The 1-3-0 Richmond Kickers faced off Saturday against the 1-2-2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds during a rain soaked game at Richmond’s City Stadium. Richmond was coming off three straight losses, a situation the team has never been in under coach Leigh Cowlishaw’s leadership. Meanwhile Pittsburgh has a new coach and are playing with renewed energy following a poor 2016 campaign.
Much like the end of last season, Richmond is struggling to find the net this year, though their venerable defense remains steadfast. In a USL which continues to strengthen, Richmond is finding itself against stiffer competition and teams with deeper pockets.
The relationship with D.C. United made a big difference for Richmond this week. Alhaji Kamara, on loan from D.C., started up top in a 4-4-2 with Oliver Minatel, a newly-signed forward from Brazil. Kamara had a big night for his adopted side, creating several opportunities and tallying a goal.
Pittsburgh claimed most of the possession early on, but Richmond’s speedy midfield struck on a counterattack in the 15th minute. The Riverhounds turned the ball over in the Richmond half, and Raul Gonzalez sprinted with the ball down the right side. Keeping pace with him was Fred Owusu Sekyere, and Gonzalez found him in front of goal with a low cross. Sekyere redirected the ball and Pittsburgh keeper Trey Mitchell got a touch to it, but the shot found the net. This was Gonzalez’s first start of the season after being signed in March, having spent much of his preseason with Minnesota United.
Pittsburgh’s best opportunity to answer in the first half came in the 38th minute. A nice through ball from Corey Hertzog sent Columbus Crew loanee Marshall Hollingsworth to the left side of goal. He fired a shot to the near side, but Richmond keeper Matt Turner made a decent save and turned the ball out for a corner.
After the break, the rain didn’t let up and neither did Richmond’s attack. Immediately after the half, Oliver drew a foul to the right of the Pittsburgh goal. Gonzalez’s busy night continued as he sent in an accurate free kick into the box. Pittsburgh attempted to clear it out with a header, but it bounced back towards goal off the back of another Pittsburgh player and Kamara was there to fire a rocket at close range. Mitchell had no chance at a save and Richmond’s lead was doubled.
The Riverhounds made it interesting in the 60th minute when Hollingsworth nabbed a goal from distance. At the top of the box, he cut to the left and fired a shot to the top left of the net. There was nothing Turner could do, and the goal cut Richmond’s lead in half. On the other end Richmond tried to answer. A free kick from midfield resulting in Kamara rattling the crossbar, and an up and down, fast-paced battle ensued.
In the last 15 minutes, Richmond brought on some defensive help in the form of Evan Lee, establishing a back five to absorb the Pittsburgh attack. The Riverhounds dominated possession towards the end trying to find the equalizer, but the Kickers held on for the 2-1 win.
Kamara’s presence up top and move into a 4-4-2 formation snapped Richmond’s three-game losing streak. Richmond has a lot to be happy about after this match, with Raul Gonzalez proving to be a solid option on the right wing. They needed the three points, as they’re facing two tough teams coming up. The Kickers are on the road next week to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who sit atop the Eastern Conference table in their freshman year in the USL. May 6th the Kickers return home to face FC Cincinnati, a club that’s stumbled a bit out of the gate in 2017 but always puts up a fight.