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Richmond Kickers tie Bethlehem Steel FC 1-1

Luiz Fernando’s first goal of the season earned the Kickers a point on the road

James Loving

Richmond looked to break their streak of 10 games without a win during a dramatic game Saturday against Bethlehem Steel, FC. The match was delayed over an hour due to severe storms in eastern Pennsylvania, leaving the pitch a sopping mess. Franck Tayou earned the start up top with Raul Gonzalez, Frank Owusu Sekyere and Luiz Fernando backing him up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Chris Durkin didn’t travel with the team, and the Kickers had to face their former defensive and aerial specialist Hugh Roberts, who made the change to Bethlehem during the offseason.

Richmond keeper Matt Turner was tested early when Bethlehem earned a set piece 25 yards out. Seku Conneh stepped up and took a crack at goal, and Turner had to dive to his left to deflect it out for a corner. Bethlehem continued to pepper the Richmond goal when a perfect volley from outside the box forced Turner to backtrack and tip the ball over the bar.

Bethlehem controlled possession throughout the first half and had most of the good chances, but it didn’t show on the scoreboard. Corey Burke, a starter for the Jamaican national team in this year’s Gold Cup, fired a rocket in the 37th minute that curved towards the near post but passed wide left of the post.

Finally awakening their dormant attack, Richmond struck first towards the end of the first half. A poor Bethlehem backpass in their own third resulted in Sunny Jane intercepting, who didn’t hesitate to charge towards goal. Two on two, Jane sidefooted a pass to Fernando up the left side who cracked a shot with his first touch and found the net. It was his first goal of the season, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Minutes later Raul Gonzalez beat the keeper on a through ball but a debatable offsides call denied him the goal. Richmond went into the locker room ahead 1-0, the first time they’ve enjoyed a lead since May.

It wouldn’t last long. As with the rest of the season so far, giving up set pieces in dangerous areas burned the Kickers. 20 yards out, Sekyere fouled Anthony Fontana as he tried to find space at the top of the box. Aaron Jones took the free kick, and bent a beautiful shot into the corner and past Turner. The match was tied 1-1.

Richmond fought back. Aggressive play from Richmond in the 62nd minute forced a turnover. Franck Tayou turned and struck a shot on target that forced a diving save from keeper Jake McGuire.

In high drama, former Kickers defender Hugh Roberts was sent off for a studs-up challenge midfield. Following a goal kick, Roberts went after a ball contested by Samuel Asante and caught him in the knee with the bottom of his boot. Roberts was immediately regretful and sincerely looked to see if Asante was okay. Good intentions aside, the referee showed a straight red to Roberts.

Richmond used all three subs to bolster their attack, and coming off the bench Yudai Imura struck a dangerous free kick from 25 yards out that was on target but cradled by McGuire. Near the close of the match, Corey Burke would be sent off for an aggressive takedown during a Kickers counterattack in stoppage time, but it was too late to make a difference. The Kickers weren’t able to take advantage of their superior numbers and only grabbed a point as the game ended 1-1.

Their trials continue as they visit red hot FC Cincinnati for a Sunday afternoon match. On July 19th, the English Premier League returns to City Stadium as Swansea City FC face Richmond in a midweek exhibition match.