The Richmond Kickers had hopes of hosting a playoff match, but those were dashed after falling 2-1 to the Charleston Battery Saturday night. It was the first time the Kickers lost at home since May 28th. The final game at City Stadium in 2016 saw Richmond go ahead early from a penalty kick, but Charleston roared back in the second half to steal the win. The Kickers had 21 shots to Charleston’s twelve, but the away side made their chances count. Both sides were playing for a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference standings, and at the end of the day, Richmond fell to seventh in the table while Charleston sits in fifth (only one point behind fourth place).
Andrew Dykstra started in goal for Richmond, and Miguel Aguilar again joined the starting eleven. Dykstra came up big early when he blocked a point blank shot from Charleston’s always dangerous Romario Williams. Just two minutes later, he punched out a Charleston corner that was then fired back at goal. Hugh Roberts was there to deny the strike, and Dykstra collected the rebound.
Richmond answered with an attack of their own. Roberts was at the center of the action again in the 19th minute when he headed a Richmond corner just wide of goal. It looked as if he was brought in the box, but the referee saw nothing in it. The up and down play continued minutes later when Charleston’s Williams struck the ball from an acute angle towards the right side of goal and rattled the post.
A breakthrough came in the 33rd minute. With a cheeky stepover in the danger area, Anthony Grant made space and struck the ball directly in front of goal. Defender Shawn Ferguson turned his back to the shot and the ball clearly bounced off his right arm. Without hesitation, referee Gary Gutierrez awarded Richmond a penalty kick. Yudai Imura tallied his tenth goal of the season with a stutter step in his run-up before shooting to the right side of the net, putting Richmond up 1-0.
Aguilar drew a foul in the 37th minute after a nice give and go with Grant. Ferguson again was mired in controversy, earning a yellow card as he shoved Aguilar down and cleared the ball away after play was stopped. Aguilar came off at the half in favor of Brian Ownby, who’s still recovering from a concussion suffered several weeks against Orlando City B.
Just after the break, Samuel Asante made a brave run at the Charleston goal, outpacing two defenders. His shot was low and to the far post, but keeper Alex Tambakis was able to get a foot to it and block the attempt.
Charleston’s rally kicked off in the 71st minute. The Battery took a quick free kick and crossed into the box, and Richmond’s defenders juggled the ball and weren’t able to clear it. Meanwhile Williams, the bane of the home fans throughout the match, found the ball at his feet and fired a rocket to the top of the near side. His goal drew Charleston even 1-1.
A deflection would see Richmond lose their final home match of the season. Quick movement from Charleston resulted in Maikel Chang driving at goal and firing a shot that deflected off Hugh Roberts. The change in direction curved the ball out of reach of Dykstra and into the top right corner, putting Charleston ahead 2-1 with only minutes left to play. Richmond frantically tried to find the equalizer, creating several chances that went by the wayside. The loss snuffed out hopes for a home playoff match, though the Kickers are still a lock for a postseason appearance.
On a positive note, Richmond set a regular season attendance record with 6,123 fans at City Stadium. They end their campaign this Saturday, September 24th, away at Wilmington Hammerheads FC (this could be the last game ever for the Hammerheads in Wilmington, as rumors about their move to Baltimore continue to swirl). Even with a win, Richmond won’t be able to secure home field advantage during the playoffs. However, a win and a Charleston loss next week could send Richmond further up the table, giving them a more favorable match-up for the first playoff game.