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Richmond Kickers take down defending USL champs Rochester Rhinos

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A dazzling free kick nabs the Kickers’ 5th league win in a row

The Richmond Kickers traveled north Wednesday night to face defending USL champions Rochester Rhinos, both teams on thirty-two points going into the match. When these teams met in April, Richmond triumphed 1-0 at City Stadium with a Yudai Imura goal. Imura would make the difference again, this time in Rochester.

Richmond sought their 5th league win in a row while Rochester looked to improve from three consecutive 1-1 draws. Miguel Aguilar and Luke Mishu joined the starting lineup, but the goalkeeping carousel continued for Richmond. Andrew Dykstra was recalled by D.C. United this week, so New England Revolution’s Matt Turner returned in goal for the Kickers.

After a wild and emotional game against Red Bulls II just last weekend, Richmond came out with a slightly slower tempo. Rochester boasts a dominant defense up the middle, and the Kickers opted for a lot of side-to-side play. The defending champions nearly struck first in the 14th minute when Mike Garzi rattled the Richmond crossbar with a header.

Turner didn’t let the near goal affect him, as he made a confident save from a Steevan Dos Santos shot in the 21st minute. Immediately after, it looked like Richmond’s Anthony Grant had the first goal of the game but was called back for being in an offside position. Aguilar showed his grit when he took a knock in the 38th minute from Rochester’s Sean Totsch, who got a talking to from the referee. Luckily Aguilar shook it off and continued on, as he ended up with an impressive performance on the night.

Richmond’s best chance of the half came after Garzi was called for a handball twenty-five yards out from the Rochester goal. Sunny Jane claimed the set piece and placed a nice shot that arced just wide. Soon after, Rochester answered with a dangerous cross into the box that Mishu acrobatically cleared away. The back and forth play continued when Aguilar made a nifty move towards goal and Rochester resorted to pulling him down outside of the box, giving Richmond another dangerous set piece. Fred Owusu Sekyere chipped it towards goal but nothing doing, and the ensuing goal kick brought the half to an end.

In the 54th minute, Luke Mishu found space down the length of the middle of the field and created an attack for Richmond. Unfortunately his pass in front of goal to Sunny Jane was eventually stolen, and the Richmond back line was vulnerable to a counterattack. An accurate long ball found Christian Volesky streaking towards goal, and as defender Hugh Roberts tried to cut off the shooting lane, a lob from Volesky caught his arm. Penalty was called and Roberts was issued a yellow card.

Just like last week, Richmond was able to deny the penalty kick. Different keeper, same result. Volesky took the shot down the middle and low, and Turner, diving to his right, was able to reach back and deny the goal. Boosted by the saved penalty, Richmond found renewed confidence. Aguilar’s stellar game continued when he split two defenders, cut in towards goal, and ripped a shot from outside the box that passed over the bar.

Brian Ownby came on for Samuel Asante (who’d earned a yellow) and immediately made an impact. Racing up the left side, Ownby somehow made space and passed to Imura at the top of the box. In a dangerous position, Imura was pulled down by the Rochester defense. To defend the free kick, Rochester keeper Adam Grinwis trusted his wall a bit too much and shifted way to his right. Imura spotted the huge gap in goal, stepped up and crushed his free kick into the net, putting Richmond up 1-0. Always crucial, Imura earned his 8th goal on the season.

Richmond nearly doubled their lead when Aguilar made an amazing solo run from deep in Richmond territory all the way towards the Rochester goal. He drew several defenders in and sent a perfect pass to a wide open Luiz Fernando. Fernando took a touch one-on-one with the keeper, fired a shot, but unfortunately it ricocheted off the crossbar.

The same happened to Rochester at the other end. Pushing up to find the equalizer, the Rhinos packed bodies in front of the Richmond goal and a cross found Volesky wide open. Mishu raced over to close the space, but it was the crossbar that stopped Volesky from equalizing. After four minutes of hectic stoppage time, Richmond walked off with their 5th league win in a row.

This streak represents Richmond’s best since 2011, which they can tie with another victory this week. They look to keep their run of form alive with an away match this Saturday at FC Montreal, a team that’s lost seventeen games this season.