The Richmond Kickers’ ten match unbeaten streak was broken on the road in Louisville Saturday night. A stagnant offense resulted in eighteen shots from Louisville to just one from Richmond. Though two shots on goal slipped by him, Andrew Dykstra made several crucial saves to keep Richmond in the game.
Unfortunately for the Kickers, Louisville’s opening goal came from a strange penalty call in the 18th minute. Following an Orlando set piece, the ball bounced around awkwardly in the box and Richmond’s Samuel Asante managed to clear it only as far as the edge of the penalty area. There, veteran midfielder Brian Ownby attempted his own clearance, but Kadeem Dacres came running up behind and collided with Ownby.
Going to ground and asking for medical assistance, play was stopped for Dacres while Ownby pleaded his case to no avail. Worse for the Kickers, and to the surprise of both the fans and the announcers, referee Brandon Artis awarded a penalty kick, not a set piece on the edge of the box, after Dacres trotted off the field. By all accounts the contact with Ownby, if egregious at all, happened outside the area.
Nonetheless, Cameron Lancaster stepped up and buried the penalty past Dykstra. Louisville’s 1-0 lead put Richmond in a hole they would not be able to climb out of. Still, Dykstra had a strong game and parried away most of the barrage sent at him from Louisville. Just four minutes after the goal, Lancaster threatened again with a set piece just outside of the box that curled in towards goal. Even in heavy traffic, Dykstra confidently punched the ball out a safe distance.
Louisville continued their attack after the break and doubled their lead. In the 55th minute, on the counterattack, Magnus Rasmussen had a cracking shot from 25 yards out that Dykstra got a hand to but couldn’t keep out of the net.
Down by two, Leigh Cowlishaw threw everything he had at Louisville in the 60th minute when he made a quadruple substitution (note: USL teams can make up to five subs), completely replacing the top of the formation. Still, Richmond didn’t have an answer for Louisville, and the home side continued to create the best chances. In the 69th minute, Dykstra made another fantastic save to deny Lancaster. Passes in quick succession resulted in Rasmussen finding an open Lancaster outside the Richmond box. Lancaster had space, dribbled into the penalty area, and fired a rocket to the top right side of goal but was denied by a leaping Dykstra.
The night ended with a 2-0 loss, but Dykstra looked poised amid the Louisville onslaught. The controversial penalty call early in the game created an uphill battle for the Kickers against a strong and high-scoring team in Louisville City FC.
Richmond returns to City Stadium for two home games this week. They’ll have to find an offensive answer quickly as they face on-the-rise Charlotte Independence Wednesday, September 14th, and long-time rivals Charleston Battery Saturday, September 17th. Their final game of the regular season comes on the road against Wilmington Hammerheads September 24th. Assured a playoff position, Richmond probably needs to win out to claim a top four spot in the standings, therefore securing a home playoff game in October.