Richmond Kickers fan Richard Hayes waves the flag around in the Red Army zone during a Kickers and North Carolina match, June 30, at City Stadium, Richmond, VA.

If the hardest part of the Kickers’ preparation for the 2019 season was not knowing what to expect, it didn’t take long for them to find out Saturday at City Stadium.

Lansing Ignite FC scored twice within the first half hour of the game, and after adding a third goal just after halftime, the Kickers were in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. Eventually falling 3-2 to Lansing, the optimism felt in the preseason by the Kickers will be on hold for at least one week.

“I truly believe we have a talented team, but you have to earn it,” Kickers coach David Bulow said. “Talk is cheap and we have to get out and match the ambition of the words that we have in the locker room with what we do on the field.”

Lansing, playing in its first game as a club, off and running in the 19th minute. Steeve Daint-Duc found Robinson Moshobane 10 yards from the goal, and he buried the ball past Richmond keeper Akira Fitzgerald to give Lansing a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Xavier Gomez made it 2-0 in the 27th minute, weaving through the Richmond defense to once again beat Fitzgerald.

Trailing by two goals at the half, Bulow implored his team to match Lansing’s intensity. Before his message had a chance to take, Kevin Coiffic scored the goal that secured a win, heading home a pass from Gomez in the 49th minute.

The Kickers eventually found their way back into the game in the 68th minute through a goal from Maxi Rodriguez, who volleyed home a shot on a pass from Daniel Jackson to start the Richmond comeback.

Joe Gallardo scored a penalty in the 76th minute, but an equalizer wasn’t found as Richmond fell to an eighth straight loss dating back to the end of last season.

The loss on this occasion was an eye opener for the current bunch of players.

“I think it was kind of a reality check. It brings us back down to earth,” Rodriguez said, adding that the game will be a learning experience for the team, while also noting that a number of the players for the Kickers hadn’t played a professional game in two years.

Gallardo said the 3-0 hole was a “major wake-up call,” and said the team owed it to the 5,936 fans that turned up to the season’s opener to turn the game around. Bulow credited his team for the comeback, but noted that his team’s execution was poor.

With a chance to make it right next Saturday with another home game, the Kickers will again play a team in its infancy, this time South Georgia Tormenta FC, winners in their first game as a professional club on Friday.

With another young, energetic team visiting City Stadium next week, the Kickers will have to hope the character that comes through against South Georgia is the same it showed Saturday against Lansing down 3-0.

“We showed fight,” Rodriguez said.

“We’re going to go through adversity at times, but it’s how we respond, and I thought we responded well. I think if we can put two halves together the way we played the second half, we can come out with a result.”

Lansing 2 1 — 3

Richmond 0 2 — 2

Lansing: Moshobane (1) 19th; Gomez (1) 27th; Coiffic (1) 49th

Richmond: Rodriguez (1) 68th; Gallardo (1) 76th

Goalkeeper saves: Kirk (L) 1; Fitzgerald (R) 0

Shots: Tied 10-10

Corners: Richmond 3-1

Fouls: Lansing 25-11

Cautions: Gallardo (R) 25th; Coiffic (L) 32nd; Carr (L) 63rd; Eckenrode (R) 72nd; Stoneman (L) 75th; Cerda (L) 86th

A: 5,936

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