The Richmond Kickers were on the road to face Tampa Bay Rowdies for the first time ever Saturday night. This is the Rowdies’ first year in USL, having spent their first seven seasons in the NASL. Tampa Bay has looked competitive so far this season, and the Kickers struggled to find their rhythm in the Florida humidity at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay dominated with 70% possession on the evening. Richmond took a defensive posture, starting 4-4-1-1 formation with Alhaji Kamara starting up top after finding success last week. He made an impact during the first half: Richmond’s best chance came on a counterattack in the 37th minute as Conor Shanosky collected the ball in midfield and sent Fred Owusu Sekyere forward. Down the right side, Sekyere popped up a perfect cross to a sprinting Kamara, whose header just barely flew over the crossbar.
The Rowdies claimed the only goal of the match in the dying moments of the first half. Stringing several passes in a row around the edge of the box, Marcel Shafer then sent in a cross to the far post that was contested by Braeden Troyer. Deflected in the air, Deshorn Brown dazzled fans with an acrobatic bicycle kick that shot past Matt Turner and found the net.
All match long, Sekyere continued to provide a spark for Richmond and covered a lot of ground to try and keep his side in the match. After the break, the Ghanaian-born midfielder created a chance in the 78th minute. The Rowdies had again pushed forward, but Shanosky blocked a rocket from Brown and the ball ended up midfield. Kamara collected the ball, passed wide to Anthony Grant, who then sent a sprinting Sekyere in with a through ball. Closed in by the Tampa Bay defense and Kamara covered, Sekyere took an ambitious shot from 25 yards out that bounced just wide of the goal.
To add an attacking spark, Luiz Fernando came on in the 79th minute for defensive-minded Shanosky. Though Richmond would control more possession towards the end of the game, they weren’t able to create any significant chances. The 1-0 loss leaves them at 2-4-0 near the bottom of the table. However, the USL Eastern Conference is proving to be much more competitive than the Western, and the Kickers have plenty of opportunity to bounce back.
Richmond returns home to face FC Cincinnati on May 6th at City Stadium. The annual “Barks and Brews” match is a dog friendly event and kicks off this Saturday at 7:00pm.