Looking back on the first USL League One match in Richmond Kickers history.
The Richmond Kickers opened their 27th season on Saturday night hosting the newly formed Lansing Ignite in USL League One’s debut weekend. After two rough years in what is now the USL Championship, 2019 offered Richmond and their fans a fresh start. New owners and a completely rebuilt squad under head coach David Bulow had high expectations heading into the start of the season.
Within the first half hour, fans were having familiar flashbacks to 2017 and 2018. But, the Kickers regrouped in the second half, making two key changes, and controlled most of the game from there on. Even with a disappointing 3-2 loss, there are plenty of reasons to be positive about the upcoming season. Here are three takeaways from the night:
1) Individual errors soured a statistically strong debut
Entering the night, the general thought was that Richmond would have a sound defense and possess the ball. Key players were not in the 18 (more on that later), but from the start, the backline looked shaky. Lansing Ignite has a strong offense and their pressing game forced Richmond into several errors even before the first goal. On the first goal, three of the four defenders all fail to close down the ball or runners. On the 2nd, both center backs had opportunities to clear the ball. While it would have been a surprise going into the game, it wasn’t shocking to see Ivan Magalhaes come in for Kickers veteran CB Conor Shanosky early in the second half.
Magalhaes improved the backline and deserves a start next week against Tormenta. But a telling stat on how the offense struggled to create chance throughout the match — Ivan Magalhaes was tied with most shots on the night, 2. He is a CB. That came in during the second half…
But, those early defensive mistakes distract from the fact that Richmond had a statistically strong game, or at worst, an even night against Lansing. The home team either led or was in a relative tie on possession, duels, interceptions, corners, crosses, passes, passing accuracy, shots, and tackles. The only stat on the night (besides the scoreline) that had a noticeable difference was that Lansing committed 25 fouls to Richmond’s 11.
The first Starting XI of 2019 is here!
— Richmond Kickers 🦘 (@RichmondKickers) March 30, 2019
2) The players we haven’t seen yet.
Joe Gallardo had an impressive debut. His drive was visible throughout the night, even if it led to a few rash fouls. Amass Amankona displayed speed and created chances, which should warrant a start week two. New club captain Maxi Rodriguez was at partial fault for the third goal on the back post but responded by netting Richmond’s first of the season. Ivan Magalhaes’ calmness into a shaky backline and his ability to push the attack, deserves a start against Tormenta.
But, the Kickers had numerous names missing from the 18 on the night that could be key contributors as the season progress. Scott Thomsen and Braeden Troyer are both experienced defensive players with the club, who will feature in the 18, if not the starting XI, once available. Troyer was the only player on the night officially listed on the injury report (right knee). Aboubacar Keita is another option for the backline, on loan from the Columbus Crew, but was held out due to his recent involvement with the US U-20 team. Dennis Chin appears to be regaining full fitness but was on the bench Saturday night. While Charles Boateng and Mutaya Mwape are both intriguing young, attacking midfield options, that were held out to start the season.
The starting XI against Lansing was just the opening move by coach David Bulow. Let’s see how the rest of these pieces fare in League One, before settling on a starting XI, a formation, and Richmond’s prospects for the year.
3) Fans are excited about 2019
Whether we are talking about fans of fellow USL1 clubs or general fans of the league, the Richmond Kickers don’t seem to be getting enough respect in regards their fan base. The flashy clubs, especially those who are pushing heavy via social media, have gotten a lot of the attention. Meanwhile, over 5,936 fans came out to watch Richmond on Saturday night. The club had two very tough seasons, dropped a division, and the support was even stronger than the average the past few seasons.
The attendance combined from the other three matches in week 1 (Tormenta, Orlando B, and North Texas) was 5,943.
The support is there. The River City Red Army was out in force Saturday night. The new youth supporters group section debuted. Two new podcasts about the club launched in the weeks leading up to the start of the season – BGN’s own Rivercity 93 and the club sponsored Richmond Kickers Weekly, hosted by the Total Soccer Show’s Daryl Grove and Taylor Rockwell.
All the pieces are there off the pitch to make the atmosphere at Richmond City Stadium a place to be and continue to grow the club’s recognition and support in the city.