Kickers welcome a new goalkeeper against a dangerous Toronto attack.
When the Richmond Kickers last set foot on the field at City Stadium, they were celebrating a victory over the defending champions and walking off with a share of first place. Three weeks later, the situation has changed significantly. Not only have the Kickers dropped two consecutive matches, but the injury bug has hit them even harder. By the end of the game last weekend, no fewer than five Kickers were sidelined with injuries, crippling what began as a roster with considerable tactical flexibility.
As the Kickers take the field on Saturday evening at 7:00 PM (not 5:00 PM as was initially scheduled), the biggest question is the performance of goalkeeper Matt Turner, on loan from the New England Revolution. Turner will fill in for Ryan Taylor who’s out for an extended period of time, if not the entire season. The Kickers are no strangers to emergency loans, having been in a short-term situation like this last year, which they escaped with a 1-0-2 record. Communication between the defense and the new goalkeeper will be pivotal against a dangerous Toronto attack.
Toronto comes into the game in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, having earned 5 points from four games thus far. The key player for them thus far has been Raheem Edwards, who comes into the game with goals in four consecutive matches, including these two impressive efforts that saw him dribble through multiple defenders. He appears to prefer to operate along his left side, so Hugh Roberts and whoever ends up at right back will have to remain on their toes and aware of his whereabouts even moreso than his TFC2 colleagues.
Beyond Edwards, there are a couple regulars for Toronto so far this season, but the team primarily rotates players based on availability from the MLS team. This makes it difficult to scout. They have already used 23 field players in just four games, which is three more than the injury-bit Kickers in one fewer game. Look for Brian James and Skylar Thomas to contribute, but past that, it’s purely wait and see.
As for the Kickers, they will be looking to get the combination of Brian Ownby and Jason Yeisley on track. After impressing in the preseason and in the first half against Harrisburg, the duo have been kept off the scoresheet. The two combined for 17 goals last season, and the Kickers will need them to find their way to push forward toward a top spot in the East. Midfielder Sunny Jane will look to capitalize on an impressive first start with a repeat performance in the midfield, and the City Stadium faithful would not be opposed to seeing him unleash another laser from distance again this weekend.
Given the overall situation with injuries, you’d normally excuse the Kickers if they are slightly off their game this weekend. However, Toronto is the kind of team that contenders need to take a full three points from at home. They will have just as much flux in their lineup, and probably more, as the Kickers will, so instability should not be a factor. It’s been a really long time since the Kickers lost three in a row, and there’s no reason to think that the losing streak will continue. It might look choppy at times, but ultimately the home team will power through with a 2-1 win, just as they did in the regular season finale last year against this same Toronto team.