After 620 minutes of play without a goal, Dennis Chin’s finish finally let the Richmond Kickers nation breathe a huge sigh of relief.
On paper, it looked like the Richmond Kickers’ best chance to finally end their winless steak. 10th place Richmond hosting 9th place Orlando City B. Both clubs in the middle of winning and scoring droughts. OCB2 started the match without their top two goal scorers and their leading assist playmaker. The MLS academy side came into Saturday’s match have let in eight goals in their previous six matches and only scoring once. This was the time.
A New Richmond Kickers?
The starting lineup had a few surprises and hinted a new formation. Club captain Maxi Rodriguez was left on the bench as Braeden Troyer got just his third start of the year. Daniel Jackson returned to the bench after a week out of the 18, while exciting academy prospect Key White was left out.
It looked as though Dennis Chin would play up top, with Mwape and Bolduc as the attacking wingers, Gallardo in the center and Troyer deeper in front of the backline. Three centerbacks started – Ackwei, Shanosky, and Magalhaes, with Lockaby and Thomsen out wide as the fullbacks.
However, the formation seemed fluid throughout the night. Which likely played into Richmond’s favor. Orlando was probably expecting the Kickers would play their typical 4-2-3-1 style. But what did we see? At times it looked like a 5-2-3 or a 5-3-2, and for parts of the match, it resembled a 5-1-2-2. Troyer in front of the backline, Bolduc and Mwape tucked inside with Gallardo pushing up top with Chin.
Direct play leads to improved chances
After weeks of slow build-up play and possession, Kickers fans finally got to see more direct to goal play. And it paid off. In the 15th minute, Joe Gallardo pushed towards goal creating a chance for Dennis Chin that went wide after a deflection. The resulting corner ended up in the back of the net, but Chin was in an offsides position. Twice in the first half, Matt Bolduc kept the ball and drove straight into the heart of the OCB defense. Both times it seemed to catch the opponent off guard, created a chance with each drive—one being the penalty that wasn’t correctly seen by the ref.
Those passages of play are not what opponents expect to get from this Richmond Kickers team. But they are the more dangerous moments on average for the side. But as the heat map below shows, Richmond still has work to do when it comes to getting possession in and around the opponent’s box. (Richmond is attacking from left to right in the graphic below).
For Richmond, it didn’t matter the formation, the tactics or how a goal came about, just that one did. And for the crowd of 2,543 Kickers fans who braved the 100+ degree heat, that moment finally came. Wahab Ackwei lofted in a perfect cross for Dennis Chin to head past the OCB keeper. It marked Chin’s 3rd goal of the season and Ackwei’s 2nd assist. Which places both of them second on the goals and assists charts respectively.
Late in the match, there was an incident near the Richmond goal that eventually involved all 22 players on the pitch. The ref gave straight red cards to Akira Fitzgerald and two Orlando City B players. Since the end of the match, the referees have not commented on the play or why each card was given. (Note: By next season these match incidents-to-comment situations may be slightly better, based on things in the works.)
Lastly, but worth the mention, Joe Gallardo picked up a knock late in the match and had to be subbed off. Early indications are that it was not serious.
After the match Coach David Bulow spoke about the red card incident, Richmond United academy players getting appearances recently and finally breaking the scoreless streak for the Red Army:
Up next for the Richmond Kickers is a rare Friday afternoon match against Toronto FC II. TFC2 host the match at 4 pm ET on ESPN+. Will Maxi Rodriguez be back in the XI, or does Bulow stick with the winning squad?
Head ref from the OCB2 match was Gabriele Giusti. So far he hasn’t been given an assignment for week 18, but the TFC2 officials aren’t named yet…Richmond fans would likely prefer a week apart between the two parties.