While the contest between Greenville Triumph SC and the Richmond Kickers had a lot riding on it – a pairing of the top two teams in USL League One – it was not played in a vacuum. It began with both teams on their knees for seven minutes, one minute for each time Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot in the back by a Kenosha police officer the week before.
But after the seven minutes of silence, the game began in earnest, and the action never let up. By the time it was over, the No. 2 Kickers one-upped the Triumph, holding on a man down the final 15 minutes of regulation plus and additional five of stoppage time for a 2-1 victory.
The victory brought Richmond to within 3 points of Greenville in the USL League One standings. Greenville (5-2-1) has 16 points to the Kickers’ 13.
Richmond head coach Darren Sawatski wasn’t always thrilled with the way the Kickers (4-1-1) played during the game, but he was pleased with how his team fought when the momentum seemed against them.
“Greenville’s a good team,” said Richmond head coach Darren Sawatski. “They made the final last year and [Triumph head coach John Harkes] brought back most of his team and actually added some good players.
“We’re down a guy. [Kyle] Venter and Ivan [Magalhães] and Scotty [Thomsen] and Ian [Antley], until he took an early exit, and then Luca [Cuomo] – I’m really proud of the group, not just the defense. I think the nine guys towards the end, plus Akira [Fitzgerald, the goalkeeper], I’m really proud of them because they really defended well.”
Richmond, which had struggled in terms of possession time this season, was on a more equal footing with the Triumph, the team that handed the Kickers their only defeat earlier in the season. The Kickers’ dominated early and struck first in the 15th minute after Matt Bolduc found running room down the right side, then slipped the ball from the corner to Emiliano Terzaghi in front of the Greenville box.
Terzaghi sideswiped the ball with his right foot past Triumph keeper Dallas Jaye.
It did not take long for Greenville to equalize, however. The Triumph found its mojo and attacked vigorously, catching Richmond off balance when Brandon Fricke sent a ball high toward the net. Kickers’ keeper Fitzgerald got a hand on the ball, but deflected up to the crossbar. In a bit of bad luck, the ball ricocheted straight down toward Fitzgerald and off his back into the net.
Richmond struggled to find opportunities for much of the rest of the first half, but pounced in the 45th minute. Luke Pavone took a bouncer and fired it hard toward the net, a shot that may have been slightly deflected, and the ball came back hard off the right post toward Ryley Kraft, who was wide open. Kraft fired it toward the far corner for the game’s final goal.
Dave Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com.