A predicted win for Bark & Brew Fest night! Perhaps the best night!
Photo by Craig Sunter.
On Saturday evening, the Kickers will host Wilmington at City Stadium in their first rematch of the season. Last month, the two teams drew 0-0 in North Carolina in a game that was short on scoring opportunities. Eighteen-year-old Brazilian Luiz Fernando had the best look of the game for Richmond, beating the keeper with a left-footed shot but unfortunately not beating the post behind him. Wilmington had a few marginal chances of their own, but ultimately a scoreless draw was a fair result for both teams.
Since that night in early April, the teams have experienced similar results, if not similar paths. The Kickers remain in a state of flux with injuries. It appears that Matt Turner will be in goal for the team for a second consecutive week. His first appearance for the club, and his overall professional debut at that, went well last week in a win over Toronto. An additional week of training and familiarity with the team can only help the overall performance of Turner and the backline.
Leading scorer Yudai Imura will once again miss the match as he recovers from an injury suffered in Charlotte two weeks ago. While Imura’s absence hurts, the scoring responsibility has shifted into a committee mode. Sunny Jane, Matthew Delicate, and Brian Ownby have all tallied their first goals of the season since Imura’s injury, showing that the attack is not reliant on any single individual.
Wilmington enters the game with a 2-2-2 record, having drawn at Cincinnati last weekend. They have proven to be a tough match for each opponent thus far, led by a stout defense that has only surrendered five goals in six games. John Smits leads the team in defense, having saved over 80% of the shots coming his way. Bruno Perone brings significant stature to the defense, having Premier League experience as well as a background with numerous clubs in his native Brazil. Perone has already chipped in with two goals this season as well, making him someone the Kickers will need to monitor coming out of the back.
If Wilmington is to score on Saturday, it is likely that rookie Mael Corboz will play a significant factor in the goal. The rookie midfielder has played every minute thus far for the Hammerheads, and has assisted on three of their six goals scored. Look for Lucas Paulini to pay special attention to Corboz throughout the game to limit his opportunity to influence the action.
Barring any late injuries, expect to see the same team on the field that started last week. Three of the four defenders for the Kickers have made a USL Team of the Week so far this season, with Alex Lee honored for his performance last week. I wouldn’t bet against Yomby making it a clean sweep for the unit before too long, and perhaps even this week. The return of Paulini and Samuel Asante last week provided a different, but perhaps more complete, look for the central midfield. Neither is a pure defensive midfielder, but rather uses their range to connect the defense to the attacking players very fluidly. The two also appear to have a good understanding together of positioning, denying space to opponents in tandem rather than individually.
While it’s not necessarily a great sales pitch, don’t expect a high scoring affair on Saturday. Low scoring doesn’t mean not exciting though. Come out to City Stadium (bring your dogs too, it’s Bark & Brew Fest!) to see a physical battle between two playoff caliber teams. You’ll also get to see yet another home win. The Kickers will piece together a 2-0 win to go 4-0-0 at home before hitting the road for a pair of games up north.