Ethan Bryant walked solo along the edge of the grandstands at City Stadium Saturday, after a 0-0 draw with North Carolina FC, high-fiving fans along the way.
The destination for the Kickers midfielder was the Red Army supporter group section adjacent to the stadium’s east touchline. And the recognition he received along the way was well earned following a full night of work.
Bryant is seemingly earning favor with the Kickers’ faithful quickly, a mark of his quality play since joining Richmond earlier this month on loan from USL Championship side San Antonio FC.
On Saturday, against NCFC, Bryant was a frequent instigator, with sharp forward passing. He also was a frustrator for NCFC, with four tackles and three interceptions.
The 20-year-old was a standout for Richmond on a night in which a goal was elusive.
“I’m settled in now,” Bryan said afterward. “At first it was about getting settled in, and getting used to it all. But now it’s about impacting, and making the difference on the field. So that’s what I’m focused on.”
Saturday was just the third appearance for Bryant in a Kickers uniform, and a second start. The 5-11, 130-pounder had spent the majority of his career with San Antonio FC, which he joined in 2018 as a 16-year-old USL Academy signee. He also had a stint with K.S.V. Roeselare, a Belgian Second Division squad, from 2019-20.
Bryant, against NCFC, completed 24 passes with an accuracy of 70.8%.
“I’m a box-to-box midfielder, I can be an attacking midfielder, I can sit,” Bryant said. “I’m here to help the team and be a difference-maker on the field any way I can.”
Saturday was a fourth game against NCFC (4-10-4) this season for Richmond (6-6-7). It drew 0-0 with the team in May and fell to the team twice, in June and July.
“Each time that we have played North Carolina it set up for them a little bit,” said Darren Sawatzky, the team’s coach and sporting director. “I thought today set up for us finally. We just couldn’t get that little last piece, the final pass in the 18-yard box to finish things off.”
Richmond’s Emiliano Terzaghi had an ambitious, right-footed try from about 7 yards out in the 28th minute, while horizontal and falling to the grass, off a ball redirected by Stanley Alves.
But the shot was wide right. And, shortly thereafter, Alves went down with an injury. He walked off slowly, with assistance, and was replaced by Nathan Aune. Sawatzky, after the game, characterized it as a lower-body injury.
About 10 minutes later, Terzaghi had the best try of the first half for Richmond. Off a deflection, Terzaghi found space on the left side of the box from roughly 12 yards out and fired. But the rolling strike was saved securely by North Carolina goalkeeper Jake McGuire.
The Kickers outshot NCFC eight to four in the second half. Still, the elusive score didn’t come.
In the 53rd minute, a Bryant volley try from just inside the 18-yard box on a Kickers break was collected by McGuire
Terzaghi, in the 63rd minute, launched a long-range attempt that sailed just over the crossbar and on to the top of the netting.
Richmond brewed a chance in the 74th minute, when Jonathan Bolanos crossed to the dangerous feet of Terzaghi on a fast break for what would’ve been a quality look. But the ball was cleared by NCFC’s Nelson Blanco Flores before Terzaghi could shoot.
And goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald saved a dangerous header attempt by NCFC’s Robert Kristo in extra time to keep the clean sheet.
“It was just a matter of dropping back on my line quickly, getting set, balanced and then knowing his header wasn’t going to have a ton of pace on it because he’s obviously just kind of flicking,” Fitzgerald said of the save. “So just being able to have my feet ready and I got some good footwork in it and able to get a good push and a strong hand to it.”
Richmond next will host Forward Madison FC on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.