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Eastern Conference Preview: Richmond Kickers

 Part 10 of our 13 part USL Eastern Conference Preview series. Links to previous precocious previews: Part I: Bethlehem Steel; Part 2: Charleston Battery; Part 3: Charlotte Independence; Part 4: FC Cincinnati; Part 5: FC Montreal; Part 6: Harrisburg City Islanders; Part 7: New York Red Bulls IIPart 8: Orlando City BPart 9: Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Whoever designed the Richmond Kickers’ website clearly was not concerned with the news section. I stared at the website for 10 minutes trying to find the news section, but was unsuccessful because…there isn’t one. The only news are the articles on the main page, there is no archive of past news, or even a list like most team websites. I never got to see Richmond play last season, but I am assuming they are not too bright if their own website can’t provide me easy access to news about the club. Go to the uslsoccer.com if you want news about them.

Anyway: Richmond Kickers. Kickers reminds me of a recreational team your dad put together of the neighbor kids. Also, can anyone explain the logo for me? I am not sure what I think it is.

Like every other soccer team ever, Richmond Kickers were busy signing and not signing players in the offseason. The club renewed its MLS affiliation agreement with DC United for 2 more years, and shortly afterwards announced the return of defender Braeden Troyer (22 starts and 25 appearances last season).

While most teams first news is to say what players they are bringing in, Richmond decided, “hey, lets send people out of the club”. They announced at the beginning of the year that forward Anthony Grant would be heading for to the Red Stripe (great beer!) Premier League in Jamaica on loan for the University of the West Indies FC. Grant was the 2015 PDL MVP for the Seacoast United Phantoms after claiming the league’s Golden Boot with 12 goals, then signed with the Kickers following the conclusion of the Phantoms’ season. He made 5 appearances for the Kickers last season.

Next, the Kickers signed Lesotho (City’s GK coach Thabane Sutu is from there, too!) international and former Wilmington Hammerheads FC midfielder Sunny Jane. Jane had seven goals and four assists in 41 appearances for the Hammerheads over the past two seasons. He also has made 4 appearances for the Lesotho national team and is helping them prepare for the next round of qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations in 2017.

Easily the best news for the Kickers was Brian Ownby will re-sign with them should he not make the cut at the Colorado Rapids training camp. Ownby re-signed with Richmond after tallying five goals and four assists in 14 appearances in 2015 before a season-ending injury sidelined him last June. Previously, he made 21 appearances with the Kickers in 2013 on loan from the Houston Dynamo. He was selected by Houston in the first round of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft. Ownby made 29 appearances with the Dynamo over three seasons. He has an impressive college career from the University of Virgina with 21 goals and 10 assists over his 4 year tenure. The midfielder even represented the United States at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, scoring a goal in the group stage match against Cameroon.

At the end of January, the Kickers continued its re-signing campaign with goalkeeper Ryan Taylor, who will be returning for his fourth season with the club. Taylor made 17 regular-season appearances in 2015, and recorded a career-high five shutouts to finish with a 9-5-3 record in goal.

Richmond got a late start on filling their rosters missing spots compared to the other teams, signing several players in the last week of February. A pair of Brazilian strikers, Luiz Fernando Nascimento and Romulo Peretta, joined the club from Corinthians S.C. They both bring a lot of youth experience from competitive leagues and academy team play to the Kickers. The most recent was the resigning of homegrown midfielder Nate Shiffman. He has made a good number of apperances in the USL and notched a few goals and assists but other than that not a whole lot on him, other than providing depth in several positions.

Ed note: In case you were wondering, yes, Mike Callahan is still on the roster. He’s also been named Team Captain. And he’s an Assistant Coach. Richmond is the worst.

Richmond has already told the USL they wish to better last season. While the Kickers had only seven regular-season losses, the third-fewest in the East, the club led the USL with 11 draws and will be looking to find more consistency in 2016 [Ed. Note: they were consistent: they drew a lot]. One of the key players will be Jason Yeisley, who earned All-League honors as he led the side with 13 goals. The experienced forward accounted for almost one-third of the club’s goals in the regular season, however, and with the departure of George Davis IV to Louisville (sorry, not sorry, Richmond) the Kickers will likely need others to step up and provide a threat as Richmond looks to push higher in the standings. They finished with just enough points to get into the playoffs in 2015 if you recall.

Look for Richmond to be mid table again this season. I expect them to either lose or win more games as they seemed to love the tie with a league high in ties at 11. [Ed. note: strong take, there, Hamblin.]