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Wilmington Hammerheads FC 2016 USL Season Preview

After the worst season in club history, the Wilmington Hammerheads are starting a new era in the 2016 campaign.

L to R:  Liam Miller, Bruno Perone, and Josue Currais Prieto
L to R: Liam Miller, Bruno Perone, and Josue Currais Prieto
Jay Schulman

Year Founded: 1996
Affiliation: New York City FC
2015 Record: 3-15-10, 12th in the Eastern Conference
2015 Playoffs: Did not qualify

Key Additions: Liam Miller, Bruno Perone, John Smits

Key Departures: Corben Bone, Paul Nicholson, Sunny Jane

Overview of team heading into the season:

With the 2015 season behind them, a new era has dawned for the Wilmington Hammerheads. During a busy off-season, the team retooled for 2016, the 20th anniversary of the club. It all starts with new head coach, Mark Briggs, a former Hammerheads player who tallied 50 appearances while playing for the club in 2009 and 2012, and served as an assistant coach last season. He has only carried over six players from last season: Stefan Defregger, Will Heaney, Qudus Lawal, Justin Moose, Tom Parratt, and Zev Taublieb (a former Sacramento Republic FC player).

Wilmington have had an eventful off-season, signing players with experience in the English Premier League, Indian Super League and Maltese Premier League, as well as the USL and NASL. Among the players with English Premier League experience are Liam Miller, a midfielder, and Bruno Perone, a defender. The Hammerheads have also renewed their affiliation with New York City FC for this season, as former Hammerheads Goalkeeper Andre Rawls signed with NYCFC this season.

Why you should watch Wilmington Hammerheads in 2016:

After signing many new players, Wilmington is looking to improve from last season. Players have experience at all levels on the planet. They create offensive chances and play well on defense to keep matches close. Look for some close, down to the wire matches this season from the club. Wilmington will also be looking to regain control of the Southern Derby Cup this season after Charleston won control of the it in 2015.

3 Players to Watch

Qudus Lawal: Lawal had a good season last year, getting two goals and two assists. After joining the Hammerheads from Seattle Sounders 2 via mid-season trade, Lawal helped the Hammerheads improve on offense with his ability to take shots and create chances playing at the top of the formation. Look for Lawal to play a big part in the offense.

John Smits: Having played for the NASL's  FC Edmonton, where in 2014, he earned the league's Golden Glove Award, Smits has the experience of a starting goalkeeper. During the 2015 campaign, Smits was on loan from FC Edmonton to Montreal Impact, and has played well in the preseason matches this year.

Liam Miller: Miller, 35, is a veteran of some of the biggest leagues in Europe, and will take a leadership role. He captained the Hammerheads in their last preseason match against UNC-Wilmington.

The 2016 season will be a success if... the Hammerheads can be competitive in the playoff race. After last season, the Hammerheads are looking to regroup and compete. If they can be aggressive on offense and create more chances, the team will be able to compete for a playoff spot come September.

Related Links:

Official Site:

Twitter: @WilmHammerheads