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Charlie Horton earns shutout for Richmond Kickers against Bethlehem Steel

Richmond maintains final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference

The Richmond Kickers fought Bethlehem Steel FC to a draw at City Stadium Saturday night. Charlie Horton secured his 2nd league shutout of the season, making two crucial saves in the process. Still, Richmond hoped to secure three points at home and avenge their frustrating away loss to Bethlehem back in April.

The Kickers’ Brian Ownby had a great opportunity in the 12th minute to put his team ahead early. The always dangerous Yudai Imura earned a foul to the right of the Bethlehem penalty area. Fred Owusu Sekyere's ensuing free kick found a sprinting Ownby, whose header bounced just wide of goal.

Though Richmond dominated possession throughout, Bethlehem had their own chance at goal just four minutes later. An accurate goal kick launched Bethlehem down the left side. Cole Missimo dribbled all the way to the touch line and cut the ball back to forward Seku Conneh. The 21 year-old Liberian striker made a cheeky back heel to the far side of goal, and Horton had to stretch to make the save.

The back and forth play continued in the 20th with Richmond's best chance of the half. Samuel Asante found space in the middle of the field and launched a perfect pass to Ownby. He was marked by two defenders, but collected the ball off his chest and found himself one-on-one with keeper Samir Badr, who had spent some time with D.C. United’s youth academy. Ownby's shot clipped Badr and rolled slowly towards goal, only to be cleared close to the line.

Bethlehem kept Charlie Horton honest by earning a free kick just outside the Richmond box in the 33rd minute. The attempt arced towards goal, but Horton followed it the whole way. He elected to let it ricochet off the top of the crossbar and watched it bounce out for a goal kick.

Richmond continued to dominate at home, but Horton came up big again in the 71st. A long Bethlehem throw-in was headed to James Chambers, and while falling to the ground, the Irishman made solid contact with the ball and directed it on goal. Luckily Horton was there the whole time, and it was never really in doubt. Horton cradled it to the ground and sent Bethlehem back towards their own half.

As they've done all season, Richmond nearly found a goal at the death. A speedy Richmond counterattack in the 90th minute had the Richmond fans on their feet. Sunny Jane made a solid shot on goal from just outside the penalty area, and the Bethlehem keeper had to deflect it towards the opposite side. Anthony Grant was there for the rebound, but to the chagrin of the fans, his goal was called back due to his being offside.

Always a measure of consistency, the Kickers are now 5-5-5 on the year. Still, they currently hold the final spot for the Eastern Conference playoffs. They hope to improve on that record next week against Charleston Battery, but they’ll have to do so on the road where they haven’t been very productive this season. Away from home, they’ve yet to win a match. However, against long-time rivals Charleston, expect Richmond to come out kicking.