Charlotte Independence 1, Richmond Kickers 2
(2-1-1, 7 points)
|2||6′ Terzaghi (Baima), 55′ Bentley (Baima)|
(1-1-1, 4 points)
|1||36’ Dutey (Páez)|
Charlotte, N.C. — The Richmond Kickers (2-1-1, 7 pts) earned a 2-1 victory on the road at the Charlotte Independence (1-1-1, 4 pts) to earn their first win over their regional rival since the 2015 season.
Emiliano Terzaghi opened the scoring from a Leonardo Baima assist in the sixth minute before Charlotte equalized late in the first half. Baima then notched his second assist of the night when he set up Matthew Bentley for the game winner.
The Kickers started on the front foot and drew first blood early. Nil Vinyals carried the ball into the opposition half before lacing a cross to Baima on the other side of the pitch. The Argentine deftly received the ball on his chest, settled his feet, and laced a cross to Terzaghi who was racing into the box and got inside of his marker. He rose up and flicked the ball with his head to the far post, beating the diving goalkeeper to give the Kickers an early advantage.
Charlotte would grow into the match, and they pressed for their equalizer as Akira Fitzgerald was called upon to make four saves in the first half. Most memorably, in the 26th minute, Fitzgerald had to make a reaction save from point-blank range. The shot was hit with enough pace that it still moved towards the goal despite the deflecting save, and Fitzgerald jumped onto the ball right as it was about to cross the line.
Despite the heroics in net from Fitzgerald, Charlotte finally found its equalizer in the 36th minute from a set piece. Ayrton Páez played an out-swinging ball into the box from the corner flag to Shalom Dutey who headed the ball with enough pace to make it into the far side of the net and level the match.
The Kickers exited the dressing room for the second half and ratcheted up the attacking pressure in search of the go-ahead goal. In the 47th minute, Stephen Payne carried the ball of the right side unchallenged by a defender. He cut inside, put the ball on his left foot, and let loose a screaming curler towards the upper left corner of the goal. The Charlotte keeper was forced to make a diving fingertip save to deny the fullback his first goal for the Kickers.
The deadlock would finally break in the 55th minute after the Kickers drew a foul in their own half. Dakota Barnathan restarted play quickly as he laced a cross to the other end of the pitch to an unmarked Baima who raced up the left wing. Barnathan led Baima so well with the pass that Baima one-timed the ball low and into the box, freezing the goalkeeper as his defenders could not get to it. The ball landed at Bentley who deftly one-timed the ball into the right upper 90 to give the Kickers the lead again.
Charlotte would go down to 10 men in the 69th minute after Tresor Mbuyu received a straight red card for elbowing Chris Cole while Cole marked Mbuyu during a Charlotte attack in transition. Nonetheless, the Independence pushed to find an equalizer all the way until the end of 90 minutes and six more minutes of stoppage time, yet, Fitzgerald was in command between the pipes, making two more saves, while the defense stood tall and blocked or closed off attempts.
While still early days in the 30-game regular season, the Richmond Kickers move back to the top of the USL League One table on goal differential. Currently, the team ranks tied for first in the league in goals scored with seven while conceding the second-fewest goals in the league (3). Terzaghi took a share of the lead in the Golden Boot race with three goals scored while Baima’s first two league assists earned him a share of the lead in the assist leader race. Fitzgerald leads the league in saves with 20 — 12 more than the second-place goalkeeper.
The Kickers have a week off before preparing to host Forward Madison on May 7 when the club will celebrate the anniversary of the club’s inaugural season opener in May 1993. Then, the Kickers will host Charlotte FC of the MLS on Wednesday, May 11 in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Round of 32. Tickets for both matches are on sale now at richmondkickers.com/tickets.