Matt Bolduc - Richmond Kickers (Credit: Suzanne Velasco / RVA Hub)

Richmond Kickers: Roster Breakdown Part 2 with Asst. Coach Mika Elovaara

The attacking threat – breaking down the second half of Richmond Kickers’ initial player signings for the USL League One 2020 season.

In the lead up to the Richmond Kickers announcing new Sporting Director and Head Coach, Darren Sawatzky, I spoke with Assistant Coach Mika Elovaara on the club’s initial roster moves. If you missed the first part of the discussion you can find that here – Part 1. It covers the Richmond Kickers goalkeeper, backline players, and late 2019 addition Ryley Kraft. In this half of the piece, a look at six returning attacking pieces for the 2020 season.

BGN: Amass Amankona was out for nearly all of 2019. How is his fitness? What position(s) do you see him playing?

Mika: His fitness is good. He will probably start playing pickup games soon and will be ready to go for the start of the 2020 preseason. Positionally, he is an 8 or a 10. Looking back at last season we thought Amass might have been the 10 we were missing to free up Gallardo. Or let him play as a false nine. Amass is the quickest study of tactics and implementing that to the field. He is very solidly built. He absorbs tackles, is great at holding onto the ball, and controlling the ball in tight spaces.

BGN: Greg Boehme saw more time late in 2019. Where do you see his best fit and what does he need to focus in 2020 to get more starting time?

Mika: He is an 8. But could also play as a 10 if you play with double 10s. Very steady player. Cerebral game insight. Asks the right questions and applies the answers on the field, quickly. He does a good job of helping others and giving them information. His contribution in ‘19 was limited because of the number of midfielders we had on the roster and the rotation of trying to find the right combination.

BGN: Matt Bolduc was last season’s assist leader, getting time as a winger & a fullback. Is the hope to keep him up high next season?

Mika: Matt is a versatile soccer player. He is a viable option for a fullback, good 1v1 defender, and quick. If you play him as a fullback then you know you have someone in that position that is comfortable going forward. Matt brings continuity and is a fierce competitor. This club is historic and we need to restore that history. So yes, there should be more competition on the wings, which could come from who we already have, for instance, Charles Boateng might be an 11 instead of a 9 depending on who the strikers are.

BGN: Mutaya Mwape really seemed to own the RW position last season. Do you believe that is where he is at his best? How does he improve his goals and assist totals in 2020?

Mika: That really is his best place, but the team and formation changed so much in 2019 that I don’t think it lent itself to get the most out of him at times. So in 2020, how can he become more consistent to deliver that level of dangerous attack regardless of formation or who is playing around him.

BGN: Joe Gallardo thrived at the start of the year, but became a marked man down the stretch. What style or formation helps get the best of Gallardo? What positions can he play for the team next season?

Mika: It’s important to remember that this is the first full year for Joe in quite a while. Due to injuries, and a lack of consistent role in his prior teams. He is an exciting, electrifying player. At the start of the season, the rest of the league doesn’t know him as well, and that helps with his fast start. Once they figure out that he was our only potent attacking weapon at one point in the year, they begin to focus on taking that away. So they take him out of the game, and the rest of the team wasn’t producing enough in that extra space that they then had. Even when we moved him around it was the same. Then it results in Joe feeling like he needs to produce more. He is still young, so there are areas to improve, but then at the same time how can the team improve to help a player like Joe be more productive.

BGN: Charles Boateng really started to acclimate to the team as the year ended. He is on loan again? Do you see him as a striker or a winger?

Mika: We are excited to have him back for another year. His role on the team depends a lot on how the final roster looks – especially the forward and winger positions. Rest assured we will be adding multiple attacking players to this current group. Most people watching Charles would say that he is an exciting player. He’s shown enough quality to demonstrate that he could be the 9, or the 11, and why not also the 7. But he is a great example of being a pro, understanding his role, continuing to learn. He worked after training with Akira, and we saw him get more minutes at the end of the year – taking chances, pressing, lots of effort – I think he will bring some fun moments for the fans next season.

Thanks again to Mika for sitting down with me to talk about the Richmond Kickers’ first 12 players signed for the 2020 season. With new Sporting Director and Head Coach Darren Sawatzky now on board the staff can turn it’s focus to completing the roster. The Kickers are hosting tryouts on December 13th and 14th. Will the next Braeden Troyer be amongst the hopefuls?

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