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Akira Fitzgerald Named USL League One Goalkeeper of the Year

By Nathan Heintschel, Director of Digital Media, 11/16/21, 1:00PM EST

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The veteran set a new single-season record in saves while leading the league in clean sheets


Photo © Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography | Illustration by Alyn Carr, Senior Manager of Marketing & Branding

TAMPA, Fla. – (Tuesday, November 16, 2021) – Richmond Kickers’ starting goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach, Akira Fitzgerald was named the USL League One Goalkeeper of the Year for his record-breaking efforts during the 2021 season, the league announced Tuesday.
 
"It’s a great honor to win this award because there are many top goalkeepers in this league who had fantastic seasons and will go on and have great careers,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have played this long and to win this award at this stage of my career is a great accomplishment. 
 
“I feel more motivated than ever to continue to push on and achieve more for the club and myself." 

The 34-year-old veteran enjoyed a career year as he set the new single-season league record of 89 saves. Furthermore, Fitzgerald recorded 10 clean sheets that led all goalkeepers as the Kickers finished tied for second in total clean sheets behind first-place Greenville Triumph SC.
 
Fitzgerald would also record a 72.1 percent save percentage ranking ahead of 2021 Golden Glove winner Rashid Nuhu of Union Omaha.
 
"Being able to lead the league in clean sheets was an incredible collective effort that we as a group can take great pride in,” Fitzgerald said. “Every player played a role in making sure we were defensively solid each week, and I have to give an incredible amount of love to my backline who always put everything they had into each match. 
 
He continued, “I think it also showed how strong our goalkeeping department was to set a single-season record in saves while also helping the team into the playoffs. I want to thank Austin Aviza and Austin Causey for their incredible professionalism and hard work throughout the year because without them it wouldn’t have been possible to achieve these kinds of numbers and success for the club." 
 

Photo © Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography

Fitzgerald previously was named to the USL League One All-League First Team earlier in November 2021 before being named as a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year. He was nominated alongside Omaha’s Nuhu and New England Revolution II’s Joe Rice -- a former Richmond Kicker and understudy to Fitzgerald in 2019.
 
"It's a great accomplishment for Akira after a very good season,” Chief Sporting Officer and Head Coach Darren Sawatzky said. “You need your goalkeeper to keep you in games and Akira has done that consistently over the past two seasons.
 
“He is in charge of our goalkeeping department here in Richmond and we look forward to him between the pipes and running training in 2022 and beyond. I cannot think of a human being with more class, and I am happy he is being recognized."

Photo © Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography

2022 marks our historic 30th consecutive season! Reserve your spot at City Stadium, today at https://richmondkickers.com/seasontickets! Get your season tickets by Dec. 15 to receive an exclusive 30th season scarf!
 
Stay up to date with all of the Kickers news at RichmondKickers.com and on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

USL League One Voting Breakdown

Fitzgerald received 44 percent of the ballot to earn the award. Union Omaha’s Rashid Nuhu finished second on 34 percent, while the New England Revolution II’s Joe Rice finished third on 22 percent.
 
The 2021 USL League One Awards were voted on by team technical staffs and executives representing every team.
 
USL League One Goalkeeper of the Year

2021 – Akira Fitzgerald, Richmond Kickers
2020 – Dallas Jaye, Greenville Triumph SC
2019 – Dallas Jaye, Greenville Triumph SC
 
2021 USL League One Awards

Goalkeeper of the Year: Akira Fitzgerald, Richmond Kickers
Defender of the Year: Announced November 16
Coach of the Year: Announced November 17
Young Player of the Year: Announced November 17
Most Valuable Player: Announced November 18