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Richmond Kickers fall to Louisville City in USL Eastern Conference quarterfinals

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Andrew Dykstra kept 10-man Kickers team in the game for bulk of the match

A hard-fought season for the Richmond Kickers came to an end Sunday night as they lost a quarterfinal playoff game against Louisville City FC. On the road against a side that scored fifty-two goals during the regular season to Richmond’s thirty-three, the Kickers had a nightmare start after going down to ten men in the fourth minute. Still, it took Louisville 100 minutes to find a goal, eventually taking down Richmond in extra time 2-0.

Andrew Dykstra did well against a barrage of Louisville chances throughout the night, but unfortunately for D.C. United fans, Miguel Aguilar suffered an injury that forced him out of the match in the 84th minute.

The Kickers put themselves in a difficult position early in the game. Just four minutes in, midfielder Samuel Asante’s high kick connected with Magnus Rasmussen, who went down in a heap on the field. Rather than offer a stern warning, referee Andrew Musashe saw malice in the play and immediately showed a red card to Asante. Richmond players and coaches were livid, as the replay showed that Asante barely grazed Rasmussen. Still, with the studs up kick, Richmond was down to ten men with 85 minutes left to play. The Reds were determined and didn’t give up, showing heart and teamwork in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Even shorthanded, Richmond had the best early chance. In the seventh minute, Jason Yeisley headed the ball down to a wide open Brian Ownby, but Ownby’s one-touch strike sailed over the bar. The Kickers went close again soon thereafter when William Yomby directed a Scott Thomsen corner on target. Yomby’s header would have put Richmond ahead but for the quick reflexes of keeper Greg Ranjitsingh, who stretched a foot out to deny Richmond.

From there, it was up to Dykstra to keep Richmond in the game. A Louisville set piece from Cameron Lancaster tested him in the 21st minute when it curved through heavy traffic towards the far post. Dykstra was able to parry it away and out of danger. In the 37th minute, he pulled in a curving set piece from Aodhan Quinn that was headed for goal. In all, Louisville took thirty-three shots to Richmond’s eight, with Dykstra making ten saves.

After the break, Yomby almost caught the Louisville keeper off his line when he took an on-target shot from near the halfway line. Ranjitsingh was able to scramble back and cradle it, however. In the 82nd minute, with overtime in sight, Miguel Aguilar hustled back quickly to deny a Kadeem Dacres cross. As he arrived, Dacres made his kick and clipped Aguilar’s ankle, sending him to the turf. Aguilar winced in pain on the ground and was eventually helped off by trainers. Jackson Eskay had to be subbed on in his stead.

The Kickers had to play physical to stay in it, garnering four yellow cards in addition to the red. The end of regulation signaled the possibility of surviving to penalty kicks, but it wasn’t meant to be. Two minutes into extra time, strength in numbers finally came to bear for Louisville. Several passes stretched Richmond’s defense, and a quick through ball from Quinn found a sprinting George Davis IV, a former Kicker. Davis took no mercy on his former squad and fired the ball home underneath Dykstra to the far post.

Louisville sealed the deal ten minutes later, as Richmond’s exhaustion showed. The Kickers turned the ball over midfield, and Dacres sent substitute Chandler Hoffman in towards goal. Yomby tried to make the tackle, but Hoffman sprinted by. He moved around a diving Dykstra, and at a tough angle, was able to fire the ball home.

With their 2-0 win, Louisville punched their ticket to the USL semifinals against Charleston Battery. After upsetting FC Cincinnati on Sunday, Charleston now travels to Louisville to try and keep their postseason alive.

Though early in the year Richmond had trouble finishing, they achieved a ten-match unbeaten streak through July and August that included seven wins. Their partnership with United saved the day when starting keeper Ryan Taylor went out with a torn ACL back in April. Dykstra, Travis Worra and Charlie Horton all saw substantial playing time in goal with Richmond this season. In addition, Aguilar, Luke Mishu and Jalen Robinson contributed greatly to the squad’s success, earning significant playing time and valuable experience on the pitch.

The United Soccer League has recently lobbied to be considered second tier in the U. S. soccer hierarchy, and deservedly so. With more expansion teams from MLS franchises and more USL teams with top flight aspirations, the competition continues to get tougher and tougher. Though this is good for youth soccer development in the United States, it’s made things increasingly difficult for the old firms of USL in small markets (see the Wilmington Hammerheads potentially moving to Baltimore). In the face of this adversity, Richmond continues to be a dominant club in the Eastern Conference. With their partnership with D. C. United set for the 2017 season, both squads will only grow stronger.