Having not won a match since May 18, the Richmond Kickers faced a tough challenge against FC Cincinnati, who have done well in their debut season. Both teams were eliminated from U.S. Open Cup play by NASL clubs last week, meaning each wanted to bounce back from poor tournament performances with a league win. The match did not disappoint.
Adverse weather kept the record-breaking crowds that have been turning out at Nippert Stadium home. In fact, lightning was reported within 6 miles of the match just 30 seconds after the opening whistle. As such, the game was postponed for 45 minutes until the weather cleared up.
Richmond's starting 11 lacked perennial starter Samuel Asante, as the Ghanian midfielder was suspended following a confrontation with FC Montreal last week. Fred Owusu Sekyere would get the start in his place. D.C. United loanee Charlie Horton was in goal for Richmond for the 4th time this season. The Kickers went into the game with a defensive mindset, as forward Jason Yeisley was noticeably absent.
The first ten minutes saw a lot of open play with the teams trading attacks up and down the pitch. Cincinnati struck first in the 12th minute following a Lucas Paulini foul. The home team made a quick restart and sent in a pass to the middle of the box. Hugh Roberts attempted to clear, but ended up sending the ball backwards towards goal. Horton tried to catch it, but lost control as he went to ground. A waiting Sean Okoli was there for the rebound and put his team ahead.
Richmond fought on, with Anthony Grant having a nice downward header from a Yudai Imura cross in the 21st minute. A Cincinnati body got in the way and cleared the attempt. Cincinnati's Eric Stevenson received a yellow card in the 25th minute after blatantly elbowing Travis Pittman in the middle of the field. Pittman responded in the right way three minutes later with a solid shot on target from 30 yards out. Down early, Leigh Cowlishaw decided to bring in veteran forward Yeisley for Grant, making a rare first-half substitution.
Horton made a big stop in the 40th minute to keep the game in reach. A nice series of passes from Cincinnati resulted in a shot in the box from former Philadelphia Union midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin, and the 6'5" Horton was able to stretch in the air to make the save. Going into the half, Richmond had played well against a confident and physical Cincinnati team, but the scoreboard didn't reflect it.
Just after the break, Luiz Fernando came on for Imura to add a spark to the attack. Still, the home team dominated possession early in the half and had three nice chances in short order. One of those was kept out by the fingertips of Horton, which denied McLaughlin a second time. The US youth international had yet another save in the 59th when a cracking shot came off his chest, but he was able to cover and deny Cincinnati the rebound.
Richmond had an opportunity to equalize in the 72nd when a Pittman cross from the right side found an open Yeisley. The ensuing header was powerful but straight at keeper Mitch Hildebrandt. As at the opening, midfield play was absent as both teams had several chances in front of goal, with Cincinnati trying to put in the dagger and Richmond working hard to draw even.
At the conclusion, the three minutes of stoppage time contained enough action and excitement for an entire match. It went down like this: Yeisley played the ball forward to Brian Ownby, who crossed to Braeden Troyer. Troyer headed the ball down to Yeisley, whose shot was blocked out for a corner. The dead ball delivery found Yeisley, who rattled the crossbar with a header. Immediately after, another cross into the Cincinnati box found Hugh Roberts, whose header was bobbled by the keeper. Ownby ran in hoping for a rebound, and a scrum developed between Hildebrandt, Roberts and Ownby. Roberts was shown an unwarranted yellow. Hildebrandt had to be held back by his teammates, upset about the physical play in the box.
Though carded, Roberts would be the hero for Richmond. He found his first goal of the year, and it couldn't come at a better time. As the clock showed 93 minutes, Richmond stole the ball in the Cincinnati half, and Yeisley sent in a through ball to Ownby down the right side. Under pressure from the opposing side and with the game on the line, Ownby somehow found the energy to send the perfect cross to Roberts in front of goal. Usually an aerial specialist, Roberts' foot would be the savior for the Kickers. The home crowd was stunned, and Richmond elated as the hard-fought effort of the Kickers was finally reflected on the score sheet as the match came to a close.
This was the second time this season Richmond evened the score in the last minutes of an away match. They return home this Saturday to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a squad with only one win this season. Also, for the third year in a row, Richmond will host a Premier League club for a friendly this summer. The front office announced this week that Swansea City - you may have heard some news about them recently - will visit City Stadium July 16th on its tour of the United States.