Are you ready Birmingham? Can you feel the excitement. Soccer is almost back in the Magic City as the Hammers kick off their season this Saturday (4/30) at 7 PM. The Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex (The SHAC), will host the Birmingham Hammers vs. Sandy Springs FC of the Atlanta Caribbean Soccer League. Show up early. Tailgate in the parking lot with the Magic City Brigade. Drink a beer or two in the Brew Hops Beer Garden. Sing a song or four. Wear your Hammers’ jersey and get the season started off right.
For many of you, this may be your first time to a Hammers game. The best fans are those that are the most knowledgable. Be smart and read on. If you need details on ticket pricing, parking, seating, etc… check out the Birmingham Hammers website here. If you want to know more about different songs, chants, cheers, tailgating, etc… reach out to the Magic City Brigade here or here. As for the Birmingham Backline, we will give you a little insight on what to expect on the field.
Let me start by saying that I have no inside knowledge of what the on-field strategy is going to be for the Hammers in 2016. I did not attend the tryouts or any practices this year. But I did watch every Hammers’ home game last year and at least have a little knowledge about player personnel and how they will play under Coach Joel Person. So I could be totally wrong on these predictions. But believe me, I will certainly boast if I get some of them right come Saturday night.
The Hammers Projected Starting XI
Goalkeeper: Diego De Silva / Bradley Louis (Platoon)
I believe both goalkeepers will get a shot on Saturday evening. Look for de Silva to get the nod to start the game. Whether or not he plays great is irrelevant. By the second half, I expect to see Bradley Louis managing the box. Both will have their opportunities this year, but the friendly against Sandy Springs FC will be a good indicator as to who will earn a more permanent spot in the starting XI. Good luck men.
The Backline: Andrew Tortorich (Left Back), William White (LCB), Alex Brown (RCB), Andrew Ingram (Right Back)
Perhaps this blog’s favorite group of players for obvious reasons. The backline needs to gel quickly this season, and that starts with these four. They will form the foundation of the Hammers’ on-field strategy. Look for Tortorich to pound up and down the left sideline with overlapping runs, widening the field and opening up opportunities for slashing runs from our attacking midfielders and crosses for our big forwards. The combination of William White and Alex Brown will negate any striking threat Sandy Springs FC presents. Look for them to shut down the opponent’s attack all year long.
Jordan Sinclair may sub in for Tortorich at some point in the second half. Jack Ball, Stephen Kosmala, and Kevin Francis may also see some time in the Backline this Saturday evening.
Midfield: David Valverde (Left Mid), Norris Howze (DCM), Deandre Robinson (CAM), Gael Mabialas (Right Mid)
Let me start by saying that the midfield is a much more difficult group to predict personnel choices. There are 16 men on the Hammer’s roster who identify as midfielders, so obviously cutting that down to 4 leaves many still out there. I could have this totally wrong, but I don’t think I do.
I believe Coach Person will have the Hammers playing in a base 4-4-2. The midfield may from time to time pinch in, allowing for the fullbacks to make overlapping runs down the sideline. In this strategy, you need strong possession-first type midfielders. Norris Howze will captain this group (as well as the team) in his customary defensive-minded role. On the wings you will have strong possession/slashing players in David Valverde (left) and Gael Mabialas (Right). Sitting in front of this group in a more attacking mode will be Deandre Robinson.
Obviously there are many other players that could fill these roles come Saturday evening. They include Srdjan Dujkovic, Anthony King, Edmond Michaels, Julio Noel, Gerard Babero, Callum Donnelly, Soham Kathuria, Paul Ledsham, James Nanje, Harrison Smith, Devin Benton and Pachinno Roberts. Good luck to all of you!
Forwards: Karl Chester, Eduvie Ikoba
These two are Hammers veterans, having played many games during the 2015 exhibition campaign. Chester owns the legendary title of being the first ever man to score for the Hammers (Nashville FC – 2015). He also scored this nasty little goal as well:
Ikoba’s tall frame and foot skills also make him the ideal forward to hold-up the ball and play a lot of combinations with his attacking midfielders and fellow forward. Look for a lot of skill, imagination, and ultimately goals from these two Hammers.
Other Forwards include fan-favorite AJ Adcock, and Rami Dajani and Watterson Young. Don’t be surprised if Adcock gets the nod over Chester, or at least gets a few minutes under his belt in this preseason home friendly.
So now that I have made my predictions, tell me why I am right or wrong. What would you do if you were in Coach Person’s shoes? How would you move your chess pieces around to ensure a victory for the Boys in Red?
See yall Saturday night! Hammer Down!