The first kickoff of the 2020 season for our Richmond Kickers is March 28th. (Full season schedule here.) As expected after the third season of missing the playoff changes have been fast and furious. The most obvious change took place right at the end of the season when it was announced that David Bulow wouldn’t be at the helm for 2020.
In November the team announced Darren Sawatzky as their new Sporting Director and Head Coach. Darren’s background is fairly typical for a coach, moving from a player into coaching and youth development. Most recently Sawatzky was coaching USL League One side FC Tucson, which is the affiliate of USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC. Prior to joining Tucson, Sawatzky made a name for himself in the coaching ranks within the Seattle Sounders FC system and led the Seattle Sounders U-23 USL League Two squad along with directing the Development Academy. His playing career included stints with four MLS teams.
Due to League 1 being towards the bottom of the American soccer pyramid the offseason will often be one of significant roster change. Players will look to either move on up and play at a higher level or hang up the cleats. The Kickers are no exception.
The most recent and arguably the most exciting signing is Argentinian forward Emiliano Terzaghi. Emiliano previously played for San Martin De Burzaco in Argentina. Before joining San Martin, he has played a majority of his career with Club Atlético Banfield in the Argentine Primera División, including scoring the game-tying goal against Boca Juniors in the final minute of the match.
The team roster currently:
Those familiar with the Kickers will recognize a good number of returning players with the most dramatic turnover in the Forwards with only Charle Boateng returning.
The most recent signing Jonathan Bolanos follows an early trend with the Kickers of picking up young hungry players straight out of college. Other players members of the youth brigade include Victor Falck and Stanley Alves. The join the other young gun Ryley Kraft who was signed mid-season last year.
That doesn’t mean all the new signings are wet behind the ears. Far from it, there have been plenty of seasoned pros ready to sign on the dotted line. – Lee Johnston, Gianluca Cuomo, Ian Antley, Kyle Venter, David Diosa, and Devante Dubose.
The roster now sits at 22 signed players. USL League 1 allows for up to 30 players. It isn’t expected for the Kickers to reach that maximum. At most expect to see another 2-3 players signed between now and the start of the season.
Pre-season matches are expected to be announced later this week. There is however one match that is already much discussed among the Red Army (the Kickers’ supporter group) faithful. The Third Annual Red Army vs Front Office game will be taking place after an inter-squad scrimmage on March 14th. For those coming wanting to watch the Red Army destroy the front office, there is a 5 dollar suggested donation. All proceeds go to RVAccess and the Red Army will be hosting a raffle with a lineup of impressive items up for grabs.
This past weekend the Kickers hosted their second round of Open Tryouts. A chance for players that might have flown under the radar to get another chance to impress.
Kickers Hire FC Tucson Coach
A new Head Coach/Sporting Director has been brought on to move the Richmond Kickers forward.
Remember a couple of days ago when I said, the Kickers won’t be making a coaching announcement until after the Championship season wrapped up? Yeah, once again I’m proven wrong. Yesterday the Kickers announced that they will be bringing on Darren Sawatzky as the new Sporting Director and Head Coach. Sawatzky brings a wealth of coaching experience. Last year he coached USL League 1 FC Tucson and prior to that he led the Seattle Sounders U-23 USL League Two squad and was Director of the Development Academy.
Sawatzky’s record for FC Tucson was not dramatically better than recently released Head Coach David Bulow’s. FC Tucson finished just above the Kickers and had one less win. Tucson’s record was 8 wins, 11 losses, and 9 draws. Their goal differential ended up at -6 and they finished the 2019 campaign with 33 points. Bulow and the Kickers had 9 wins, 14 losses, and 5 draws with a -9 goal differential and 32 points.
The Kickers will formally introduce Darren Sawatzky on Friday and below is the press release:
The Richmond Kickers are pleased to announce Darren Sawatzky as the new Sporting Director and Head Coach of the pro team ahead of the 2020 USL League One season. Sawatzky takes the reins as the eighth head coach in the club’s 27 year history.
“A clear perk is that Darren was a head coach in USL League One this season,” commented Matt Spear, Richmond Kickers President. “His deep experiences with the Seattle Sounders is huge – especially the many years he ran their top quality U-23 USL League Two and Development Academy squads. He drives players to have a competitive bite and he enhances their best qualities. It helps that he played in Major League Soccer, has been a GM and that he has a deep scouting network and relationships with MLS, USL, international and agents.”
Sawatzky joins the Kickers after a campaign with USL League One side FC Tucson, which is the affiliate of USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC, bringing in experience with coaching in the league. Prior to joining Tucson, Sawatzky made a name for himself in the coaching ranks within the Seattle Sounders FC system. He led the Seattle Sounders U-23 USL League Two squad along with directing the Development Academy, producing talent such as current United States National Team players Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) and DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United). The Seattle native also had a stint steering the Guam National Team, coaching former Kickers defender Alex Lee. He holds a USSF A License and a French Federation Formation license.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to lead the Richmond Kickers and work with the technical staff, the operations staff, and the ownership group here in Richmond,” said Sawatzky. “Watching the Red Army this past year showed me first hand what this team means to this community and I can’t wait to meet the fans here and be a part of this growing phenomenon. Being engaged with the fans and the community and building a winner that launches into each postseason is the goal. We are going to hunt trophies while playing entertaining soccer in 2020!”
Starting his professional playing career in Major League Soccer, Sawatzky was drafted by the New England Revolution in 1996, playing two seasons before moving on to the Dallas Burn in 1998. He went on to sign with the Charleston Battery later that year. Sawatzky was back in MLS the next year with the Colorado Rapids. A year later, Sawatzky found himself back in his hometown, signing with the Seattle Sounders, then a USL Championship side.
“Darren Sawatzky was a tremendous asset to Seattle Sounders Soccer Club, both as an Assistant Coach with me in the USL era, and also an integral part of launching our Academy program during our early years,” added Brian Schmetzer, Seattle Sounders FC Head Coach. “He is a very knowledgeable coach and has a good sense of what it takes to be a professional. His work ethic is very high, which translates to maximizing the strengths of each one of his players.”
The club plans to formally unveil Sawatzky at a press conference next Friday, November 15. Details of the press conference will be announced at a later date.
“We are thrilled that Darren is joining the Richmond Kickers family along with his wife Ginny and kids,” noted Rob Ukrop, Richmond Kickers Chairman. “He has a long history of developing young, talented players and preparing them for success at the top level. More importantly, he brings an incredible work rate and an unbridled enthusiasm that we believe will lead our team back to the playoffs.
Kickers Announce Initial Roster for 2020
The off-season roster changes have begun.
The Kickers’ season hasn’t been over for very long and already the off-season is full of news. The biggest news, of course, was that the team didn’t pick-up Head Coach David Bulow’s contract. Word from the team is that the new coach search is going well. I wouldn’t expect any announcement until the Championship League (one above the Kickers) is fully wrapped up as there might be some quality coaches looking for a job.
The second biggest news was released today. The Kickers announced 12 players that will form the core of next year’s team. There were no surprises with the possible exception of local connected Eli Lockaby and Joe Rice being left off. This doesn’t mean they won’t be in red next year it just means that as of today they’re not signed up. Arguably the biggest hole that needs to be filled for the Kickers is that of striker. The Kickers had trouble throughout the year in finding the back of the net and that definitely needs to be addressed.
Full Announcement from the Kickers:
The Richmond Kickers announced the initial updates to the roster ahead of the 2020 USL League One Season. The club has exercised the contracts of nine players from the 2019 roster. With three players currently under contract, the 2020 roster currently stands at 12 players.
“I am excited about the quality of players returning for the 2020 season,” said Interim Head Coach Mika Elovaara. “Bringing back the defensive core that helped us keep 10 clean sheets, combined with our leading scorer and assists leader makes for a strong foundation to build on. Overall, we feel that the 2020 roster is starting to shape up very nicely.”
Already on contract for the 2020 season, the Kickers will see forward Joe Gallardo, midfielder Ryley Kraft and defender Scott Thomsen return to City Stadium.
The club has exercised the options for goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald, defenders Wahab Ackwei, Ivan Magalhães, Conor Shanosky, midfielders Amass Amankona, Greg Boehme, Matt Bolduc, Mutaya Mwape and forward Charles Boateng.
More announcements will be coming soon regarding the head coach and more roster additions ahead of the 2020 season.
The current Richmond Kickers roster ahead of the 2020 USL League One season, listed by position alphabetically, is below:
Goalkeepers (1): Akira Fitzgerald
Defenders (4): Wahab Ackwei, Ivan Magalhães, Conor Shanosky, Scott Thomsen
Midfielders (5): Amass Amankona, Greg Boehme, Matt Bolduc, Ryley Kraft, Mutaya Mwape
Forwards (2): Charles Boateng, Joe Gallardo
Photos & Game Summary: Kickers Finish Season with a Win and say Goodbye to Troyer
The season didn’t go as planned but the game on Saturday certainly did as the Kickers defeated Orlando City B by two goals.
The Kickers ended the season with a convincing win. They dominated every statistic on Saturday night but the victory was bittersweet.
Defender Braedon Troyer announced his retirement earlier in the week. Braedon spent his five-year professional career in a Kickers uniform. A severe injury last year put his career into doubt but he decided to come back for one more year. He was always a solid defender, with a great smile, and kindness off the field that charmed fans and staff alike. On the field he was a fearless defender and earned his own, chant by the Red Army, “Braedon Troyer, he’s a Warrior”. He’ll definitely be missed on and off the field.
Official Kickers Summary
The Richmond Kickers (9-14-5) closed out the 2019 USL League One season Saturday night at City Stadium behind a 2-0 victory over Orlando City B (4-20-4). Conor Shanosky found the back of the net in the 31st minute, followed by Charles Boateng five minutes later. Mutaya Mwape assisted on both goals. Braeden Troyer finished his professional career with a victory after wearing the captain’s armband.
Just a minute into the match, Braden Troyer nearly put the Kickers up 1-0 early. Nick Retzlaff sent a corner kick in towards the near post. Troyer broke free of his defender to get a header on the ball. His shot grazed the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Braeden Troyer got involved again in the 15th minute looking for the opener. He picked up control of the ball on the right wing. As he turned, he quickly fed the ball through to Greg Boehme going for goal. His shot was saved by Chrsitian Herrera.
Wahab Ackwei had a last ditch block in the 19th minute to keep Orlando off the board. Thiago Souza pounced on an errant pass took a chance on goal. Ackwei made a run to get a foot on the ball before it slipped in for the opener.
The Kickers kept searching for an opener in the 26th minute. Nick Retzlaff served in a free kick from the left wing. Wahab Ackwei made the far post run and got a head on the ball, putting his shot just wide.
Back to back chances came for Richmond in the 26th minute. Nick Retzlaff looked to connect with a center back at the back post again. Retzlaff chipped in a pass that Conor Shanosky was able to catch on the volley, only to have his shot blocked out by Herrera. Mutaya Mwape sent in the ensuing corner kick for Braeden Troyer. He put his header towards goal, only putting it just wide.
The Kickers would finally break through the deadlock in the 31st minute. Mutaya Mwape stood over a free kick on the left side. He was able to find Conor Shanosky at the far post for a header, that found the back of the net for his first goal of the season.
Charles Boateng made it 2-0 for Richmond only five minutes later. Mutaya Mwape looked for space across the top of the box. He cut over to the left wing. As he looked up, Charles Boateng was making a run inside box. The two connected as Boateng slid in for the second goal of the night and his second of the season.
Matt Bolduc had a pair of chances in the 68th minute. Mutaya Mwape sent the ball out to Bolduc on the right edge of the box. He looked to sneak in a shot before he reached the endline. Herrera made the save as the ball bounced back out for Bolduc. The midfielder looked to turn towards goal, instead spinning the opposite way to get into nearly the same spot before going for a shot again, this time with Herrera pushing it out for a corner.
Two minutes before the end of the 90, Akira Fitzgerald came up with a massive save. Rafael Santos slipped through into the Kickers box.
|TEAM||FIRST HALF||SECOND HALF||FINAL|
Richmond GK Akira Fitzgerald, Matt Bolduc, Conor Shanosky, Wahab Ackwei, Zach Perez (64’ – Josh Hughes), Nick Retzlaff (72’ – Ryley Kraft), Braeden Troyer (90’ – Justin Grove), Greg Boehme, Mutaya Mwape, Daniel Jackson, Charles Boateng
Unused Substitutes: Matt Broomall, Dennis Chin, Justin Grove, Luke Pavone, Jannik Eckenrode
Orlando GK Christian Herrera, Randy Mendoza, Brandon John, Jordan Hill, Leonardo Da Silva Simas, Austin Amer, Tanner Hummel (45’ – Tresor Mbuyu), Rafael Santos, William Bagrou, Thiago De Souza, Luc Granitur (69’ – Steven Hernandez)
Unused Substitutes: Juliano Chade, Ates Diouf, Lucas Ontivero
|31′||RIC||Conor Shanosky (Mutaya Mwape)|
|36′||RIC||Charles Boateng (Mutaya Mwape)|
Assistant Referees: Max Smith, Andrew Charron
Fourth Official: Otto Leon
Weather: Partly Sunny, 65 ºF