The Richmond Kickers and D.C. United today announced the players that United will loan down to the River City, sending Joe Willis, Jalen Robinson, Christiano Francois, and Michael Seaton on long-term loan. All of these four were expected to be sent south so that they can gain additional playing time and develop or, in the case of Joe Willis, stay sharp for when he is needed back in the District. Previous loans were only for each individual preseason games; these are the initial four players who are to be in Richmond indefinitely. While these four are on long-term loan, they are eligible for recall to D.C. United at any time; also, I would expect to see other United players see some time in Richmond as well throughout the season.
All four players seem likely to be starters on opening day, but some face more competition for their spots than others. The transition of Jalen Robinson from center back to right back is likely to begin in Richmond, where he will compete against returning fullbacks Sascha Goerres and Alex Lee. I would think that Robinson would push the 34-year-old German player-coach to the bench, with Lee moving to left back. However, when Robinson first takes the field will depend on when he is fully healthy and recovered from his hamstring strain.
Michael Seaton will have to compete against Kickers all-time leading scorer Matthew Delicate, should he be signed, who has appeared in a couple of preseason games and scored a first half hattrick in a recent preseason game. Delicate was thought to be gone, having told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that 2013 was his list season with the Kickers, but his return in preseason games shows that Leigh Cowlishaw wants him back. Seaton started over Delicate for most of the season, but Cowlishaw chose the veteran to start in both playoff games.
Joe Willis is a guarantee to start every game for which he is with Richmond, and Christiano Francois looks to be the starter on the right wing. Brian Ownby and Nate Robinson, two of Richmond's best players last season and the team's two wingers, have both left the team. Ownby returned to the Houston Dynamo, from whom he was loaned, and Robinson went on trial with a team in Scandinavia where he tore his ACL. If I had to guess, I would think that Robinson, who was the 2013 USL PRO rookie of the year, will sign with the Kickers sometime this season, however.
One notable absence from this list is midfielder Collin Martin, who has featured heavily in the Richmond Kickers preseason games. It is additionally surprising due to the fact that the team currently lacks a true attacking midfielder, a role into which it looked like Martin would have been able to immediately step. However, due to the issues with D.C. United's attack so far this season, perhaps Martin will be thrust into the lineup sooner rather than later. Michael Seaton could benefit from Martin's absence and start alongside Delicate; George Davis IV, a USL PRO veteran, could also benefit from Martin's absence. However, Martin would step into that role should he be loaned to Richmond later in the year.
Another notable absence from this list is Conor Shanosky, who spent most of the season with Richmond but who also battled some injuries. Shanosky would be competing against returning Richmond Kickers William Yomby, Henry Kalungi, and Shane Johsnon, as well as the recently signed Hugh Roberts. Yomby was a finalist for defender of the year last season, and both he and Kalungi made the first team all-league (even though I think that Kalungi had a down year). Kalungi is also battling to return to the Ugandan national team, to which he has not been called in recently; last week he was on trial in South Africa, but appeared for the Kickers in their most recent preseason game. However, for the most part Shanosky started over Kalungi and with Yomby last season when all were available for selection.
What do you think of the loanees to Richmond? Anyone going to come out for some games this season?