Joe Gallardo - Richmond Kickers (Credit: Suzanne Velasco / RVA Hub)

Richmond Kickers: (Past) Time for Change

With the Richmond Kickers winless, and scoreless, streaks continuing on in the heat of summer, a change is required to offer hope moving forward.

On Saturday night the Richmond Kickers started the match off brightly, showing attacking intent and energy. They created chances but failed to convert early shots in goals. Shortly after that, the opponent marches down the field to put away the opening goal, putting Richmond on the backfoot. Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

Against North Texas SC Jannik Eckenrode and Ivan Magalhaes came in as the fullbacks and Matt Buldoc returned to the starting eleven. Perhaps most interestingly new academy signing Key White was available on the bench for the first time, while Daniel Jackson was not included in the 18.

(Note: I’ve asked if Lockaby on the bench and Jackson’s exclusion were fitness related or the coach’s decision, but have not gotten confirmation yet.)

Same crowd, same result

Another strong crowd was on hand at City Stadium, 3,321, but the home team was down 2-0 quickly after a 14th-minute set-piece goal by North Texas SC. Richmond currently have bigger issues to tackle, but set-piece defending will have to improve for the club to challenge for the League One title in the future.

Key White debuted in the 32nd minute adding speed and energy to the Kickers attack as North Texas began to dominate the match. In an odd move, Joe Gallardo left the match in the 72nd minute, with Richmond down 2-0 and Coach Bulow brought on a defensive player. No word on any injuries to Gallardo. Ultimately, it was the same story. Richmond play even for much of the match, fail to capitalize on their chances and possession, while the opponent is efficient in front of goal.

A dire look up the table

The Kickers have now lost seven of the last eight, are winless in eight, and haven’t scored in their last six matches. The club is in last place in League One, with two matches in hand over Orlando B, this coming Saturday’s opponent. Richmond is 12 points off the playoff line and  21 points behind league leaders North Texas SC.

The 5-2-1-2 for the Richmond Kickers?

One match, fine. A few matches—sure, maybe there are contributing factors. Eight matches, with the playoffs slipping away? It’s time for a change. Richmond seems to lack either the ability to create enough chances and capitalize on them or the right set of players to play this specific system.

Passing accuracy isn’t an issue for the Kickers, it’s pushing forward in the system, failing to break down the opponent, turning the ball over and being punished. Rather than try to keep the ball and slowly move up the field, switch the emphasis to frustrating the opponent’s attack and then utilize Richmond’s speed players.

A counter-attack style of play would allow the team to limit open chances on goal bring the team more narrow. The defenders have spent all season under pressure by the press from the opposition, but now rather than looking for short passes to build-up play, their focus would get back to the basics of defending.

A possible line-up

Richmond Kickers

With Aboubacar Keita, the three center-backs select themselves. But a few players could shift into one of the wide CBs if needed. Lockaby has the ability to play as either fullback and Bolduc is still one of Richmond’s most dangerous players, so any system needs to find a way to fit him in.

Up top, I’d imagine that Gallardo and Mwape would rotate to frustrate defenders, while White would be the first outlet option for the counter. Charles Boateng would offer another choice off the bench, or when White joins UNC in a few weeks. A solid base of seven players, might not break the Kickers’ goal drought, but it would allow the team the chance to fix their defensive issues.

Is 5-2-1-2, counter-attacking play the answer? There’s no way to tell. But trying new systems and styles of play is the only option at this point. Keeping the setup that brought about this eight-match desert, is akin to burying one’s head in the sand. Orlando City B offers the next, and best, opportunity to turn the season around.

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