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Richmond Kickers 2017 USL Preview

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Can the Kickers re-find their goal-scoring touch this year?

Year Founded: 1993 (tied for the oldest continuously operating professional soccer team in the United States with the Charleston Battery)

Affiliation: D.C. United

2016 record, place in Conference standings: 12-9-9, 7th in the Eastern Conference

2016 playoffs: Lost 2-0 in the first round to Louisville City FC after extra time

Key additions: Defender Evan Lee (from FC Cincinnati); midfielder Oliver Minatel (from Puerto Rico); midfielder Patrick McCann (from Sligo Rovers)

Key departures: Starting center back Hugh Roberts (signed by Bethlehem Steel); all-time leading scorer Matthew Delicate (retired); midfielder Brian Ownby (signed by Louisville City FC)

Projected/ideal starting XI (4-2-3-1): This assumes that certain D.C. United loanees are available:

Marcel DeBellis; Braeden Troyer, Conor Shanosky, William Yomby, Alex Lee; Chris Durkin, Samuel Asante; Luiz Fernando, Yudai Imura, Oliver Minatel; Alhaji Kamara

The Richmond Kickers have been consistently successful for most of their history, and are currently on a 13-year-long run of making the playoffs. The won the Commissioners’ Cup, the then-name for the USL’s equivalent of the Supporters’ Shield, in 2013. This is their first season back in the second tier of US soccer since 2005 and they are looking to keep the momentum going against new opponents both backed by MLS teams and independent.

The Richmond Kickers’ main problem down the stretch was their offense. After a six game winning streak in the middle of the summer, it shut down: they scored 5 goals in their last eight games and just one in their last four. Coach Leigh Cowlishaw specifically mentioned Alhaji Kamara on the Total Soccer Show as one of the key pieces to help them score more goals this season.

Why you should watch the Kickers in 2017: For D.C. United fans, it will allow you to get looks at some of the young and exciting players who won’t make Ben Olsen’s everday roster, especially Chris Durkin.

Also, they are the oldest continuously operating professional team in the country, they play fun attacking soccer, and all the games are free and online (and over-the-air if you’re here in Richmond).

3 players to watch:

  • Yudai Imura: Whenever the Kickers scored a goal last season, it seemed like Yudai Imura was either scoring it or providing the assist. The attacking midfielder, who was signed from their open tryouts, runs the show for the Kickers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a look from some MLS teams soon.
  • Conor Shanosky: Now that defensive stalwart Hugh Roberts is gone, former D.C. United homegrown player Shanosky will have to step up to fill his shoes.
  • Marcel DeBellis: The Kickers had seven different goalkeepers last season due to injuries both in Richmond and in Washington, and were forced to get loans from a number of MLS clubs last year. DeBellis was brought in from the Ottawa Fury and looks to provide some stability, especially if and when Eric Klenofsky is not available from D.C.

The 2017 season will be a success if... the Kickers can score some goals. They have always been a stout defensive team, and so if Alhaji Kamara, Yudai Imura, Luiz Fernando, and more can start racking up the goals this team can definitely challenge for the top.