Just as we have done for the past two years, we will give you an introduction to the Richmond Kickers, D.C. United's USL affiliate. The rumor is that this might be the last season of the affiliation, with D.C. United reportedly looking at starting their own USL team as soon as next year, so we must appreciate the Kickers while we can. If you have any other questions about the Kickers, let me know in the comments and I will try and find the answers for you.
2014 Results: The Kickers got off the a roaring start, losing only one game in their first 23. However, they went winless in their last five games and faded from second to fourth. They beat arch-rivals Charleston Battery in the first round of the playoffs before falling 2-3 to the Harrisburg City Islanders in the semifinals.
2014 D.C. United loanees: Conor Shanosky and Joe Willis spent the most time with the Richmond Kickers last season; the Kickers were undefeated with Willis in goal. Other D.C. United players who made at least one appearances include Steve Birnbaum, Alex Caskey, Collin Martin, Kyle Porter, Michael Seaton, Taylor Kemp, and Jared Jeffrey. Jalen Robinson was loaned to the Kickers but then recalled and loaned to Arizona United, where he could get more playing time. Christiano Francois was loaned to the Kickers but cut by United midseason.
2015 projected loanees: Whomever ends up as D.C. United's third goalkeeper, whether it be Travis Worra or Scott Goodwin, is a lock to spend a good amount of time in Richmond this season. Michael Seaton, when he gets healthy, seems likely to go to Richmond as well. Collin Martin has not been getting much time in the preseason, having played only about 100 minutes so far, so he might be sent to Richmond for the beginning of the season. Jalen Robinson less than a half hour of preseason action this season, so he seems very likely to go on loan. Miguel Aguilar is another player who seems to be right for Richmond, and then there will probably be one or two more who make appearances throughout the season.
New Faces: The big name that the Kickers have signed this season is Brian Ownby, who joined them on-loan from the Houston Dynamo in 2013. A native of Richmond and a graduate of the Richmond Strikers academy, Ownby is a winger who was key to the Kickers attack in their 2013 Commisioner's Cup winning season.
Departed Players: There are two major absences so far from last year's team, at least so far. Luke Vercollone, last year's captain, has left to return home to Colorado Springs to play for the Switchbacks. Henry Kalungi, the team's typical captain, was injured in the midseason friendly against Crystal Palace and has not yet signed a new contract with the Kickers; it is unknown if he will or not.
Style of Play: The Richmond Kickers typically play a 4-2-3-1, where Matthew Delicate is the lead striker. He is very good in the air, so he can knock down balls to the attacking midfielders or just score headers on his own. The central attacking midfielder often plays very high, similar to the role Luis Silva plays, and the fullbacks will get up the field as well.
League History: The Richmond Kickers were founded in 1993 and played their inaugural season in the United States Interregional Soccer League. After the turmoil of soccer leagues starting and ending in the early and mid 1990s, the team ended up in the A-League, which had combined the American Professional Soccer League and the USISL. The team self-relegated from the USL First Division, the successor to the A-League, to the USL Second Division in 2006, and has remained on the third tier of the US Soccer Pyramid since then. This is their fifth season in what is now known as just USL.
Silverware: 1995 US Open Cup, 1995 USISL Premier League Trophy, 2001 A-League Regular Season Champions, 2006 USL-2 Regular Season Champions, 2006 USL-2 Champions, 2007 USL-2 Regular Season Champions, 2009 USL-2 Champions, 2013 USL PRO Regular Season Champions.
Coach and Director of Soccer: You already know this, but the coach of the Richmond Kickers is Leigh Cowlishaw, who has been with the team ever since it was founded in 1993. Cowlishaw retired due to failing knees in 1999 and took over the reigns of the club in 2000. He also served as the head coach of the University of Richmond men's soccer team in 2012, which was that team's last season before being disbanded in favor of a lacrosse team.
Owner: Technically, the Richmond Kickers Youth Soccer Club, a 501c3 non-profit company, bought the team in 2009. However, Rob Ukrop is the primary figure behind all of it. Ukrop is locally famous as being a member of the Ukrop family of grocery store owner, which was recently bought out by Giant and turned into Martins. However, the Ukrop family business still makes all of the hot prepared food in the stores. Ukrop also played for the Kickers in the inaugural season and returned to the Kickers after a brief sojourn that included time with the New England Revolution, where he scored the first two goals in their history.
Notable Alumni: Some former Kickers whose names you might recognize include Dwayne De Rosario, Richie Williams, Clyde Simms, Bryan Namoff, Brian Carroll, and Mark Simpson. All told, there have been 22 Kickers players that have gone from the team to play in MLS, and that doesn't count any of their loanees from MLS teams.
Mascot: Kickeroo. Kickeroo is the kangaroo mascot of the Richmond Kickers. He been a number of different colors, including blue, then a dark reddish-brown, and now tan. Like most mascots, including Talon, he combines the strange and the delightful.
Stadium: Building a soccer specific stadium is one of the top items on their wish list, but City Stadium remains their home for now. City Stadium was built in 1929 and was originally the home of the University of Richmond Spiders football team; however, since 2009 the Kickers have been the only regular tenant at the stadium. It is mere blocks from one of Richmond's primary entertainment districts, Carytown. It is rundown, but they now sell beer at the games, and it also has air conditioning in the press box and a moon-bounce, two things that RFK does not have. The team is looking to build its own stadium, but there haven't been any updates on that progress in awhile.
Academy: The Kickers founded their own Academy in 2000, and in 2014 they merged with the other US Soccer Development Academy in Richmond, the Richmond Strikers, to form Richmond United. A couple of players from the academy have made appearances for the senior team in limited substitute appearances before going off the college.