Three takeaways from the Richmond Kickers’ 1-0 victory over Greenville

The Richmond Kickers’ ability to respond to difficult situations yet again leads to the club’s first USL League One victory.

After a brutal opening 50 minutes of the season, the Richmond Kickers responded with two goals against Lansing followed by a home draw in Week Two. An early red card in Week Three halted Richmond’s advantage and ultimately delivered another tough result. But the staff and the players have shown resiliency in bouncing back and did just that in their 1-0 victory on the road against Greenville Triumph. Four matches, four points—including a road win—and now heading home for four straight games.

Starting XI Coming Into Focus

Four matches into the season we are starting to get an idea of how to build Richmond’s ideal first choice starting eleven. While we won’t get official injury reports until lineups are revealed, the evidence on the field is enough to solidify several starting players at this point. Akira Fitzgerald, Wahab Ackwei, Joe Gallardo, Eli Lockaby, and Matt Bolduc are the five locks right now. They are the only players to start all four matches, and all besides Lockaby have played the full 90 each week. Regardless of the formation, opponent, and location, unless they are injured, this core has earned their spots.

As the team captain, Maxi Rodriguez is likely on the list as well, playing a key to Coach Bulow’s style of play. He will be back for the home match against Chattanooga on Saturday – leaving five spots up for debate. Scott Thomsen is likely secure at LB ahead of Jannik Eckenrode. Ivan Magalhaes or Conor Shanosky playing alongside Ackwei? Daniel Jackson, Dennis Chin and Charles Boateng battling for two attacking spots. And who plays alongside Maxi – Josh Hughes, Amass Amankona, or Nick Retzlaff?

Overlapping Fullbacks

Bulow wants to possess the ball, build up from the back. and play attractive football. Whether the side is technically playing in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2, they operate in it basically in the same manner. A key piece of the system is pushing the fullbacks up into the attack, spreading the two centerbacks wide and have a defensive midfielder (i.e. Maxi Rodriguez) back in between them to help with distribution out of the back.

To take advantage of this, you need speedy fullbacks who often overlap the attacking winger on their side, quickly sending in crosses or cutting the ball back to the back of the 18 for a late runner. We saw several good examples of this from Eli Lockaby against Greenville. But, the defensive side of the formation needs to cover. When the ball turns over the centerback pair and defensive midfield pair have to shift and communicate to cover the gap Richmond’s attacking fullback has left. The more the Kickers utilize these runs, and adjust their own defense to cover for them, the better their attack will operate.

Welcome to the Joe Show

Heading into the season, Joe Gallardo was one of a few players with a lot of attention on what exactly was their potential for the upcoming season. Fans of the Richmond KIckers and across the league, in general, had their eye on Aboubacar Keita, Charles Boateng, and Gallardo. The club confirmed today that Keita is still in Columbus with the Crew as he recovers from an injury sustained with the USMNT U-20. Boateng has made two appearances and looked strong in his one start, but Joe has taken the spotlight after his week four winner.

In Week One, he calmly stepped up to take a penalty kick. His effort on the defensive side of the ball and Saturday’s mazy, not-giving-up strike display are why Coach Bulow is so high on the young attacker. Joe leads the team in goals with two—tied for third in the league. Six chances created. And, he’s tied for 27th in shots and is Richmond’s leader in that category. Four matches at home lie ahead. It is time to lean into the confidence the team will have after their first victory, push the ball more and be willing to take more early chances to feed the attack into Gallardo.

Richmond return to City Stadium to take on the Chattanooga Red Wolves Saturday. Check back late this week for a match preview here on BGN Written.

Nathan Reynolds

Writer covering the Richmond Kickers in USL League One. Experience as a WordPress developer, editor, podcaster, and writer for European and US soccer leagues.