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August 13, 2012
Week in review: Late goal lifts Kickers

RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers took a crucial 2-1 victory on Saturday night at City Stadium as they moved above the Harrisburg City Islanders in the USL PRO standings and into fourth place as the season enters its final week. William Yomby scored the crucial goal in front of a crowd of 2,922, atoning for an earlier own goal that had drawn the City Islanders level in the first half.

As in their first meeting this season at City Stadium, the two teams traded goals early in the first half. The Kickers took the lead in the 13th minute as a deflected shot by Luke Vercollone came to Stanley Nyazamba, who drove home a finish from inside the penalty area. The City Islanders were able to tie the game two minutes later as Yomby turned the ball into his own net. Richmond almost regained the lead immediately, Gerson dos Santos hitting the post in the 16th minute, but the teams went to the break tied.

The Kickers appeared to have the better of the second half, with Ryan Heins going close to giving his side the lead just past the hour-mark. Richmond found the back of the net in the 78th minute, however, as Yomby rose to head home a cross by Nyazamba to put his side back ahead. The City Islanders forced Richmond’s Ronnie Pascale into a late save with two minutes to go, the Kickers veteran recording six saves in his final home regular season appearance, but the Kickers were able to hold on to take victory.

The Kickers conclude their season this weekend with a pair of games in the Caribbean against Antigua Barracuda FC. The City Islanders, who are tied on points for sixth position with the Charlotte Eagles, will head west to face the Los Angeles Blues for their final two games of the regular season.

: The Harrisburg City Islanders boosted their hopes of a berth in the USL PRO playoffs as they took victory against the Charleston Battery at Skyline Sports Complex. The City Islanders recorded their third shutout in four games as they bounced back from defeat in their last outing.

Neither side was able to create much in the way of scoring chances early in the game, but the game turned in the 25th minute as Brian Ombiji was able to get in behind the Battery defense to run onto a through-ball. The City Islanders’ forward was brought down three yards outside the penalty area by Kyle Hoffer, earning the Battery defender a red card as he denied Ombiji the chance to break in on goal.

The City Islanders were able to take advantage five minutes later, as Tom Mellor’s shot from 20 yards was parried by Andrew Dykstra, only for Ombiji to put away the rebound from close range. Mellor then got on the score sheet himself in the 36th minute, flicking home a fine free kick from the right into the top-right corner of the net to give Harrisburg a 2-0 halftime lead.

Playing with a man-advantage, Harrisburg remained in control for the majority of the second half, and added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute when Lucky Mkosana scored his sixth goal of a season as he outpaced the Battery’s defense on a breakaway.

: Antigua Barracuda FC put a big dent in the Los Angeles Blues’ playoff hopes as they rallied from a halftime deficit to earn the victory at Titan Stadium. Orlando Mitchum and Kerry Skepple scored second-half goals to give Antigua its first win since July 1 against the Charleston Battery.

The Blues had the better of the first half, with Matt Fondy going close to giving his side the lead as he broke into the right side of the penalty area, only for his shot to be saved by Antigua goalkeeper Molvin James. Los Angeles found the breakthrough in the 34th minute, however, as a quick move down the right released Maykel Galindo, and his low cross was finished at close range by Max Griffin for his third goal since joining the Blues.

Griffin could have added to the Blues’ lead in the 55th minute as a fine sweeping cross from the left by Josh Suggs curled invitingly toward the top of the six-yard area, but the on-loan Orlando City striker was unable to put his finish on target. Two minutes later, Antigua would capitalize on a piece of good fortune as an attempted clearance by the Blues deflected off the referee and to Antigua’s Lawson Robinson, who was able to release Mitchum in on the right side of the penalty area to rifle a low shot into the left corner of the net.

Los Angeles pushed forward to try and regain its lead, but it was the Barracudas who scored the decisive goal in the 85th minute as a cross by Mitchum was bundled into the back of the net by Kerry Skepple from close range. Tamarley Thomas had a chance to ice the game for Antigua in the 89th minute, only to shoot well wide on a counter-attack, but his side was able to hold on for victory.

: A late first-half strike from Nate Thornton led the Charlotte Eagles to victory against Pittsburgh in the Riverhounds’ final game at Chartiers Valley Stadium. The victory for the Eagles was their seventh in their past eight games, and kept them in contention for a berth the USL PRO Playoffs.

Thornton’s goal came in the 39th minute, as he was able to flick the ball past his defender at the top of the penalty area before volleying home from the penalty spot. The goal was his third in USL PRO this season.

Pittsburgh tried to push forward more in the second half, halftime substitute Tino Nunez almost making an immediate impact only for his shot to be saved by Eric Reed a minute after the break. The Riverhounds also hit the post in the 66th minute, but that was as close as they came to finding an equalizer as they said goodbye to their current home as Charlotte’s Chris Salvaggione and Mauricio Salles capped the victory with goals in the 89th and 90th minutes.

The Riverhounds are set to move into Highmark Stadium in 2013, with the stadium currently under construction, but will finish their 2012 season on the road against the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday, night at Sahlen’s Stadium.

: Tony Donatelli had two goals and an assist against his former club, ending the Battery’s five-game winless streak and moving them within a point of the Rochester Rhinos with a victory at Sahlen’s Stadium on Saturday night. The result, along with results elsewhere, allowed both teams to clinch berths in the USL PRO Playoffs, with only seeding up for grabs as they play their final games of the season.

The Rhinos had the better of the early possession, but it was the Battery who took the lead in the 18th minute as a pass by Ryan Richter found Donatelli, who curled a shot into the left corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area to put his side ahead.

The Rhinos almost hit back six minutes later, only for Kendell McFayden to hit the post from 15 yards after a good long pass by Troy Roberts, but the Battery doubled their lead on the half-hour mark as Jose Cuevas’ cross from the right was headed home by Donatelli. Charleston capped a big opening half in stoppage time as Kristian Nicht wasn’t able to handle a free kick by Nicki Paterson, and Amadou Sanyang poked home the rebound.

The pattern of play remained the same in the second half, with the Rhinos having the better of possession and creating some chances. It was the Battery who went closest to scoring as Cuevas hit the post, and they added a fourth through second-half substitute Dane Kelly in the 86th minute on a breakaway, curling a low shot into the right corner of the net.

The Battery return home to face the Dayton Dutch Lions in their final game of the season Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium, with the chance to move into second place should the Rhinos fail to defeat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saturday at Sahlen’s Stadium. The second-place side will join Orlando City in earning a bye to the semifinals of the USL PRO Playoffs.

DAYTON DUTCH LIONS 2, CHARLOTTE EAGLES 2: Josh Rife scored in second-half stoppage time as the Charlotte Eagles rallied late for a draw against the Dayton Dutch Lions at Miami Valley South Stadium. The point drew the Eagles level with the Harrisburg City Islanders for the sixth and final berth in the USL PRO Playoffs with both teams having two games remaining.

Both teams hit the crossbar in the early going, Eli Garner doing so for the Dutch Lions, and the former North Carolina forward proved a menace throughout the first half. He forced a good save from Eagles goalkeeper Clint Irwin in the 34th minute, but three minutes later he was able to open the scoring as he volleyed home a cross by Taylor Lord.

Garner’s strike partner Gibson Bardsley then struck early in the second half, scoring from a narrow angle in the 47th minute to double his side’s lead. The Eagles pressed forward to try and get back into the game, and did so with four minutes to go as Chris Salvaggione rifled home a shot into the left corner of the net from the right side of the penalty area. Charlotte almost tied the game two minutes later as Mark Bloom’s driven effort was just palmed over the crossbar by Dayton goalkeeper Matt Williams, but the Eagles salvaged a point in stoppage time as Rife was able to drive home a finish off a rebound from eight yards out.

The Dutch Lions will hit the road for their final two games of the regular season this weekend, visiting Orlando City on Friday night at the Florida Citrus Bowl before travelling to face the Charleston Battery on Saturday night. The Eagles face a home-and-home series with the Wilmington Hammerheads to determine their playoff fate, with Wilmington sitting a point ahead of the Eagles in the USL PRO standings.

LOS ANGELES BLUES 1, ANTIGUA BARRACUDA 0: Max Griffin’s first-half goal gave the Los Angeles Blues victory against Antigua Barracuda FC, keeping their hopes alive in the race for the USL PRO Playoffs. The goal was Griffin’s fourth since he joined the Blues on loan from Orlando City.

The Blues looked to use Maykel Galindo down the left side for much of the first half as Antigua was content to sit back defensively and try to hit on the counter-attack. The Barracudas frustrated the Blues well defensively with their numbers in the penalty area, but Los Angeles took the lead late in first-half stoppage time as Griffin flicked home Galindo’s cross.

Los Angeles looked to add to its lead in the second half, but it was Antigua that got the best chance to score after the break as it was awarded a penalty kick after Allan Russel brought down Tamarley Thomas in the 18-yard box. Quinton Griffith stepped up to take the shot, but Blues goalkeeper Jose Miranda saved well to his right, turning Griffith’s shot away for a corner. The Blues held on to earn a crucial three points as Antigua wasn’t able to create many other clear-cut chances.

Los Angeles remains at home to conclude the regular season as the Blues host the Harrisburg City Islanders for a pair of games Friday and Sunday night needing victory in both contests to have a chance to reach the playoffs. The Barracudas return home to close out their season as the Richmond Kickers visit Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Friday and Sunday evenings.

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