What’s Going Right, Richmond Kickers First Home Win

After a shaky start to the season, the Richmond Kickers have battled through injuries and suspensions to produce back-to-back clean sheet victories.

Heading into Saturday night’s contest, the Richmond Kickers had won just once in eleven matches. The first was a 3-2 over Penn FC—a future USL League One club—back on August 18, 2018 and prior to that, a 2-0 victory against the Charleston Battery on June 9, 2018. Winning on the road last week was great for the team but winning at City Stadium may have been more important for the fans.

Six straight points have lifted Richmond into fifth place, only missing a playoff spot due to goal difference. Hopefully, the squad is beginning to click into Coach Bulow’s system and we are seeing the results of a distinct style of play.

It was a great night for the #RVAisRED faithful, here are three big takeaways:

Matt Bolduc

Now one of only four players to start in all of Richmond’s matches this season, Bolduc had put in solid shifts as the left-sided attacker. Saturday, filling in for Eli Lockaby at right back, Bolduc showed his skills as one of the club’s most versatile players. Unless he is injured (or needs a rest due to schedule hardships), he has earned himself a guaranteed place on the field and provided the Kickers with options for how to use him.

It is the eye test—not straight stats—that tell us to expect Bolduc on the field. He didn’t lead the team in passes, tackles, or crosses but he was influential the entire game. Bolduc helped shut down the Chattanooga offense and linked up with Mwape several times down the right-side attacking flank. By the end of the match, Bolduc had seamlessly transitioned back into the left attacking role. Having a player that can switch between right-back and attacking midfielder on the left is indispensable—in this league—in any league—and especially for a newly built squad like Richmond’s.


Hold The Line

Saturday marked Richmond’s third clean sheet in five matches. The Kickers have now played 221 minutes at home without conceding a goal. While Richmond’s shots on goal, and ultimately goals, may still be in second gear, this lockdown defense is providing the team with a strong base to build on.

Richmond’s back line, even in its ever-changing lineup, can stand proudly knowing they are as strong as those defending Winterfell or the host working to restore half the population of the universe. Switch between Shanosky and Magalhaes? Richmond rolls on. Sub in a player previously only used for the attack in for the right-back? Richmond says no issue.

With Bulow’s style of play it is important for the Kicker’s back line (and Maxi Rodriguez) to not only defend well but be comfortable on the ball, playing out of the back—regardless of the opponent’s style and formation. The one knock on the defense this season has been Lansing Ignite with two matches and six goals given up.

By an odd quirk of the new league’s schedule, Richmond and Lansing will meet for their third and final time in the regular season on Saturday. No opening day hiccups. Hopefully no soft red cards interrupting the match. And no baseball pitch. A win on Saturday and Richmond can put to bed those demons.

The Joe Show Rolls On

It’s not hard to see that Joe Gallardo is thriving in the number ten role for the Richmond Kickers. Another goal and another 1-0 victory for the young attacker. With his third goal of the year Gallardo now sits tied for second in the Golden Boot race, just one goal behind the league leader Richardo Pepi from North Texas SC. Richmond had three shots on target Saturday—all three coming from Joe. As he grows in confidence his drives, shots, and goals will only increase. Which is great for Kickers fans who witnessed an average of less than a goal a game in 2018.

Meanwhile, the jigsaw pieces around Gallardo continue to fall into place. Mwape looked lively creating chances and stretching the Chattanooga backline. Chin kept Chattanooga on their toes with speed seemed may be better suited on the flank instead of the central striker position we saw him in. Bringing DJ more into the match is something the attack has yet to fully figure out. Meanwhile, Charles Boateng and Amass Amankona provide the club with two great options based on their appearances so far in 2019. And let’s not forget all the good things I had to say about Matt Bolduc above.

Gallardo did come off limping in the 79th minute of this weeks game, let’s hope it’s nothing serious.

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.