Riding high off of their season opening victory at the Atlanta Silverbacks last week, the Birmingham Hammers (1-1-0) welcomed Inter Nashville (1-1-0) to Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex on Saturday night. In front of a crowd of about 1,000 patrons, the two teams exchanged possession and pressure throughout the match, ultimately exchanging a pair of goals in the second half for the 1-1 result in the first leg of the I-65 Cup.
During the first 25-minutes of the match, the Hammers had a fair bit of possession. Early in the game, Right Back Gael Mabialas showcased his professional level speed up and down the touch line, making dashing overlapping runs deep into the heart of Nashville’s territory. Pressure came from the Hammers mainly on the right side, but only resulted in three shots.
Starting Attacking Midfielder Deandre Robinson left the match with an injury (ankle) in the 27th minute, and Inter Nashville took advantage of a Hammers midfield that was scrambling to recover from the loss of leadership and experience. Despite pushing full throttle for the last 20-minutes of the half, Inter Nashville could only put together one or two scoring opportunities. But none of their chances resulted in a goal.
Halftime adjustments were key for the Hammers and Inter Nashville. In the second half, the boys from the Music City seemed to double up on Mabialas, neutralizing his attacking effectiveness. However, the Hammers made adjustments of their own, and just six minutes into the second period, the Boys in Red earned a penalty. NPSL veteran Alex Brown calmly stepped up to the spot and buried the kick to give the Hammers the 1-0 lead (53rd minute). This successful penalty was Brown’s second goal of the season.
But the jubilation of the lead lasted only for a little while, as Inter earned a corner in the 69th minute that led to the tying goal. Inter Nashville’s 2nd-half substitute Greg Warden buried the chance off of the set piece.
For the remainder of the match, the Hammers played with their backs against the wall. Inter Nashville pressed to earn a second goal and steal a victory on the road. But fortunately for the team from the Magic City, Bradley Louis was controlling the box. Save after save tonight earned Bradley Louis the Birmingham Backline Man of the Match award. His leadership, awareness, and ability in the goal kept the Hammers in this match and ultimately helped the home team salvage the draw.
The Birmingham Hammers are sitting on 4 points after two NPSL matches, putting themselves in a tie for first in the division. Their next match is Saturday, May 20th at Chattanooga. They will be back in Birmingham on Memorial Day Weekend with a pair of friendlies against the Atlanta United U-18 team and the Chivas U-23 team. Check out birminghamhammers.com for ticket information and the latest news.