The Richmond Kickers were able to hold on and earn a point at City Stadium Saturday night. Facing off against a stout FC Cincinnati squad, an early Richmond goal was matched in the second half by the visiting team, leaving the Kickers at 2-4-1 on the season. Cincinnati was one of the best teams in the USL last season under the leadership of coach John Harkes. However, rumors abounded during the off season regarding Harkes abrupt dismissal, and Cincinnati haven’t been themselves since. Though their 2-3-3 record doesn’t show it, they still have a great deal of talent and MLS aspirations.
Joining Richmond’s starting eleven this week were Alhaji Kamara up top and left back Chris Korb on a rehab assignment. Korb suffered a devastating ACL injury against New York City FC back in 2015 that sidelined him for the entire 2016 campaign. At City Stadium, Korb looked fit and played well against a big and fast Cincinnati team, earning an assist.
He was involved in Richmond’s only goal, which came early in the game. The Kickers utilized the entire pitch with quick, smart passes, dominating possession at the start. Eventually Luiz Fernando collected the ball on the right wing and switched play with a long cross to Korb on the left. The pass was almost too long, nearly rolling out, but a sprinting Korb collected it, juked around a Cincinnati defender, and sent in a low cross in front of goal. Fred Owusu Sekyere continued his streak of making an impact for the Kickers by redirecting the cross into the net. Not even ten minutes into his return to professional soccer, Korb notched an assist, putting Richmond up 1-0.
The game really opened up in the second half with both teams gunning for the win. Just after the break, Korb linked up with Kamara and gave his D.C. United teammate an opportunity in front of goal. Midfield, Cincinnati had overturned the ball to a sprinting Korb, who sent in a speedy and accurate cross to Kamara in the box. It was just over the head of the striker but nearly found Oliver Minatel at the far post.
Cincinnati were able to equalize through slow build from the back and overlapping play down the right side. Set in motion by Jimmy McLaughlin, Kadeem Dacres sent defender Matt Bahner towards the touchline. Bahner picked out an unmarked McLaughlin at the top of the box, and the former Philadelphia Union midfielder’s surgical finished tied the game at 1-1.
Kamara had another chance in the 80th minute created by Luiz Fernando, whose passing looked crisp all night. The Brazilian striker somehow found space on a crowded right side and sent in a perfect cross to Kamara just outside the six yard box. Kamara’s header rattled the crossbar, nearly giving Richmond the lead.
Coach Leigh Cowlishaw wanted three points out of the match. He subbed off Korb and Kamara for strikers Sunny Jane and Anthony Grant. However, it was Cincinnati who nearly broke the deadlock. In the 89th minute, a ricocheted shot in the Richmond box fell to Dacres, who dribbled left looking for shooting space. Sekyere paced him the whole way, and Dacres went down just outside of the penalty area. Though replay shows little to no contact was made, referee Charles Murphy called for a free kick one yard outside the box. Thankfully for Richmond fans, Aodhan Quinn skyrocketed his shot over the bar.
The match ended 1-1, but the Kickers earned a badly needed point against a tough opponent. Though Richmond lingers near the bottom of the table, they have a game in hand against most teams and the Eastern Conference remains tight. They’ll be looking for an injured Yudai Imura, who had such an outstanding 2016 campaign, to return soon and add a spark to their attack. The Kickers remain at home next week, facing off against Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday, May 13.