The Richmond Kickers welcomed a crowd of 7,356 fans to City Stadium for the first visit of a side from La Liga to Virginia. | Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks / Richmond Kickers
RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers fell 4-2 to Spanish La Liga club RCD Espanyol in front of a crowd of 7,356 fans that witnessed a thrilling international exhibition at City Stadium on Wednesday night.
Richmond flexed its muscles in the first half, scoring two goals off a Conor Shanosky header and a Braeden Troyer strike which gave the hosts a 2-1 lead at halftime. Espanyol eventually wore down the Kickers, however, scoring three times in the last 10 minutes to claim victory. Puado, who entered in the 74th minute, added a goal eight minutes later and wrapped up the win with another goal in stoppage time.
Espanyol’s appearance at City Stadium marked the first time a team from La Liga played in Virginia.
“This is just another step in the process of getting a better understanding on a team level,” said Kickers Head Coach David Bulow. “I’ve seen things that weren’t quite there, but that’s going to come with time. Of course, you would have liked to hold on to get an actual result out of that, but they’re good.”
“When a big crowd comes out, that’s when everyone wants to play,” Shanosky said. “Just a great night for everyone. When you have these big crowds, it’s awesome for the community. As a player you just thrive off that energy. Thankful for everyone to come out tonight.”
After both teams settled into the match the Kickers drew first blood in the 11th minute when Brian Shriver curled a shot from outside the box that Espanyol’s Roberto parried away, setting up a corner. Scott Thomsen delivered the ball in from the set piece and connected with Shanosky, whose powerful header found the back of the net and gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Espanyol’s Borja Iglesias almost hit back just before the half-hour mark as he ran past the Richmond backline only to be denied by a big save from Kickers goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg. The visitors found an equalizer seven minutes before the break, however, as Baptistao played ahead to Iglesias, who again beat the Richmond defense. This time Iglesias stayed calm, flicking it over Spangenberg as he advanced and into the open net.
But the game didn’t remain tied for long as just five minutes later Troyer struck for the Kickers, sneaking a finish into the bottom-left corner past Roberto. The goal was Troyer’s first in the Kickers’ colors in his fourth season with the club.
Coming out of the half, Espanyol peppered a flurry of shots on goal, but Richmond goalkeeper Travis Worra – on as a halftime substitute for Spangenberg – stood strong in net. Worra denied Iglesias in the 60th minute and Pablo Piatti nine minutes later to preserve Richmond’s lead.
Espanyol eventually capitalized on its opportunities late on, leveling the score with 10 minutes to go when Puado’s header found the back of the net on a beautiful cross from Álvaro. Then in the 87th minute the visitors took the lead for the first time as Sergi Darder pounced on a loose ball after a save by Worra and scored the go-ahead goal for Espanyol. In stoppage time, Puado added his second of the night to give Espanyol the 4-2 advantage after Pablo Piatti had played a beautiful ball finding Puado in the penalty area. Despite the late goals, however, the night certainly couldn’t be spoiled too much for the Kickers or their fans.
“La Liga is my favorite league, so for me to be out here, play 45 minutes and score a goal was pretty special for me,” Shanosky said.