The Richmond Kickers ended their regular season campaign with a loss on the road in Wilmington, North Carolina. With a record of 12-9-9 on the year, the Kickers finished with forty-five points and seventh in the table. Saturday’s defeat means they’ll have to face Louisville City FC on the road this weekend.
Wilmington needed to secure three points to keep their playoff hopes alive and they set out to do just that. With talk of the team potentially moving to Baltimore and the playoffs on the line, the home crowd came out in force at Legion Stadium. Andrew Dykstra looked solid for the Kickers early, but couldn’t keep out the flurry of Wilmington chances throughout the night.
In the 15th minute, the D.C. United backup made an incredible diving save to deny Justin Moose’s cracking shot from the top of the box. On the ensuing corner, Dykstra tipped an on-target header over the bar. With the next corner, Richmond wouldn’t be so lucky. The ball bounced around the box and the Kickers were unable to clear. Wilmington’s Liam Miller tried a dramatic bicycle kick that was on its way out, but Matt Barnes-Homer ended up redirecting and headed the ball home. It appeared that Dykstra was impeded in the box during the play, but referee Patrick Schmidt sided with the home team.
Down 1-0, Richmond tried to answer ten minutes later when Braeden Troyer raced up from the back and sent in a cross to Brian Ownby but was denied by defender Bruno Perone. To make matters worse, the speedy Richmond defender sustained an injury and was subbed off in the 34th minute for Alex Lee. Troyer, always steady at the back and strong in the attack, couldn’t get injured at a worst time with playoffs looming.
At halftime, Leigh Cowlishaw made four substitutions to try and reverse the tide, sending on Mathew Delicate and Jason Yeisley to bolster the attack. They controlled possession at the start of the second half, but Wilmington found a way to double their lead in the 64th minute. Another Hammerheads corner saw the ball clumsily bounce off defender Michael Mecham and into the goal.
Richmond had their chances to get back into the game. Ownby made a cracking shot that forced keeper Eric Ati to make a save. Soon after, Hugh Roberts made an excellent long-throw into the Wilmington box that Richmond defender William Yomby headed into the post. Mike Callahan, on at the half, had an opportunity on the left side of goal but couldn’t put his shot on target.
The Kickers kept up the pressure. A corner in the 72nd saw Roberts head the ball on target, but the Wilmington defense headed it over the bar to safety. With their next corner, Matthew Delicate nearly tallied a goal, but his header rattled the crossbar.
Though they came close, Richmond couldn’t find the net and the match ended with a 2-0 loss to Wilmington. Even with the victory, the Hammerheads had to await the outcome of the Orlando City B match against Bethlehem Steel to know their playoff fate. Unfortunately for Wilmington, their win wasn’t enough, as Orlando dispatched Bethlehem and clinched the final playoff spot in the eastern conference. Meanwhile, Richmond prepares to travel to a dangerous Louisville team that’s won four of their last five. The USL playoffs are on.