The Richmond Kickers closed out 2019 in style, sending off a club stalwart. But as the USL League One Playoffs begin, Richmond turns towards the off-season.
Note: As one might expect, looking back at the season can often lengthen an article. Thus I’ve broken this into two parts. This first piece will focus on the Richmond Kickers’ final two matches of the season, Braeden Troyer’s impact, the attendance, records home and away, and does City Stadium’s design get the most from its numbers?
1) TFCII Let Down.
The chase for the playoffs was over, but performing for the supporters and finishing the season strong were still on the line Wednesday night as the Richmond Kickers hosted Toronto FC II. The match started brightly with an opening goal from Mwape in the 7th minute, before quickly conceding an equalizer to Golden Boot chaser Perruzza. That proved to be the launching point for TFCII, and one that Richmond couldn’t swing back in their favor.
The Kickers managed just one more shot on target the rest of the night, a 34th-minute strike from Mwape from the corner of the box. Perruzza made the difference on the night, splitting the space between Richmond’s two central defenders and with the defensive midfielders pushed too far up the field, he made it look easy for the game-winner. Frustration, but not unique. Luckily, there was one more chance to leave a positive spin on 2019.
— Richmond Kickers 🦘 (@RichmondKickers) October 2, 2019
2) Finish With Style.
Saturday night Richmond hosted Orlando City B for the 2019 season finale. Nearly 4k showed up as fall finally arrived in the Richmond area. Braeden Troyer wore the captain’s armband in his final match before retirement. While recent signing Zach Perez made his Kickers debut at left-back for the injured Scott Thomsen. In what was one of Richmond’s best matches of the season, the Kickers dominated the game and the stat sheet. Leading possession 62-38, passes 522-320, shots 19-8, shots on target 10-2, and most importantly, goals 2-0.
Often shots (and attack) were the downfall for the Kickers this season. But on Saturday the attack was hungry with multiple players getting quality chances inside the box (see the image below for Richmond’s shots on the night). Yes, it was against the 10th place team, but that drive needs to be an off-season focus as the club plans their formation and personnel strategy for 2020.
3) Troyer Will Be Missed.
Signed ahead of the 2015 season, Braeden Troyer played all five years of his professional career with the Richmond Kickers. He was a defensive fixture for the club, appearing 133 times and getting his first league goal earlier this season. His introduction at the 6 for Richmond let to their late summer turnaround and push for the playoffs.
Clearly loved by his coaches, teammates, and the crowd at City Stadium, Troyer will be sorely missed in 2020. His impact in 2019 cannot be overstated. When Braeden didn’t feature for the Kickers this season their record was 1W-2D-7L (5 points). With Troyer involved, even as a sub, 8W-3D-7L (27 points). You can easily make a case for Troyer being the team MVP for 2019, with Akira Fitzgerald the other strong choice. Gallardo, Ackwei, and Lockaby had great Richmond debut seasons, but Troyer’s impact is hard to overlook. Finding his replacement is a top off-season priority.
I’ve said it before, and many others have said it for years—the support at City Stadium is a key part of the organization’s success throughout their history. Yes, they are the longest-running professional team in America. But doing so while playing in the second and third tiers is even more impressive. So many clubs below the first division have appeared and folded over the past three decades.
The 2019 average attendance for the Richmond Kickers comes in at 3,468. Second best in the league, but key to League One’s viability as several other clubs fell flat in year one. Three years of disappointing finishes in the table and dropping down a tier last winter, City Stadium still manages to draw in impressive crowds. That’s due to the area’s connection with soccer and the long-standing relationship the club has built around the city. You’d imagine a goal for the front office in 2020 is to get that number back closer to 4k next season. More on the crowd and the design of the grounds in point five below.
Fans, tonight is YOUR night!
— Richmond Kickers 🦘 (@RichmondKickers) October 5, 2019
5) Season Records.
On the year the Richmond Kickers finished with 9 wins, 5 draws and 14 loses, with a -9 goal difference. In the new league, the club won more matches than the year before (6), and loss a lower percent (50% down from 70%), taking into consideration the shorter schedule. As we know City Stadium is a strength of the organization, but did Richmond take enough advantage of that? At home, their record was 5W-3D-6L with a -3 goal difference. On the road, 4W-2D-8L, with a -6 goal difference. Not a wide margin.
While Richmond has an amazing supporters group in the River City Red Army, City Stadium’s setup is designed for families having a night out, rather than focused solely on the match. A fair amount of that 3,468 average spends the majority of the match not in the stands, but on the concourse, which looks down upon the field but also opens up to concessions, food trucks, kid entertainment, etc.
Would packing all of them into the stands translate to more points at home? Not necessarily. But it would amp up the atmosphere, look better on camera, potentially draw in more fans, and energize the players on the pitch more often. It’s a give and take, as the club balances attracting people to the stadium and building a passionate crowd.
That’s it for part one. The second half of this piece will look at the late-season form, team stats, some surprising individual stats, 2019 standouts and questions heading into the off-season.