was 22 for and 42 against, so they were not a strong defending team last year. I expect them to better last season but not by much.