Kickers Advance To USL PRO American Division FinalsAugust 19, 2011 - USL PRO (USL PRO) Richmond Kickers
Having met just over a week earlier at Legion Stadium, the Kickers and the Hammerheads squared off in the first round of the USL PRO playoffs on familiar terms. Looking to avenge last week's loss, the Hammerheads were firing on all cylinders out of the gates and nearly broke the ice inside the first 10 minutes. Forward Andriy Budnyy intercepted the ball in the midfield and beat his defender en route to goal, but Pascale read his playbook and spoiled his plan with his first big save of the night.
Later, the Kickers looked dangerous after a quick restart left a speedy Stanley Nyazamba unmarked on the right wing. Barreling into the box, the Zimbabwean midfielder set his sights on the target and fired a laser shot from a difficult angle, but Hammerheads goalkeeper Brock Duckworth was able to clear the ball from harm's way in the 28th minute.
Both sides looked to find their rhythm after the second half restart, but few dangerous chances materialized on either end of the pitch. It was not until the final three minutes of regulation that the teams picked up the pace, exchanging close calls as the threat of overtime loomed near.
First, Edson Elcock won the ball in the midfield and eluded defenders as he careened towards the box. Duckworth came off his line to challenge the Kickers midfielder 1v1 and stifled the shot from 14 yards in the 87th minute.
Then, with just seconds remaining in regulation, a Kickers handball was called on the edge of the box. Budnyy lined up the resulting free kick in prime position but saw his best chance to avoid extra time ricochet off the Kickers defensive wall.
With an additional 30 minutes added to the clock, the home side looked for the game-winner early when a throw in deep on the right side was flicked on to an unmarked Manny Guzman in the 94th minute. Lurking at the far post, the Hammerheads midfielder won the ball in the air but his nod barely missed the upper 90, mandating penalties to decide the winner.
The first eight penalty kick takers were successful with Kickers defender Sascha Görres, midfielders David Bulow and Nozomi Hiroyama and forward Matthew Delicate each beating Duckworth to find the back of the net, but it was forward Shaka Bangura who gave the Kickers the advantage at the top of the fifth round.
Faced with a must-score situation, Hammerheads veteran Chris Bagley stepped up to the spot and pulled the trigger but Pascale guessed correctly and pushed his shot against the post. The ball took a dangerous back spin towards the goal but the deft keeper leapt to his feat and batted it away to send the Kickers through to the next round.
The Richmond Kickers await the result of the other American Division Semifinal, which pits the #4 seed Charleston Battery against the USL PRO Regular Season Champions Orlando City on Saturday, August 20th. Should the Battery advance to the Semifinal Round, the Kickers will host the match at Richmond City Stadium on Saturday, August 27. If they are successful in the Semifinals, the Kickers will host the winner of the National Division in the Championship match, as the league's third seed overall, on Saturday, September 3.
USL PRO Stories from August 19, 2011
- Kickers Advance To USL PRO American Division Finals - Richmond Kickers
- Richmond Kickers Advance to American Division Final - Wilmington Hammerheads
- Rhinos End Riverhounds' Season - Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Dautt Named to USL PRO Team of the Week - Los Angeles Blues
- 'USL Breakaway Magazine' Returns Saturday on Fox Soccer - USL PRO
- Orlando City Begins Playoff Run Saturday - Orlando City SC
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