Richmond Kickers

Richmond Kickers: Roster Evaluation – Who Stays and Who Goes? (Part 1)

It’s time to put on your General Manager hat as we start to think through the process of building the 2020 Richmond Kickers roster.

The 2019 USL League One season is in the books, and congratulations to North Texas SC for becoming the inaugural champions. The league was full of variety in year one – independent organizations like the Richmond Kickers, clubs with ties to MLS and USL Championship teams, MLS academy teams focused primarily on player development, and an MLS academy set up to compete and win now.

With the off-season officially here, it’s time for front offices to begin rebuilding for 2020. Taking lessons learned from their own internal experiences, how USL League One developed in year one, and changes coming for next season. While the Richmond Kickers still have to resolve their head coach vacancy, roster decisions are at the top of the to-do list. With that in mind, let’s look at the 2019 roster and predict which players return in 2020 and which are released.

A few notes before we get started:

– The club has already started to meet with players to discuss next year, but nothing has been officially announced.

– I do not have knowledge of the 2019 salary list, but in this exercise, we will assume that the older players and those with more USL Championship experience made the most.

– The new coach will (hopefully) have an impact on how the roster is finished off, but for now, we operate as the front office looking at whether or not players proved valuable enough during 2019 and have the continued potential for next season.

– This exercise will operate using the 4-2-3-1 formation and two-deep depth chart. The Richmond Kickers had 30 players signed at various points in the year.

– Some players will have contract options that the club can pick up and others will need new deals. For ease, I’m going to use ‘Keep’ and ‘Release’ as the two decisions.

Goalkeeper

  • Akira Fitzgerald
    • Age: 32
    • 2019 Appearances: 26
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. Akira was one of the best keepers in the league. Hopefully he and the club both wish to continue that in 2020 so the club can instead focus recruiting efforts elsewhere.
  •  Joe Rice
    • Age: 23
    • 2019 Appearances: 3
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. Limited chances during his rookie season, due to Fitzgerald’s form, but Rice looks like a solid prospect and great option as the 2020 backup. As a native of Virginia and VCU alum, the Kickers need to play up the ‘one of our own’ factor more visibly next season.
  • Matt Broomall
    • Age: 25
    • 2019 Appearances: 0
    • 2020 Decision: Release. Without game time it’s impossible to say the club has to extend his contract. However, I’d expect an invite to off-season tryouts, especially if Richmond want three keepers again in 2020 or one of the two above move elsewhere.
  • 2020 Roster (2):
    • Signed: Akira Fitzgerald & Joe Rice.
    • Needs: None.

Center Backs

  • Wahab Ackwei
    • Age: 23
    • 2019 Appearances: 25
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. An absolute gem for the Richmond backline. If the Kickers are able to fend off any USL Championship suitors, the club should sign him to a two-year deal.
  • Conor Shanosky
    • Age: 27
    • 2019 Appearances: 22
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. His experience formed a nice duo with Ackwei, who was the more adventurous center back. Richmond had the 5th best defense in 2019, so while a new CB should be added to the roster for 2020, both Conor and Wahab have been strengths for the club.
  • Ivan Magalhaes
    • Age: 25
    • 2019 Appearances: 20
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. Magalhaes had a shaky start to the season but improved as the year went on and he was called upon when Ackwei or Shanosky were out due to red cards. Richmond needs four CBs capable of starting. Someone new will need to be signed in the winter, but even if that is a new starter, Ivan makes a solid CB backup.
  • Aboubacar Keita
    • Age: 19
    • 2019 Appearances: 3
    • 2020 Decision: N/A. Keita was on loan from the Columbus Crew, but between injuries and the U-20 World Cup, he rarely featured for Richmond in 2019. It is highly unlikely that he will be back in 2020 and earn more time in MLS.
  • 2020 Roster (4):
    • Signed: Ackwei, Shanosky & Magalhaes.
    • Needs: One new center back (starter or backup level).

Full Backs

  • Eli Lockaby
    • Age: 23
    • 2019 Appearances: 23
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. Get a multi-year contract signed now and his face up on a billboard. As a VCU alum who started the majority of his rookie season in the same city he went to college, Lockaby should be pushed as much as possible. Able to play in either fullback position and effective going forward, whoever the next coach is will be happy to have Eli still on the team.
  • Scott Thomsen
    • Age: 25
    • 2019 Appearances: 22
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. Thomsen a solid, but not a standout year. Given his experience, I’d bring him back for 2020, but with the starting role still up for grabs. A new fullback will need to be signed in the off-season. They along with Thomsen should battle for the starting role opposite of Lockaby.
  • Zack Perez
    • Age: 22
    • 2019 Appearances: 1
    • 2020 Decision: Keep. We only saw Perez play against the league’s worst team, but even so, he appeared to be a solid fullback option. While I believe Richmond need to sign one new fullback for 2020, I’d opt to bring Perez back next season and get more playing time to get an idea of where his ceiling is.
  • 2020 Roster (4):
    • Signed: Lockaby, Thomsen, Perez.
    • Needs: One new full-back (starter or backup level), either side open for consideration.

Defense Recap

  • Goalkeeper: Fitzgerald & Rice
  • Centerbacks: Ackwei, Shanosky, Magalhaes & one new signing
  • Fullbacks: Lockaby, Thomsen, Perez & one new signing

Now keep in mind this exercise will only cover 22 positions. The Richmond Kickers will likely end up closer to 26 to 28 players on the final roster. So there are spaces for a third keep, defensive depth, an extra midfielder, a multi-purpose attacker, etc.

That’s it for Part 1. In Part 2 I’ll break down the middle of the pitch.

More to explorer