Atlanta's hopes to remain undefeated were ruined Wednesday night when they fell 2-1 to the Richmond Kickers. Richmond, the 2001 season champs came into the game with 3 wins to Atlanta's 5. Conditions were perfect for an evening soccer match and both teams were ready and able for a win. Notwithstanding, the Kickers had the chemistry advantage, due to the abundance of returning players.
The Kickers launched a surprise attack on the Silverbacks within only 4 minutes of the starting whistle. Off of a corner kick, Richmond's David Hayes picked up the loose ball just inside the 18. He slipped it right at Keeper Hancock who misjudged a funny bounce and watched the ball go between his legs.
The kickers kept up the pressure when former Silverback, Josh Henderson carried the ball into the Silverbacks 18 and ripped a shot. Hancock redeemed himself with a lightening quick dive to push the ball wide of the right post. The Kickers were pretty well inflamed by now. The Silverbacks however, were late to press. Josh attacked a second time when he ran right into the path of a steaming cross. Fortunately for Atlanta, this excellent chance for a goal was placed into the left outside netting.
The first significant chance for the Silverbacks was in the 25th minute when Brian Piesner sent a cross from a free kick to the green-cleated, John Akin who headed the ball right into the cross bar. Six minutes later Akin was again, in a fine position to score. Iggy and Baptiste strung together a give-and-go and set John up for another scoring chance. This time Kicker's keeper, Pascale was ready and deflected the shot.
Silverbacks' coach Brett Mosen made a change in the back by taking out Jason Annicchero for Philippe Godoy and moving Baptiste back to defend. Two minutes later, Josh Henderson created another chance for the Kickers. Turning with the just above the six-yard box, he leaned back and launched the ball towards the stars. Another two minutes passed and Josh Henderson once again threatened the Atlanta net. Kevin Jeffrey's pass to Josh was just in time for him to attempt at chipping the charging Hancock, who stole the ball out of the air. The final scare for the half was just before the whistle when Mike Burke full volleyed the ball from the 18 where Hancock was ready to make the save.
The whistle blew and the Atlanta fans relaxed. Only for a moment, however. The Silverbacks' defense created quite a scare and it was evident that if Atlanta wanted to stay undefeated some changes in organization and nerves. At this point nerves had gotten the best of Atlanta for they were playing quite rushed and unorganized. In fact, if it hadn't been for all the near misses by Richmond a win for Atlanta would be highly unlikely. Coach Mosen took Iggy out for Velko Iotov to get some variation up front where things weren't happening. The starting whistle blew and Atlanta stood up to a tension.
Five minutes passed and Richmond attacked. Jeffery found himself with space to stretch. He took his time and fired a shot. Hancock displayed his athletic ability and 6'3''ness and touched the ball off the post. Several one-on-one chances by both teams ensued, but none wielding a goal.
In the 68th Velko Iotov was forced to leave the game with an injury. Ryan Leib came in and immediately announced his entrance with a powerful header off the crossbar. Eight minutes later Richmond declared victory as Baptiste committed too early for tackle and Burke burst into Atlanta's goal box. Hancock charged, Burke dodged and simply passed the ball into the back of the net.
In the last 4 minutes of the game Atlanta managed to create two incredible chances. First, Leib picked up the ball at the six and fired a point blank shot wide, and two minutes later Broder set Wall up for a shot, which was pushed out by Pascale for a corner. Finally in the 90th minute Atlanta finished a shot. A header by Hetherington met Richmond's net for the first time. Unfortunately, this glory was too little and too lately known.
This match brought back a few friends of Atlanta. Including Josh Henderson, Ronnie Pascale, and Ihor Dotsenko. All of which started for Richmond. Atlanta knew this would be a difficult game. The Kickers are defending champions of the a-league. And while Atlanta is flourished with talent, there has always been the team chemistry issue. These kinks will be straightened out as the season unfolds and until then, the Silverbacks should continue as they have all season. That is learning each player's playing style, communicating, finishing, and developing as a team.
Atlanta - Hancock GK, Hetherington M, Moleka F (Iotov 45th, Leib 68th), Kraemer D, Jean-Baptiste D, Wall D, Parra M (Cooks 82nd), Annicchero D (Godoy 35th), Akin F, Piesner M(Broder 60th), Mitchell, B M
Richmond - Pascale GK, Goodlett D, McKay D, Luzak D, Leckis M, Dotsenko M, Knight M, Hayes M (Munthali 89th), Burke M (Ukrop 86th), Jeffrey F(Stockton 64th), Henderson, F
Shots Saves Corners Fouls Offside
Atlanta 10 8 8 18 5
Richmond 12 7 7 15 3
75th- Stockton (Hayes)
90th- Hetherington (Kraemer)