Hamilton FC opened its Professional Development League season on Sunday (May 20) at McMaster University with a 1-1 stalemate. About 200 fans took in the action as HFC welcomed the expansion Chicago Inferno to Ron Joyce Stadium.
Conditions were perfect for the evening match up and Hamilton started briskly, taking the early play to the visiting Inferno. Chicago seemed content to sit back and absorb the early pressure applied by Hamilton. The early pressure resulted in most of the play taking place in the Inferno half but HFC were unable to take advantage of the edge in possession and saw a number of chances go wide of the mark.
The first half saw HFC’s Lewis Ellis struck on the mouth by the wayward arm of an Inferno defender resulting in an emergency trip to the dentist at half time.
In the second half, Chicago switched tactics by pressing HFC higher up the field. This unsettled the home team for a short period but Hamilton was able to maintain its composure and deal with the pressure. Still, they were unable to break the deadlock with one of the best chances falling to Hamilton striker Miro Cabrillo whose nifty overhead bicycle kick went just wide of the post.
The game’s first goal came just past the hour mark. A Hamilton FC corner kick was played long to the back post where forward Mark Reilly did exceptionally well to keep the ball in play and head it back across the Inferno goal. HFC defender Garret McConville rose above the Chicago defense and buried a header from about six yards out.
The goal had a McMaster connection as both Reilly and McConville play on the Marauders men’s team.
The last 20 minutes of the match were highly entertaining as they play went end to end. Chicago managed to notch an equalizer with just over 10 minutes remaining as they threw four men forward. A ball played into the box was eventually bundled into the net by two Chicago players as the HFC defenders and goalkeeper looked in bewilderment towards the assistant referee for an offside call.
This set up a tense and thrilling final 10 minutes with both teams presented with glorious opportunities to seal the three points. Some good build up by Hamilton saw Khody Ellis released down the left wing; Ellis burned the Chicago defender and sent a lovely left footed cross into the Inferno box. HFC striker Cabrillo, found himself in plenty of space to rise and meet the cross. His downward header looked picture perfect but fell just wide of the post much to the relief of the Chicago goalkeeper.
A Chicago counter attack shortly thereafter saw an Inferno player released on a partial breakaway and able to play the ball just over the HFC keeper. The home fans were relieved when Shane Keely was able to clear just before the ball crossed the line. The drama only intensified, however, as HFC goalkeeper Conor Hurley was judged to have fouled the Chicago player on the play. The referee awarded the penalty kick and issued Hurley a yellow card. Hurley quickly shook off the incident and dove to his left to save the penalty and preserve the point for Hamilton.
Hamilton travels to Toronto to face the Lynx at Centennial Stadium on Wednesday (May 23) for an 11 a.m. match.