Richmond Kickers faced off with Toronto City FC II at City Stadium Saturday, the same night that both teams’ MLS partner clubs (D.C. United and Toronto City FC) played each other as well. The Kickers fell to Toronto on the road back in May, though it was a game they felt they should have won. At home and with a three-game winning streak at their backs, Richmond put those regrets to rest. Loanee Miguel Aguilar would play a big part in making that happen. Chris Durkin saw his second start in a row alongside Luke Mishu on the back line, both helping secure the shutout.
Richmond tried a new formation, with the hero of last week’s Swansea match, Anthony Grant, and Sunny Jane starting up top with Brian Ownby getting a much deserved rest. Aguilar gave support on the left side, and the always dangerous Yudai Imura assumed his central attacking midfield role.
Richmond dominated the first half with seven shots to Toronto’s one. Their first goal of the match came in the 11th minute and was Aguilar’s first this season. Fred Owusu Sekyere found space in the middle of the field and confidently dribbled the ball towards the Toronto goal. Picking his head up, he found Aguilar just outside the box. Aguilar made space to his left and fired a perfect shot between two defenders, bouncing it off the post and into goal. Keeper Phil Di Bennardo had no chance.
Minutes after, Di Bennardo’s day ended. Facing Anthony Grant one-on-one, he took a shot to his arm that sent him to the locker room. Toronto backup keeper Angelo Cavalluzzo took the field in his stead and was in for a long night.
Toronto expected Richmond to sit back after the half, but fortune wasn’t in their favor. Again Sekyere distributed the ball well in the midfield, this time finding Samuel Asante with space up the right side. Asante’s touch pushed the ball past a Toronto defender, and the two were locked in a foot race towards goal. Winning the battle, Asante was pulled down in the box and referee Guido Gonzalez, Jr. awarded a penalty kick. Yudai Imura stood over the ball and buried the penalty in the back of the net, earning his fifth goal of the year. It wouldn’t be his last of the evening.
In the 51st minute, Braeden Troyer subbed out for Alex Lee, creating fears that Troyer suffered his first injury scare of the season. He’s added an extra spark to the defense all year and maintains an attacking threat for Richmond up the left flank. Aguilar came off, too, in the 60th minute for Luiz Fernando.
Down two, Toronto pushed up to try and find an answer. In the 66th, Durkin lost his mark and midfielder Raheem Edwards made a cracking shot at goal that was saved by the fingertips of Matt Turner. Immediately after, however, Richmond put the contest to rest.
Play started when sub Alex Lee found space up the right side and passed to Luiz Fernando. With the speed Richmond fans have become accustomed to, Fernando juked around two defenders and sent the ball back to space at the top of the box. Imura was there with yet another of his signature first touch volleys and found the net. The score would stay 3-0 and Richmond moved to 8-6-5 on the season. With the shutout, they’re tied for second in the entire USL for fewest goals allowed (15).
Bolstered by solid performances from D.C. United loanees, Richmond seems to be peaking at the right time. Goals are finally flowing, and they head into the last eleven matches of the season on a four-game winning streak. Next Saturday, July 30th, their home stand continues as they host New York Red Bulls II. The last time these teams faced off, an incredible goal in stoppage time earned Richmond a point on the road.