Scouting the Richmond Kickers
Charlotte FC's next Open Cup opponent
On May 11, Charlotte FC plays the Richmond Kickers in Richmond in the Round of 32 (fourth round) of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Richmond plays in the USL1, the third tier of the U.S. Soccer pyramid, along with Elizabeth’s own Charlotte Independence.
For me, Richmond is inexorably connected to its current chairman, Rob Ukrop, who played off and on for the team during the 90s. Ukrop was a soccer legend at Davidson College, leading all Division I players in his senior year with 31 goals and 10 assists and taking the Wildcats to their only NCAA semifinal appearance. His family’s business, Ukrop’s, even sponsors the Kickers.
Richmond got to the fourth round of the Open Cup in part thanks to a couple of red cards. First, on April 5, the Charlotte Independence hosted the North Carolina Fusion in second round open cup play. The Fusion, formerly the Carolina Dynamo, plays in the USL League Two, a tier below the Independence and the Kickers. The Independence were leading the match 2-1 when midfielder Tresor Mbuyu was shown a red card in the 76th minute of play, leading to 3 goals for the Dynamo against the shorthanded team.
After defeating the Independence, the Fusion drew Richmond in the third round. The match went into extra time, Richmond’s Emiliano Terzaghi finally scored in the 118th minute of play, and the nail in the coffin was another red card, this time against the Fusion.
As for Charlotte FC, I went into detail last week about how they made it out of the third round. Both the draw of teams and the home field advantage was random for the Round of 32.
In the interest of knowing Charlotte FC’s opponent for the next round of Open Cup play, I tuned in to watch the Independence host Richmond at home on Monday night. The game was originally scheduled for the weekend but was moved due to Richmond’s Wednesday appearance in the third round of the Open Cup. I won’t bury the lede any further: if Charlotte FC loses to the Richmond team that showed up Monday night, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Monday night’s match started out with great weather, just north of 80 degrees, at American Legion Memorial Stadium. However, things quickly went wrong for the Independence when Richmond midfielder Leonardo Baima made a perfect pass from the left corner of the 18-yard box and connected with Tergazhi’s header for an early goal in the 7th minute. The play from the pair of Argentinians was brilliant, and the sort of precision football that Charlotte FC will have to watch out for.
The Independence came alive after the goal. In the 10th minute, Charlotte tried to replicate the play on the other end of the field, but fell short. Charlotte continued to get chances and dominated the rest of the half, and by the 36th minute the home team won three corner kicks in quick succession. On the third kick, Venezuelan midfielder Ayrton Páez connected with the forehead of Togolese defender Shalom Dutey inside the 6-yard box for the equalizer in the 37th minute.
Charlotte dominated the first half, possessing the ball for 70% of the match thus far. Up until this point, the Kickers looked like a team with a flash of brilliance that already burned out. Then, as often happens in football, a completely different team emerged from the locker room. In the first two minutes Richmond got a powerful shot on target from defender Stephen Payne, but a great save from Independence keeper Adrián Zendejas kept the ball from slipping into the upper 90.
Richmond continued to roar back during the first 10 minutes of the second half with multiple corner kicks and a fast break. In the 55th minute, playmaker and man of the match Leonardo Baima took receipt of another long pass, made another precise assist, and found a wide-open Matt Bentley for a point-blank goal.
After the Richmond goal, the Independence regained control of the tempo of the match; they would have possession of the ball for 70 minutes of the game. While both teams had 7 shots on target, Charlotte would have 19 attempts to Richmond’s 11. The game could have gone either way until the 68th minute, when Richmond’s Chris Cole grabbed Tresor Mbuyu at midfield. Cole would be shown the yellow card for his conduct, but Mbuyu responded by throwing an elbow and drawing a fatal red card for the second time in a month. After that, Charlotte was a player short and lucky they didn’t give up another goal for the rest of the match, which was uneventful.
Side note: I was watching Charlotte midfielder Quinn McNeill throughout the game; as you may remember he’s currently on loan to the Independence from Charlotte FC. Unfortunately, there’s not much to report about his performance tonight.
Charlotte FC should be able to handle this Richmond team. They were inconsistent, flashy then overwhelmed, and seemed to flag later in the match. The Kickers didn’t present a defense that would be able to handle Charlotte FC, especially if more of their starters join the fray than in their Open Cup match against Greenville. However, if Charlotte leaves any of Richmond’s front line open, Leonardo Baima will certainly take advantage of the opportunities with his precision passing.
Finally, keep an eye out later this week for my latest article in Queen City Nerve, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe below!
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