For the Richmond Kickers, a bit of repetition was a good thing Saturday night.
Hosting Greenville (S.C.) Triumph SC at City Stadium, Richmond got goals from Emiliano Terzaghi and Ryley Kraft — the same scorers as in the team’s win at the New England Revolution II last week, and in the same order — to secure a second straight 2-1 victory before 875 fans.
The Kickers (4-1-1), under new leadership in sporting director and coach Darren Sawatzky, who was hired last November, have won four games in a row for the first time since 2016.
“My job is to get us back doing what this club’s all about, and that’s winning games,” Sawatzky said. “I’m not too concerned with the table or win streaks, that doesn’t concern me. We go by game by game.
“I felt like we actually took a step back in terms of our attack tonight. But the fact that we can lean on the way that we defend, even with one guy less [after an Ian Antley red card], is enough for me.”
Kickers striker Emiliano Terzaghi arrived in Richmond having never been to the United States…
The game began with a show of support for social justice. In the aftermath of the boycotts seen in the NBA and other leagues across the country this past week, in the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., a USL Black Players Alliance was formed this past week.
The Kickers and Triumph, joining other players in the league, did not play for the game’s first seven minutes, instead kneeling before a short warmup.
“I think that the win is great, but that was more important by far,” goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald said. “I know that a lot of guys are a little bit mixed on if we wanted to play this game or not, following some of the NBA’s footsteps. They’re doing a great job setting the tone and leading the way. But we decided as a group, and the Black players’ coalition of USL decided that we’re going to play the game.
“So we wanted to make sure that we made a good statement and let everyone know exactly where we stand.”
Terzaghi has been blazing to start this season, a key catalyst in the Kickers’ run of results. The flame continued to burn Saturday, with a boost from teammate Matt Bolduc. Bolduc, on a 15th-minute fast break, dumped off a ball with perfect touch to Terzaghi who, unmarked from 6 yards out, lightly tapped it into the goal to put Richmond up 1-0. It was his fifth goal in six games.
Fourteen minutes later, though, a couple of bad bounces for the Kickers led to an equalizer. Alex Morrell sent a cross that ricocheted off the torso of Brandon Fricke. Fitzgerald got fingertips on the ball, but it bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and past him.
But the Kickers later got a bounce their way in the second of two extra minutes added to the end of the first half.
Luke Pavone turned and fired a left-footed shot from 20 yards away that clanged off the right post. Ryley Kraft took advantage of the moment, charging in freely and launching the ball past goalkeeper Dallas Jaye and into the top left corner of the goal to make it 2-1.
It was Kraft’s second Kickers goal, scores that have come in back-to-back games. Kraft, who signed with the Kickers one year ago, scored the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute of Richmond’s 2-1 win at New England Revolution II last Friday.
A couple of Kickers opportunities failed by a matter of inches in the second half — one nixed by a highlight play from Jaye and one created by a near mistake. In the 63rd minute, Gianluca Cuomo rifled the ball on goal, but Jaye dived, fully extended, to his right to swat it away.
In the 66th minute, another long-range Cuomo shot was blocked on the ground by Jaye, but rebounded off him and nearly spun past the line. But he quickly popped up and grabbed it.
Richmond played the final 20 minutes, including stoppage time, down a man after Ian Antley was issued a second yellow card on a 75th-minute challenge.
In the 83rd minute, Greenville nearly cashed in when Lachlan MacLean got an open look at the net outside the 18-yard box and sent the ball through. But it went right at Fitzgerald, who corralled it safely.
Next for the Kickers is a game at FC Tucson, Sawatzky’s former club, next Saturday.