Given the way the Richmond Kickers’ season has ended up — second from the bottom of the USL Eastern Conference for a second consecutive season — that the Kickers were at one point this season 3-1-1 at City Stadium sitting one spot outside of the playoffs is hard to fathom.
But that was the reality for the Kickers after defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies all the way back on May 12. Not much has gone right since then at City Stadium, though, with Richmond logging only two wins.
And, in what can only be categorized as a sign of the times in American soccer, the Kickers closed their home slate Saturday with a second straight game against a club leaving for Major League Soccer.
The Kickers dropped their final home game, losing 3-0 to USL defectors Nashville SC to finish with a 5-9-3 record at home. Richmond lost 4-1 to MLS-bound FC Cincinnati on Sept. 26.
Tucker Hume and Michael Reed notched goals for Nashville before halftime, and Alan Winn put the game away with a goal in the 56th minute, sending Richmond to a ninth straight winless game and a sixth straight loss as it labors toward the 2018 season’s finish line.
“Unfortunately, as has been the case since I’ve taken over, we’re guaranteed to give [opposing teams] three to four quality chances, and they don’t give up anything,” Kickers coach David Bulow said.
“Just looking at the stats, [Nashville] had six total shots, four on target and scored three. It’s just a matter of quality, and we’re just not good enough.”
“Not good enough” has been a phrase routinely thrown around all season by Bulow and his predecessor, Leigh Cowlishaw, in what could arguably be considered one of the toughest seasons of the club’s 26-year existence.
The Kickers are addressing the issue of quality by transitioning into the third division of American soccer at season’s end, now dubbed USL League One. But having next year’s plans sorted out didn’t soften the blow of sending fans at City Stadium off with another loss.
“We’ve had fantastic support throughout the whole season,” Bulow said. “It’s hard to come out and support a team that doesn’t win many games, and they were great again tonight. As I said to the team before the game, it’s up to us come out here … and reward them. Thank them for their support throughout the season with a good performance.
“We didn’t have it today.”
The Kickers are likely to face a complete roster turnover next season, thanks to its division drop, and Richmond has agreed to release every player from his contract at the end of the season.
Still with plenty to play for as a team and personally as players look to make their next moves, Bulow said the approach in the final game of the season next Saturday against Atlanta United 2 will be the same as it always is: “to win.”
Even with positives few and far between in what was Bulow’s first season in charge, asking his team to carry on has apparently never been a problem, and watching his team stay motivated and working hard are what he hopes become hallmarks as the Kickers wade through an uncertain future.
“We just have to try to create a culture in this club where we’re working hard and we’re playing for each other,” Bulow said. “Just doing our best to represent the club.”
Nashville 2 1 — 3
Richmond 0 0 — 0
Nashville: Hume (6) 20th; Reed (2) 29th; Winn (4) 56th
Goalkeepers: Pickens (N) 2; Spangenberg (R) 1
Shots: Richmond 16-6
Corners: Richmond 4-3
Fouls: Richmond 10-8
Cautions: Boehme (R) 40th; Agyemang (R) 81st; Gentile (R) 90th