Richmond began their U.S. Open Cup campaign with a win over Aromas Cafe F.C., a club out of Charlottesville, Virginia. The Kickers have struggled to score goals in league play this season and saw the match as an opportunity to build confidence.
As was expected, coach Leigh Cowlishaw gave players not normally in the starting eleven the chance to get substantial game-time. Anthony Grant, Sunny Jane and Romulo Peretta took point with Jackson Eskay playing close behind. Charlie Horton, a D.C. United loanee, served as keeper and made several saves over the course of the match. Sascha Gorres, the player/coach on the squad, got his first start of the season as well.
Richmond set the tone early as Sunny Jane buried a set piece from the top of the box in the 2nd minute. The Kickers continued to control possession over the course of the match, with the away squad playing deep and only one forward up top. Lucas Paulini tried to get in on the action with a crack at goal from outside the box in the 6th minute, but his shot sailed wide.
The Aromas' lone forward was Jake Van Yahres, a VCU alum who scored the winning goal last week to advance his squad to the second round of the tournament. In the 18th minute he was brought down in the penalty area, but to the dismay of his team, no call was given. Three minutes later, Horton looked strong in the area going up to cradle a long ball in the box. He collided with Douglas Clare, who sustained a head injury and needed to be bandaged up on the sidelines before returning to the game.
Richmond's back line, too, saw the game as a welcome opportunity to get on the score sheet. A quick set piece from Paulini was sent in to a wide open William Yomby, who made an excellent, unmarked run at goal. He headed the ball to himself, but slipped on the pitch in reaching to make the strike. Meanwhile, his wingman Hugh Roberts cleaned up, finding the net and earning his first goal of the year.
Roberts wasn't done. A few minutes later, he stole the ball in the Kickers' half, dribbled past midfield around several defenders and made a clean pass to Jane. Sunny sent in a nice cross to Grant, but his header was just wide. Fatigue plagued the Aromas early, as defender David Deaton was subbed on in the 32nd. Richmond's Travis Pittman consistently found room up the right side, sending in a cross to Peretta in the 44th, but the ball was again headed wide.
The goal harvest continued at the opening of the 2nd half as Ryan Grant found his first of the season in the 46th. Pittman sent in a beautiful ball behind the defense to Grant, who's difficult shot had a helping bounce off the crossbar and into the net. Soon after, Aromas regained their composure with a swift counterattack and a Van Yahres shot blocked out for a corner. In the 55th, Horton had yet another save after an Aromas counter.
Richmond's Jackson Eksay had a shot off the crossbar in the 61st minute before being subbed off for Luiz Ferando in the 68th. The "San Paulo Connection" made an impact in the 83rd. Romulo Peretta made a run up the left side and sent in a cross, which was headed by the Aromas to the top of the box. Fernando gathered it up, fired, and banked his first goal of the season.
The 4-0 win was exactly what Richmond needed to build confidence moving into the rest of their league campaign. Always stout defensively and consistent in the midfield, the Kickers still need to find more routes to the back of the net. Wednesday night proved their ability to do so.
Richmond's next Cup game is in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in two weeks. The winner moves on to play D.C. United, potentially pitting the two partner-clubs against each other. In league play, Richmond played league-leader Louisville City FC last night.