RICHMOND, VA – After trailing for nearly an hour, the Richmond Kickers rallied in the second half with a 63rd minute equalizer and two more in the final seven minutes to down the Charlotte Eagles 3-1 in the USL Second Division Championship.
In their last two championship appearances last year in Cleveland and 2006 in Richmond, the Charlotte Eagles found no consolation in scoring a late goal in a 2-1 loss and were looking to reverse the script Saturday night at the University of Richmond Stadium in the rematch of the 2006 final.
They did just that, scoring 14 minutes in to give them their first lead in Richmond since August 5, 2006.
A brilliant through ball off the center line from Darren Toby found Diego Martins on a run down the middle of the defense. Martins sweetly struck the ball on the bounce at the top of the box, sending his shot inside the far post past Ronnie Pascale.
But the final outcome of the story, unfortunately, remained the same, spoiling an opportunity for the retiring Charlotte stars Dustin Swinehart and Ben Johnson to go out with another championship victory.
A back-and-forth game that saw numerous dangerous opportunities for both sides, several for Charlotte’s Diego Martins, strongly turned in Richmond’s favor midway through the second half largely through the pair of halftime inserts David Bulow and John DiRaimondo and particularly on the equalizer in the 63rd minute.
A lofted Bulow cross from the left flank found Edson Elcock charging the far post. Elcock was able to get his head on the ball and nod it down in front of Steward Ceus, bouncing it past the keeper from point-blank range and into the goal for his second tally of the season.
A DiRaimondo free kick from the left flank in the 83rd minute found its way inside the far post, slightly skipping off the head of Charlotte defender Ben Johnson at the near corner of the six, forcing Ceus to pause on the play.
Two minutes later a ball flicked on by Matthew Delicate sent Bulow down the middle, forcing Ceus to charge out to make a play, but committed a foul that led to a penalty. Bulow calmly slipped the penalty inside the left post for the two-goal margin.
“I think we came out a little bit flat,” said Pascale. “All credit to Charlotte – they really took it to us and were ready play in the first half.”
“Fortunately, we were only down one-nothing so we kinda regrouped in the second half. We came out and said listen guys this isn’t how we want to play, this isn’t how the Kickers play. Let’s go out and play Kickers soccer. We were able to do it. We were able to come out and create some good chances and put them away.”