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Fitzgerald is Back with Richmond in 2021, Named Goalkeeping Coach

By Patrick Wood, 12/11/20, 12:30PM EST


Veteran Keeper Returns as Player/Coach in his Third Season

RICHMOND, Va. – (Friday, December 11, 2020) – The Richmond Kickers are pleased to announce the return of goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald for the 2021 season, pending USL League One and USSF approval. Fitzgerald will also be joining the technical staff, assuming the role of Goalkeeping Coach. 
"Akira was a great leader over this very different 2020 season," said Chief Sporting Officer and Head Coach Darren Sawatzky. "His leadership, work ethic, and his ability to make the saves needed for us at opportune times makes him a valuable piece to our team and to our club. He has earned the expanded role of player and goalkeeper coach as we build our team for 2021. We have no doubt that his future in the game involves influencing the next generation of goalkeepers in America, but we look forward to watching him man the net for us in 2021."
Fitzgerald enters his third season with the Kickers, after putting up strong numbers over the previous two seasons. With a career pass completion percentage at 86%, Fitzgerald is a versatile, modern goalkeeper. The veteran keeper started all 16 matches for the Kickers in 2020, posting three shutouts, and recording 50 saves -- tied for the highest in USL League One. He also recorded 16 clearances throughout the season. After his season-high eight save performance at South Georgia Tormenta FC early in the season, Fitzgerald was honored on the League One Team of the Week.
“I’m so excited to be back for my third season with the Kickers,” commented Fitzgerald. “Seeing the growth of the group this last season under Darren’s leadership made the decision to stay and fight for a championship that much easier. I’ve always felt so much love from our supporters and it will be an honor to represent them and their club on the field this upcoming season. Even in the most difficult of years they played an enormous part in making this past season so enjoyable and successful. I look forward to pushing even harder this year and lifting a trophy in front of them at the end of it.”
Joining Richmond in 2019, Fitzgerald took the field 25 times. He finished the season with eight clean sheets behind 72 saves, which was good enough to be tied for second in the league in clean sheets and saves. His strong season saw him named a finalist for the 2019 USL League One Goalkeeper of the Year award.
As Fitzgerald continues his storied veteran career between the sticks, he is also set to assume new responsibilities for the technical side in his second season under the direction of Sawatzky.
"Akira will take over for Adrian Clewlow, who worked with Akira over the past two seasons,” added Sawatzky. “We want to wish Clewie all success as he moves on to new opportunities. He has been and will always be part of the Kickers family."
Before making the move to the River City, Fitzgerald spent two seasons with USL Championship side Tampa Bay Rowdies. He notched 25 saves and recorded four clean sheets in 13 appearances with the Rowdies. Over two different stints with North Carolina FC, he made 82 appearances for the club, making 406 saves. Fitzgerald earned a contract with Major League Soccer expansion side New York City FC in 2015 in between his time with North Carolina FC.
An NCAA National Champion in 2007, Fitzgerald spent four years at Wake Forest University. He made 73 appearances with the Demon Deacons, earning Second Team All-ACC honors in his senior season and was one of 30 candidates for the 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for men's soccer after an ACC-leading 81 save season. 
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