WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Los Angeles Blues suffered a 4-2 defeat to the Wilmington Hammerheads at Legion Stadium in the two teams’ first matchup of the 2011 USL PRO season on Saturday night, the hosts earning victory through three second-half goals.
The game took immediate direction when the Hammerheads found the back of the net within the first 30 seconds. The Blues’ defensive line was caught on its heels when Hammerheads forward Andryi Budnyy received a ball from midfielder Jack Avesyan and buried a long shot from outside the corner of the penalty area past Los Angeles goalkeeper Oscar Dautt.
Just five minutes later, the Hammerheads had another very close attempt, as forward Chris Banks beat the ‘keeper to a bouncing ball in the box. Instead of finding the back of the net, the ball took a bounce off the turf and onto the crossbar before being cleared away by a Blues defender.
Soon after, an attack by Los Angeles ended in a yellow card issued to Hammerheads defender Gareth Evans, who went in hard against Chukwudi Chijindu in an effort to protect goalkeeper Kyle Polak. This set the stage for some physical play on both sides for the remainder of the game.
Los Angeles’ first shot on goal came in the eighth minute, Leonard Griffin taking aim from the top of the penalty area before releasing a low strike that went straight to Polak for an easy pick-up. The Blues were able to equalize in the 23rd minute, as Cesar Rivera slipped a shot past Polak’s grasp.
The Hammerheads continued to push hard for the lead before the halftime whistle and in the 33rd minute an Ivan Becerra shot off of a corner kick ricocheted off the post and fell out of bounds.
The 37th minute brought a fast break from the Hammerheads attack. The attempt was eventually broken up by Blues midfielder Gerardo Bravo, who tripped Budnyy while in pursuit of a Luke Mulholland through-ball intended for Andres Cuero. The Hammerheads free-kick was denied by a diving save from Dautt that sent the teams into halftime tied
Both sides had chances on goal throughout the second half, but it was not until the 65th minute that the deadlock was broken. Hammerheads defender Tom Parratt hit a long, low cross from the right flank to connect with an unmarked Banks and the forward finished for his fifth goal of the season, putting the Hammerheads up 2-1.
The hosts added their third when Banks connected with Becerra for a diving header from close range in the 77th minute. Soon after, Chris Murray entered the game from the bench and scored the fourth and final goal for the Hammerheads with Banks recording another assist.
The Blues answered with an 88th minute goal by Akeem Priestly, but they never threatened to get back into the contest. The Hammerheads defense remained strong through the five minutes of stoppage time and handed Charlie Naimo’s men their first loss on the road this season.