Two rivals finally met on Saturday, both at the top of their game and with a long history. No, not the Mayweather – Pacquiao boxing match — the Charleston vs Richmond game. The soccer match probably had more action.
This was a wild game played between two teams that have not lost this season, and neither team added a mark in the ‘L’ column, playing to a 2-2 draw.
It was another meeting in the oldest continuous rivalry in United States soccer history. Since 1993, the two teams have played 55 times, with Richmond leading 26-22-7, so draws don’t happen that often. Adding more spice to the game was the fact that the Kickers ended Charleston’s season in the first round of the playoffs last year. (Fun fact: Charleston beat Richmond 2-1 in the 2010 USL Final to win its third title.)
Richmond scored late to equalize, but Charleston has to feel good about earning a point from the then-first-place Kickers on the road. Charleston was – and still is – one point behind their rival, but Richmond has played one more game at this point in the season. Rochester beat FC Montreal on Saturday to pull two points ahead of Richmond atop the table. Charleston is third with 14 points.
Richmond travels to Charlotte (5 points) next Friday. Charleston faces the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (8 points) at home Saturday.
Charleston rolled out the same lineup against Richmond that they used in a 2-1 win at Wilmington last weekend. If it ain’t broke…
Odisnel Cooper was in goal, still looking for the next shutout, which will make him the all-time league leader for USL. Currently, he has 10 clean sheets, which is tied with John McCarthy, a former Rochester Rhino now with the Philadelphia Union in MLS.
The back four was made up of O’Brian Woodbine, Taylor Mueller, Shawn Ferguson and Emmanuel Adjetey. The defensive midfielders were captain Jared van Schaik and Sebastian Thuriere. Thuriere started in place of Justin Portillo, who also missed the Wilmington game with an injury. In that game, Thuriere was pulled for an injury in the first half and replaced by Memo Rodriguez, but he played 88 minutes Saturday. Portillo made his return with the very late substitution for Thuriere.
Dane Kelly was the striker up top, while Zach Prince, Ricky Garbanzo and Maikel Chang played behind him.
As usual, Charleston manager Mike Anhaeuser rotated his squad in the second half, bringing on Rodriguez and Heviel Cordoves as fresh legs as the game drew on. Rodriguez, who scored last week, replaced Garbanzo in the 58th minute, and Cordoves filled in for Kelly in the 70th.
At the time, Charleston was leading 2-1 and looking to hold onto the lead on the road against one of the best teams in the league. Cordoves brings a more physical approach compared to Kelly’s speed, so he is able to get his back to the goal and hold the ball, allowing the rest of the team to get up the field and be in position to keep possession.
Richmond’s lineup was a mixed bag, but for the most part it was consistent with the look the team has put out all season long, and the Kickers looked like a team worthy of being near the top of the table.
The most inconsistent spot on the starting XI has been in the net. Richmond has used three different goalkeepers this season. Trevor Spagenberg started Saturday. It was his second appearance for the Kickers — his first was when he started against Montreal last week. The 24-year-old is under contract with the New England Revolution, and is on loan to the Kickers. Ryan Taylor, a Kickers player, has made two starts this year, while Travis Worra, on loan from Richmond’s MLS affiliate D.C. United, has made three.
All three keepers have played well. Taylor and Spagenberg have allowed two goals each while Worra allowed one. Richmond is not hurting in that area of the field.
Eli Garner made his first start of the season in midfield, although he has appeared in every match this season. Garner played for the Dayton Dutch Lions from 2012-14, and then made five appearances with the Orange County Blues before signing with Richmond. At 5’11, he gave an aerial option to a Richmond lineup generally lacking in height.
Garner was eventually replaced by Matthew Delicate, who has long been a fixture in Richmond. Delicate joined Richmond’s PDL side in 2003, and joined the professional team the next season. He went to Rochester after the 2005 season but returned to Virginia in 2009 and has been a consistent scorer for the Kickers. He would deliver once again to tie the game late in the match.
George Davis IV was the forward for Richmond, and Alex Lee and Brian Ownby did a good job of moving the ball. The home team tried to keep the ball on the ground on most of their attacks, preferring to work it in from the wings. This forced Charleston’s defense to play wide, but it also opened the door for counterattacks from the fullbacks.
Charleston fullbacks have been very active in the attack this season, and that continued Saturday. Woodbine and Adjetey both went forward often,.Woodbine had a particularly flashy run in the first half when he stole a ball from Braedon Troyer on defense, beat another defender and was in Richmond’s penalty area in just seconds.
The ball he played was ultimately cleared away, but the threat of the quick counter was there.
32nd minute, Goal Richmond (Ownby, assisted by Lee)
The Kickers struck first when Ownby put a goal away for Richmond in the 32nd minute, but it was Lee who made the spectacular play to set him up.
Then things started to get crazy. Charleston’s first goal came from a corner kick, but the buildup to it was anything but usual.
Samuel Asante played a pass from the midfield back toward his defenders. The ball rolled between the two centerbacks, just in the perfect spot that it created communication issues as the two players were not sure who’s responsibility it was. Kelly came streaking up the field in pursuit and the pressure applied by him forced William Yomby to just boot the ball away and out for a corner kick.
Van Schaik took the corner and swung it in to the near post where Prince was able to head it in to level the game. The players celebrated the tie and went back across midfield. They would be winning in under a minute.
49th minute, Goal Charleston (Garbanzo, unassisted)
Twenty-three seconds of playing time later, Charleston had the lead. Once again, a defensive error led to the score, although the second one was more directly responsible for the goal than the first. It started when Chang tried to play a ball into the box. It was easily blocked by a Richmond defender and deflected to Michael Callahan, who was facing his own goal.
Instead of turning and kicking it down the field, Callahan decided to play a back pass to Spangenberg. My guess is that he sensed that Chang was on his left shoulder by this point and thought it would be safer to kick it back and let his keeper clear the ball. The pass didn’t have enough power behind it and Garbanzo had too much speed.
Garbanzo sprinted behind the defense as Spangenberg came off his line to try to boot the ball away. He got to it first, but the kick deflected off Garbanzo and into the back of the net.
It was one of those really weird plays that can happen when a mistake combines with incredible hustle and determination. Garbanzo didn’t give up on the play, and he got a goal out of it – exactly the type of scrappy play that Garbanzo thrives on in his center-midfield role.
79th minute, Goal Richmond (Delicate, assisted by Gorres)
Richmond’s second goal looked similar to Charleston’s first. A perfectly timed run on a corner kick earned an open header and an easy goal scored by the veteran Delicate. Gorres delivered the corner kick to the near post where Delicate hovered after getting around his defender. He jumped up and got as easy a header as you are likely to get in professional soccer. Cooper, who had just gone down with an injury for the second time in a brief stretch, had no chance at making a save. Not because of the injury, but because the header was so well-placed.
Cooper took two heavy hits during the match, and he appeared to be grabbing his right knee both times. He was able to finish out the game. Assuming that Cooper is just sore, that just leaves Quinton Griffith on the injury list. This is not official, just my guess, but since Portillo played, I’m assuming he is good to go. He only came on for two minutes plus stoppage time, so he probably isn’t at 100 percent yet. But there are still five days before the next match.