Photo courtesy James Loving / Richmond Kickers
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A month ago, following a 2-0 defeat on the road against longtime rival the Charleston Battery, the Richmond Kickers were under some threat of not being part of the USL Playoffs for the first time since the league formed in 2011.
Since then, a five-game winning streak that continued on Wednesday night with a 1-0 victory against the Rochester Rhinos has powered the side up the Eastern Conference standings, just two points back of the fourth-place Battery.
While the cumulative work put in by the side has been marked, the man at the center of the club’s longest regular-season winning streak since 2011 was the Kickers’ game-winner on Wednesday night, with Yudai Imura’s brilliant free kick the difference against the defending USL champions.
Imura now leads the Kickers with eight goals this season, but of late the 25-year-old has hit a new level of production. Imura’s name has appeared on the score sheet in each of the Kickers’ five wins, with five goals and two assists over that span.
Now in his second season with the club, Imura has taken a central role for the team. He sits fourth on the team in minutes, with only the trio of defensive stalwarts William Yomby, Hugh Roberts and Braeden Troyer ahead of him, and his versatility in providing both creativity in the attacking third, and the ability to play as a deeper, holding midfielder is a great asset for Coach Leigh Cowlishaw to be able to call on.
As Richmond prepares for the second leg of its road trip this Saturday against FC Montreal, Imura will continue to be a player to watch as the side gears up for a big stretch run, and potential playoff success.