Preview of Indy Eleven v. Richmond Kickers with Matt Myers of Rvaisred “All Things Richmond Kickers.”

 

Since Indy Eleven is new to the USL what should fans expect being in a new league?

I think Indy fans aren’t going to be in that different a position from a lot of fans that supported teams in USL to be honest.  Obviously it’s a brand new league for you guys by name, but you’re coming with NCFC, and Tampa and Ottawa are already here too, so it’s not like it’s a total fresh start.  As a Richmond fan, I can easily say that the league today is unrecognizable compared to even a few years ago.  In terms of on the field, one of the bigger adjustment points I think a lot of new to USL fans face is the presence of the MLS2 teams.  Personally, they don’t bother me too much because you see some high end talent that just needs some refinement, and they help to fill out the numbers so you aren’t playing the same teams all the time.  A lot of times though they do have different motivations and goals than the independent teams, so I get where some of the consternation comes from.  The other main thing to expect is (probably, I wasn’t catching much NASL by the end) a wider array of style.  You’ll see some teams like NYRB that are very attack heavy and play open, while the Kickers and Pittsburgh will generally play more conservative.  If you’re into some of those tactical battles, there certainly isn’t a shortage in USL.

Also, be prepared to see attendance shoehorned into every league article whenever possible.  You guys will likely be a beneficiary of that focus!

In terms of talent, how does the USL stack up against other leagues?

USL has gotten so much better over the years.  It’s not MLS though, and I strongly reject the idea that some fans put out there that our teams are just as good.  Are there guys in USL that could contribute there? Absolutely.  But the standout guys in this league are likely the role players there, and there certainly isn’t the elite level player here that most MLS teams have 2-3 of.  We can definitely beat them in one offs though, which makes the Open Cup so fun.

What was your reaction when you heard that Indy Eleven was joining the USL?

Honestly, it was “what took you guys so long?” and “Glad you didn’t go down with the crazy train”.  It’s a club with a strong base, and I would have hated to see it fail because of the clown parade running NASL (if you can’t tell I didn’t have much regard for that league, especially after Downs left). Not sure how Lucas Oil will go for you guys, but hope it works well.

Focusing on your team, what is the outlook for the Kickers in 2018?

There’s no other way to put it, last year sucked and sucked hard. We couldn’t score, finished next to last, and got bounced by an amateur team in the Cup.  With how the league has changed, and primarily in terms of the bankrolls that teams have now, I don’t have any false illusions that we’re going to be elite.  A great result this year would be making the playoffs.  I’d be happy with making positive progress, being competitive for a playoff spot until the end of the season, and being more interesting to watch.  We signed a few forwards during the off-season, which should help with the attack, and the defense is almost entirely back, who actually performed at an above league average last year.  You guys will probably recognize names like Brian Shriver, Giuseppe Gentile, Mallan Roberts, and Trevor Spangenberg on the roster from their NASL pasts.  We also got Dane Kelly on loan from DC, who was the USL MVP last season in Reno. He won’t be there this weekend though since he was called to the Jamaican national team.

After a disappointing start to the season against the Bethlehem Steel, how do you see the Kickers bouncing back against Indy Eleven?

This week has to be better, right? Even last year, we were tough at home, so I doubt we’ll get thoroughly dominated again.  I’d bet that there will be a focus on being more aggressive in the midfield and not letting so many simple chances get created.  It might make for a less open game, but with some of your talent and the guys we’ll be missing, it’s probably in our best interest to turn it into a grinder.  I’m going to be optimistic and say we’re looking at a 1-1 draw.

For those Indy Eleven fans traveling to Richmond for the game what kind of atmosphere do Kickers fans bring to City Stadium?

City Stadium has it’s own special kind of charm.  Yes, that’s code for it’s old.  It was built in 1929, so don’t expect glamour.  The sight lines though are great, and the concourse gives you an open view of the game from pretty much anywhere.  Try not to have to use the bathrooms though if you can help it!

In the stands, the Red Army has brought a lot of atmosphere that wasn’t there in the past.  They set up in the corner, which is right on top of the corner flag and where visiting players warm up.  Tailgating is right outside the stadium, and they are always great about welcoming visiting fans. The rest of the stands…pretty standard sit and watch environment. Overall, it’s a good time, but it’s also 20+ years of built up good memories there. 

You can follow Rvaised on Twitter @rvaisred.

PHOTO BY TREY HIGDON

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