The Tampa Bay Rowdies lived up to their nom de guerre as they faced off with Richmond Kickers in a physical match at City Stadium.
Richmond stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation, albeit with a few players shuffled for Saturday night’s match. Chris Durkin was welcomed back to the lineup as a defensive midfielder, while Yudai Imura started beside him in a more central attacking role. Luiz Gonzalez got the start on the left side, and backed up Anthony Grant along with Sunny Jane and Raul Gonzalez.
The first 15 minutes saw Richmond take it to Tampa Bay. With their lack of attack his season, scoring against the Rowdies would make a statement and the Kickers came out hungry. They created an early chance in the 4th minute after winning a free kick on the left side just outside the penalty area. Gonzalez sent in a dangerous cross, but defender and header specialist Conor Shanosky couldn’t quite reach it and the ball sailed out for a goal kick.
Tampa Bay lost Leo Fernandes to injury early in the game, as he was subbed off in the 21st minute for midfielder Darwin Jones. Jones would end up making an impact for his squad.
In the 26th minute Tampa Bay fought back with a good chance of their own. Richmond defender Alex Lee did well to get back on defense and stop a left-side thrust by Tampa Bay. Shoved in the back, he involuntarily kicked the ball out for a Tampa Bay corner. Formerly of Sunderland, Neill Collins made a powerful header that thankfully was off target for Richmond, rocketing wide-left of goal.
When the season’s not going your way, bad luck seems to mount. In the 64th minute, Tampa Bay received a controversial free kick at the top of the box when Darwin Jones drove towards goal with space. Shanosky stepped into Jones’s run and blocked the ball away, but Jones went down in a heap. It looked as if Shanosky made contact with the ball more than the man, but the referee was in a good position to make a call. Unfortunately he gave Tampa Bay a free kick.
Marcel Schafer’s shot deflected off the Kickers’ wall and past a diving Turner into the net. Like with the Charleston penalty call last week, an iffy decision by the center referee resulted in Richmond falling behind after controlling possession for most of the game.
Joe Cole, former England national team player, nearly put his team ahead 2-0 when he pushed past Shanosky and found himself one-on-one with Richmond keeper Matt Turner. As Cole wound up his shot, Mallan Roberts came sliding in to deflect the ball and kept the Kickers in the game.
Leigh Cowlishaw made a crucial change in the 65th minute that changed the course of the match. He brought off striker Anthony Grant for newly signed Franck Tayou, who only joined the team this week. Tayou was born in Cameroon but grew up in Las Vegas. He led West Virginia University to the NCAA tournament both seasons he played for the Mountaineers, and spent his post-collegiate career in arena soccer with Soles de Sonora in Mexico. There he led the league with 47 goals in 20 games during the 2015/2016 season. Last year, he signed with USL club San Antonio FC, where he scored five goals and earned the nickname “Franck the Tank” before rejoining his arena club towards the end of the year. San Antonio’s loss is Richmond’s gain.
The Kickers looked to have lost the match, but in his first week with the team, Tayou dazzled fans. Deep in stoppage time, Durkin collected the ball midfield and sent in a long pass into the box. Roberts had moved forward to win balls in the air, and he headed the ball back to the edge of the penalty area to an unmarked Tayou. On the volley, he fired a shot to the far post and leveled the game with only seconds remaining. The 1-1 tie felt like a win after effectively battling a top of the table team and finally getting on the scoring sheet.
Next week, Richmond hosts Charlotte Independence at City Stadium, a middle of the table team that the Kickers can earn points from. Cowlishaw has a decision make, as it would seem Tayou earned a start up top for the Kickers. The following week they head out on the road to face Bethlehem Steel FC, a club based outside Philadelphia where the Kickers lost last season.