Playing their second match of the season, Richmond Kickers came away with split points vs. Tormenta FC.
Following a 3-2 loss to open the season against Lansing Ignite, Richmond Kickers returned to City Stadium hoping to correct Week One’s mistakes and get their first USL League One point(s). After a massive crowd of nearly 6,000, the Kickers saw 2,853 through the gates to see them take on Tormenta FC, a new opponent who moved up from USL League Two to join this new third tier of American soccer. The attendance was likely impacted by the NCAA Final Four and the fact that an in-state team (UVA) was playing. We look back at the match over the weekend.
1) New faces & closer to the first-choice XI
Richmond Kickers played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, inter-changing personnel on two key points of the pitch throughout the night. After a strong debut in the second half last week to shore up the defensive line, Ivan Magalhaes stepped into the starting XI. Kickers veteran Scott Thomsen’s made his first appearance of 2019 and Charles Boateng made his debut.
The final new face for Richmond fans Saturday evening was Nick Retzlaff, who came on early during the second half to replace Amankona. Retzlaff took up the same role as the more attacking of the two center mids. Unless Amass picked up a knock, Coach Bulow looks willing to make changes if his halftime adjustments have not taken hold quickly. No need to waste time.
We are getting closer to having the ability to predict a starting XI, but there are still four players that may yet factor in. Braeden Troyer and Mutaya Mwape are injured, and we still haven’t seen Columbus Crew loanee Aboubacar Kieta or USL goalscoring vet Dennis Chin. By the time Richmond returns home in late April, we should have a good idea on how a few of those can challenge for the starting XI.
— Richmond Kickers 🦘 (@RichmondKickers) April 6, 2019
2) Improved defense -> Better possession
Richmond benefited from the fact that Tormenta FC didn’t press the way Lansing Ignite did, and that it was Tormenta’s third match in eight days. That led to a better glimpse of what Coach Bulow is looking to do this season. Possession for the Kickers was up from 54% week one to 58% against Tormenta. Richmond completed 59 more passes than their opening match, and their accuracy jumped from 74% (W1) to 83% (W2).
Magalhaes inclusion in from the start created a great trifecta with Ackwei and Rodriguez controlling the ball and building up play from the back. Both CBs looked comfortable dealing with Tormenta’s most dangerous players – Marco Micaletto and Alex Morrell (entered in the 2nd half). Micaletto was stifled into only one shot and one chance created. Three-assist man William Conner Antley had no successful crosses or chances created.
The fullback position looks like an early strength for the club. Eli Lockaby got the start both weeks, with Eckenrode and Thomsen lining up across from him. Lockaby and Thomsen flipped positions about midway through the first half, giving Bulow three solid options for attacking fullbacks. Thomsen provides veteran experience, Eckenrode made a key tackle on Micaletto in stoppage time, and Lockaby led the entire team in passing accuracy at 89.4%.
A clean sheet and still two more defensive options yet to take the field this season should leave Kickers fans optimistic about that side of the pitch after a shaky opening 50 minutes week one.
— Richmond Kickers 🦘 (@RichmondKickers) April 7, 2019
3) Early days for Richmond Kickers attacking potential
In Week One, Daniel Jackson and Joe Gallardo both had opportunities to score and create chances, with Joe getting on the scoresheet via the penalty spot. Even though neither got a goal from the run of play, the combo showed signs of what could become an effective attack. Thus the addition of Charles Boateng and the interest in his ability was encouraging when the starting XI was announced.
The front four were fluid throughout the match, with DJ starting up top at first, Joe briefly moving forward, and finally, Boateng holding the #9 spot for the second half. However, Richmond had a tough time creating chances against Tormenta’s backline. The Kickers only managed one shot on target, with three shots coming from Boateng and zero from DJ and Gallardo. But, not a complete surprise against a South Georgia defense that has only given up one goal in three matches now.
Two weeks into the season now, the formation and style of play are coming together. In the opening match, the attack responded in the second half, and the defense clearly improved during training leading up to Tormenta. Now it’s time to put the two together. The Kickers travel up to Lansing, MI Saturday for Week Three in USL League One.