William Yomby challenges for a ball against Swansea City AFC in 2017 | Photo © Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography
Now in the month of July, anticipation for the Richmond Kickers’ exhibition with RCD Espanyol of LaLiga is steadily building. The friendly is set for Wednesday, July 25 from City Stadium.
This year marks the first time that the Kickers will be facing a team from LaLiga after battling a squad from the English Premier League in the previous four seasons. Whether they are in their first year with the Kickers or seasoned veterans in Richmond, the players are thrilled for the challenge that awaits them.
“It’s super exciting,” said veteran defender Conor Shanosky. “In the past we’ve had the EPL games, and those have always been really good. I think all the players really enjoy it. It’s obviously a great experience for all of us in that we can take that experience forward. This year it’s LaLiga and that’s my favorite league, so I’m pretty excited about that personally.”
“There’s definitely some excitement,” said forward Brian Shriver who is in his first year with the Kickers. “You definitely know that the quality is there. These are world class players, so it’ll be a fun night for us to show what we can do and hopefully make the game exciting.”
Not only is it the first time that the Kickers will square off against a team from Spain’s top league, but it also marks the first that any team from LaLiga is coming to Virginia.
“Whether you’ve done it once or you’re doing it again, you always feel the same way when you face a team coming abroad,” said captain William Yomby. “In the past we have faced Premier League teams, but now it’s something different because we’re facing a Spanish team. Their style of play is going to be different. Their mentality is going to be different.”
“It’s going to be different,” Shanosky said. “LaLiga teams generally have a different approach than English Premier League teams. I think we’re looking forward to what they bring. Personally I’ve never played a LaLiga team. I’ve played some English teams, Dutch teams, Mexican teams, but never a LaLiga so this will be exciting.”
The Espanyol match allows the Kickers to reach into different communities around Richmond and draw out a new audience who shares a love for soccer.
“One of the big things about this game is that we’re going to be able to bring in a lot of the Hispanic community because they are very big supporters of soccer,” Yomby said. “Having a team playing from Spain is definitely going to bring them to the stadium. We hope to play well enough to keep them coming. Even though I’ve played against other professional teams from abroad, this a big excitement. This I still feel like a kid in a playground just waiting to face that group.”
“We have to try to make it a very good game for the fans, for the community, and for the club,” said first year player Heviel Cordoves. “We should come with a lot of fans, especially with the Latino community. La Liga is a big deal. It should be a very fun game.”
When Leigh Cowlishaw stepped down from his position at head coach to concentrate on his role as director of soccer, a look back at his legacy showed how he always made a concerted effort to grow the game of soccer in Richmond. Now with David Bulow at the helm, the Kickers again get that chance against Espanyol, a team that beat Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the 2017-2018 season.
“It’s more of an event,” Shriver said. “It’s trying to showcase high level soccer in the city of Richmond. At the same time, show that we can compete and can hold our own. It’ll be a great night and exciting soccer on the field for all the fans.”
“That just shows the commitment that the Kickers have in making soccer grow in Richmond,” Yomby said. “Having teams coming from that far and not just a small team, but a big team coming that far to Richmond to play against us at City Stadium, that just shows how much we want people around the city to come in and share that excitement with us.”
Kickoff from City Stadium at 7 p.m. on July 25 is quickly approaching. Tickets are still available on RichmondKickers.com.