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Preview: Kickers Face Old Foe Christo’s FC in Wednesday Open Cup Match

The Kickers start their 2024 season at home with a non-league but arguably more important game.

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What is the Open Cup? – Technically, The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a knockout cup competition in men’s American soccer. It is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States. What makes it exciting is that it pits teams from all levels of U.S. soccer against each other. Amateur teams if they make it far enough could end up facing top-level (MLS) professional teams. MLS teams have dominated the competition since the league began play in 1996. No lower division team has won the U.S. Open Cup since the Rochester Rhinos in 1999, and none have reached the final since the Charleston Battery in 2008. Our very own Richmond Kickers won the Open Cup in 1995 and in 2011 the Kickers went on the road and beat two MLS Teams the Columbus Crew and Sporting KC. They fell to the Chicago Fire in the semi-final. Last year the Kickers advanced far enough to face D.C. United but lost in DC.

1995 Open Cup Winners Richmond Kickers

Opponent:  Christo’s FC (USL League 2)
Date/Time: Wednesday, March 20th, 6:30 PM
Last Result: League 1-2 loss to Spokane Velocity
Up Next: Home Game vs. Tormenta on Saturday March 23rd

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Three Things to Kick About

  1. Bounce Back – The Kickers were the second-worst team in the league last year. They lost their first game of the USL1 season against brand-new team Spokane Velocity. They have no gone a total of 17 straight games without a win. You can’t sugarcoat those numbers. Christo’s FC is a division lower but have had great success in their respective league and beat the Kickers last time they met 7 years ago. Coach Sawatsky needs to get a win to keep the dim flame of hope alive in the Kickers faithful. A loss will be embarrising to the entire organization and a massive blow to the teams confidence heading into the regular season.
  2. Know Thy Enemy – Christo’s FC is named after the founder’s liquor store. That’s a fine story right there but the team in 2017 advance far enough to face D.C. United before losing. Our buddies over at River City 93 have an excellent write-up on the history of the team and how they’ve done recently. Spoiler: They’ve done well. “Since then, they have added some quality players in the new year and recently won the Stewart Cup Championship which lands them in the Regionals for the US National Amateur Cup starting in April. The club has also qualified for Regionals in the Werner Fricker Cup after participating in the Rowland State Cup Championship. Christos FC is currently the #1 seed in the quarterfinals of the MDV Cup played between top teams in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.”
  3. Young Guns – The Kickers are not a big-budget team. As a result, they have turned to their youth academy. The Kickers recently signed goalkeeper James Sneddon, defender Noah Hiort-Wright, midfielder Gabe Cox, midfielder Griffin Garnett, and forward Nicholas Simmonds to USL Academy contracts for the 2024 season, pending league and federation approval. Garnett and Hiort-Wright become the sixth and seventh Richmond United players to make the jump to the Kickers through the evolving youth-to-pro player pathway established in February 2023. These are literally kids all around 17 years old. In the season opener due to injuries to key veteran Kicker players several of these players saw the pitch. Griffin Garnett did well enough to win Man of the Match for the Kickers. MOTM in a losing game isn’t great. The balance between developing these young players and actually getting the wins is going to be a difficult task and we’ll see how it’s handled on Wednesday.

Prediction

After last year I threw my crystal ball into the James and I know resort to throwing darts at a board in my basement. The darts have decreed that despite a lackluster pre-season and a season opening defeat the Kickers shall prevail. The Kickers are the professional team in this scenario so should have the depth to outlast Christo’s FC. If this were another USL1 or USLC team my confidence would be much more shaky.

Kickers 2
Christo’s 0

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.