GaRev v HammersThere is plenty at stake as the Birmingham Hammers travel to Conyers, GA this weekend. Georgia Revolution FC (pre-season 2-0-0) play host to the Birmingham Hammers (pre-season 1-0-0) in this inter-conference derby on Saturday evening. Being billed as the I-20 Cup, the two squads look to settle years of this southern civic rivalry in the first leg of the two-match series. Welcome to the Bold South, where grassroots soccer is making its mark.

The Hammers are coming off a solid 5-2 victory over Sandy Springs FC. The Hammers’ attack was strong and displayed true skill from several players. Midfield/winger David Valverde looked solid with an assist in the 1st half and a skillful shot on goal in the second half. Julio Noel was also a bright spot for the Boys in Red, scoring a goal in the first half, and keeping the Sandy Springs FC defense spinning. And lastly, Anthony King brought a rush of second half energy by pressing the defense deep in SSFC territory and putting the Hammers in position to score two additional goals.

The midfield won and held possession slightly more than the SSFC midfield. Norris Howze turned in a solid, captain-like performance. He was strong on the ball and scored a sly little free kick in the 90th minute.

However, the win was not without its flaws. The backline was porous to an outclassed and outmatched opponent. Stephen Kosmala’s failure to adequately clear a ball in the first half allowed the Eagles’ Oscar Hernandez behind the backline for a strike that beat the Hammer’s keeper Pritchard N’Daria to the back post. The defense also allowed a fairly simple goal off a rebound of a class free-kick in the second half. Coach Joel Person will have to tighten the defensive screws, and perhaps even change formation and personnel, in order to keep a clean sheet against the Georgia Revolution on the road.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Revolution are coming off consecutive victories over Sandy Springs FC (2-0) and Peachtree City MOBA (2-1). The Revs’ goals have come from four different players this season, which is indicative of the variety of ways they will plan to attack the Birmingham Hammers’ backline. The Hammers will immediately notice the step-up in class of their opponent as they take the field on Saturday night.

This game will be a great opportunity for the Hammer’s to continue to work on team chemistry and philosophy. Road trips, when your back is up against the wall and there aren’t many friendly faces in the crowd, can be a good way to further unify the team. This match will be an ideal way to finalize preparations prior to the start of the  NPSL Southeast Conference schedule on May 14th at home against Chattanooga FC.

Kick is at 7 PM local time (6PM CST) in Conyers, GA on Saturday evening (5.7.2016). You can follow along with the Birmingham Hammers Twitter feed for continuous updates throughout the game. There will be no live-stream this weekend.

For more on this game, check out my specific predictions and projected Starting XI here.