In Part Two of this piece we look at late-season form, Richmond Kickers’ team stats, if individual stat leaders were consistent, a 2019 Best XI and questions for the off-season.
If you missed part one of this piece, covering the final two matches of the Richmond Kickers season, Braeden Troyer’s impact, and the attendance vs. City Stadium you can find that here.
Note: The five segments below were outlined along with part one last week and prior to the big news that Richmond Kickers’ Head Coach David Bulow would not be returning for 2020. While we have the entire off-season to discuss that decision and see how the front office pivots from 2019, there are still some key pieces to this season that need to be reviewed.
6) The Final Stretch.
While the summer likely ended the Kickers hope of an inaugural USL League One playoff spot, the end run of the season certainly clarified the picture. Over the final five matches of the season, with the playoffs still a possibility, albeit unlikely, Richmond picked up just four points.
Forward Madison (the final playoff spot) picked up 11 points during that stretch. Only Tucson scored as few goals as the Kickers did, four in five matches. Even Toronto FC II managed to double Richmond’s points during those final weeks. The Playoffs were always a long shot heading into September, but the final four matches (which produced just one point) confirmed the gap between where 2019 ended and where the top seeds were.
7) Team Stats Tell the Tale.
Do collective stats accurately reflect a team? For the majority of 2019 Richmond was a side focused on possession and safe passes, seemingly even at the expense of the attack at times. The league-wide stats seem to confirm that. The Kickers were 9th in goals and 9th in shots attempted. They were 7th in the league in shot-to-goal conversion, at 12%. And while Richmond had several ill-advised moments of madness during 2019 (tied for 1st in red cards), they were a disciplined team. The Kickers committed the lowest number of fouls in USL League One. Statistically, the collective numbers appear to confirm what we saw and where the club finished.
8) Team Stats Leaders ≠ Great Individual Years.
Just because a player leads a team in a key statistical category, does that make it is a great season? Does it matter how that figure compares to the league leaders? Or exactly when those key moments occurred? Let’s take a quick look at four specific players and stats from the 2019 USL League One season.
Joe Gallardo. Clearly one of the team’s best players over the course of his debut year in Richmond. He led the Kickers with six goals, which tied him for 14th place in the league. We know the team struggled to score, but 14th for your top attacker is a clear sign of an issue. Many fans on the face of it would say Joe had a far better year than Dennis Chin and Daniel Jackson, but they tallied five and four goals on the season respectively. Then when you look back at when the goals were scored it paints a different picture. Gallardo only scored two goals after May 19th—both were in the same match. Two goals over the final 21 matches. Next season, whoever the coach is, needs to figure out a way to bring consistency to Joe’s attack. He has the ability to be a 10 goal, 5 assist player in this league, rather than 6-and-2.
Matt Bolduc. Similar situation. A talented player that looks like he belongs, but dealt with a few injuries during the season. He let Richmond with six assists, which placed him as 4th best in the league. But like Gallardo, Bolduc only got two assists since the start of June. Most of Richmond’s attacking leaders moments came early in the season. So what worked then that wasn’t able to be replicated during the late summer surge? How do you get the best out of two players who can impact the game?
Akira Fitzgerald. Finished second in the league in saves and second in clean sheets. Consistent throughout, a strong candidate for team MVP, and someone that Richmond hopefully has locked up to a new deal for 2020.
Charles Boateng. Back on June 17, I wrote an article asking why wasn’t Boateng getting more time. While DJ and Chin got more goals, based on time played, Charles was the more aggressive attacker on average. Something that the Richmond offense often lacked, and went to late in the season. In about half the league minutes played, Boateng attempted roughly the same amount of shots as DJ and Chin – Chin (21) Boateng (19) DJ (17). League One matched need players taking chances and putting pressure on the defense. Hopefully, 2020 is Boateng’s opportunity to prove what he can do with a full season of playing time.
9) 2019 Best XI
The keeper and backline are obvious choices. The Richmond Kickers didn’t have a lot of depth to really challenge these players, but several pieces here can be a part of a revamped side next season. The top striker position is a tough choice. Chin had the most goals between him, Jackson, and Boateng, and edged out DJ on chances created. While Boateng looks the most dangerous he didn’t get enough time to make the best XI for 2019. How many of these players will return? How many of them should return if Richmond is trying to shift from a 9th place team to a title contender?
10) Off-season Questions.
After the OCB victory and Braeden Troyer’s send-off, the attention quickly turns toward off-season adjustments. All of that clearly has been impacted by the departure of David Bulow. So as we look at the next five months and the attention shifts towards the Richmond Kickers front office, what are some of the critical questions that need to be answered?
- As an organization with new owners, and in a new league, what were the lessons learned? What are the objectives for 2020?
- Who will be the head coach in 2020 and what will be the playing style?
- Looking back on the recruitment efforts before the season, what can Richmond learn from that experience to build a stronger squad in 2020?
- Which players return next season?
- Does the club focus on attracting the best players they can find and adapting a system to fit them? Or will the front office dictate a formation/system and go out to build around that?
- What improvements to City Stadium and the game-day experience is the organization hoping for?
Leave your thoughts on Twitter and stay tuned in the off-season as we attempt to answer these questions.