It's not every day that we get to preview a clash against a USL Pro team (usually that Doherty's forte) but today is one of those days. The New England Revolution are rolling down the coast to visit the Richmond Kickers in the U.S. Open Cup fourth round, playing a rather convenient fixture in the middle of a long World Cup break.
Normally there isn't much we'd be able to tell you about a lower-division club, but today we're in luck. Ben Bromley of Black and Red United is a bit of a renaissance man, and he's agreed to help us preview the Kickers, who also happen to be D.C. United's USL Pro affiliate.
TBM: Second place in USL Pro is nothing to sneeze at right now, and the Kickers are really breathing down Orlando City's necks. What's been the biggest reason for success this season, and with OCSC moving to MLS next season, do you think Richmond is poised to become the dominant team in the league for 2015?
BB: I don't know if the Richmond Kickers will be able to replicate Orlando City's dominance; the owners of OCSC have much deeper pockets, and have always had MLS on their minds. However, I do think that Richmond can remain a top three team in the league for as long as Leigh Cowlishaw remains the head coach. He has been with the team ever since its founding, starting as a player in 1993 and he has been the head coach since 2000. The next few years will show plenty of change in the makeup and format of USL PRO, but Richmond should be able to weather it all.
TBM: Matthew Delicate seems to be leading the charge for the Kickers with 9 goals in just 14 matches. Will he feature on Wednesday night, and what makes him so successful?
BB: Delicate is the Richmond Kickers' all-time leading scorer, and he wasn't expected to return this season. But after testing the waters, Cowlishaw was able to lure him back to Richmond for another season. He is a classic English center forward: good in the air and a target for long balls from the defense. He has also benefited from the absence of D.C. United loanee Michael Seaton; whenever Seaton is in town, he starts over Delicate.
TBM: So far, the Rochester-New England affiliation has been...interesting, without the kind of smashing success seen in the whole Dom Dwyer/SKC/OCSC situation from last season. How have the Kickers and D.C. United benefited from their partnership?
BB: The D.C. United-Richmond Kickers partnership does not yet have a breakout star in the mold of Dom Dwyer, but it has helped develop D.C. United's young players while giving the Kickers players of a quality that they would not be able to afford otherwise. Michael Seaton has improved by leaps and bounds, going from struggling with the Kickers at the beginning of last year, to the Jamaican national team this year. Selfishly, I hope he gets more time in Richmond this year, but we will soon see him getting minutes for D.C. United.
However, so far this season, United has not had the same numbers of players in Richmond as they did last year. Joe Willis and Christiano Francois have been the most consistent loanees, with many other players only getting one or two games in Richmond. Hopefully as United gets healthy, they will be able to send some young players to Richmond on a more consistent basis.
TBM: Can we get a score prediction?
BB: Richmond always plays tough in US Open Cup matches, but I think they will lose 2-1 to the Revolution.
TBM: I'll never ask for a projected XI in a cup match, but if you think you can provide it, go for it.
BB: Joe Willis; Alex Lee, Henry Kalungi, William Yomby, Sascha Goerres; Luke Vercollone, Samuel Asante; Shay Spitz, George Davis IV, Jason Yeisley; Matthew Delicate