The Richmond Kickers ended their four-match unbeaten streak and once again have questions facing their ability to battle against the press.
The congested scheduled did the Richmond Kickers no favors this weekend, but it was their true nemesis that halted the team’s undefeated run—the press. Five matches over 15 days looked about right as the Kickers struggled to find their attacking form in Greenville, losing their third match of the season. There’s no time to over analyze the tape, or even return home, as Richmond head further south to take on Orlando City B tomorrow night. An OCB side that is feeling their most confident so far in USL League One. Perhaps a chance to fix Saturday’s mistakes quickly is exactly what the Kickers need.
Final. Tough one in Greenville as the Triumph find the go-ahead goal in the 42nd minute. @akirafitzgerald kept the Kickers in the match all night with a game-high 10 saves. We're back at it on Wednesday against @OrlandoCityB.
— Richmond Kickers 🦘 (@RichmondKickers) May 19, 2019
Richmond Kickers (3-3-2)
1) Akira Fitzgerald
The other day I tweeted how Joe Gallardo’s goals were responsible for 9 of the team’s 11 points so far this season. However, the same argument could be made for Akira Fitzgerald. He is second in the league in saves and is top of the charts in shut outs (4/8 so far in 2019). Saturday, he kept Richmond’s hopes alive with a series of brilliant saves. The lone goal that got past Fitzgerald was due to a very uncharacteristic error by Wahab Ackwei, first letting the ball bounce, then not clearing it on the second attempt. It’s a long season ahead, but with Akira in this form, Richmond will have every chance to make the playoffs.
2) The Press
Richmond’s possession style of play, with the fullbacks pushed up high, center backs spread out and captain Maxi Rodriguez dropping back to dictate play, works wonders. That is until it comes up against a hard pressing team. This isn’t a set rule, just the nature of a team continuing to mature to that playing style. Much like Pep’s Manchester City, playing out of the back presents challenges—one that his team struggled to deal with during his first year in England.
Greenville deployed Lansing’s strategy and it disrupted Richmond’s play enough that attacking chances were few and far between. The Kickers needed an additional player farther back to control the ball and provide outlets to slowly build up the field. Either moving to a three center back system or having Josh Hughes sit deeper to help Rodriguez could have been enough. If they are smart, most League One clubs are going to try this against the Kickers.
Rather than waiting for a jump in each individual’s composure on the ball against the press, a formation adjustment should be deployed from the start against a team known to press. Richmond play close to a 4-2-3-1 now anyway, which probably makes it the easiest option, again having Hughes sit deeper. Or perhaps trying a 5-2-1-2 system, moving Chin up top with Jackson.
3) Matt Bolduc
For the first time in USL League One, Bolduc didn’t hit the pitch for the Richmond Kickers. In fact, he didn’t even make the 18. His speed and composure on the ball were missed in Greenville. He is expected to be fit and with the team when they head to Orlando this week. I’d expect him back in his left attacking position out on the wing. As he will be needed to stretch the back line and provide an additional option over the top, freeing up more space and chances for Gallardo in the middle to do his magic.
Quote-A-Kicker: Head Coach David Bulow
“I thought we dealt with the press really well, and by the end of the game, they stepped off of us and allowed us to play. We just did a poor job of understanding our rotations and how we planned to create chances.”
Up Next: Orlando City B (1-5-2)
Last Time Out: The Lions got their first win of the season with a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC II.
Don’t let the bottom of the table position lure you into a false sense of security heading. While Orlando may have taken eight matches to register their first win, they’ve been competitive for the majority of the season. Only twice were they defeated by more than a goal, and it’s not for a lack of effort. OCB leads League One in shots (108)—miles ahead of Richmond’s 68 shots from the same number of matches. The difference has been Richmond’s ability to convert at a higher rate, but Akira Fitzgerald should expect to be tested once again.
Two players to watch for are (1) former Richmond Kicker Koby Osei-Wusu, who leads Orlando with two goals, and (2) Serginho, who is their main attacking creator. Orlando will be full of confidence having picked up their first three points in the league. Playing at home and with the blueprint of how Greenville shut Richmond down, it’ll a tougher match than many would have except it to be just one week ago.
Who, When & How
Richmond Kickers vs. Orlando City B
Tomorrow, 5/22, at 7:30 PM Eastern Time
Watch on ESPN+