Match: Penn FC at Richmond Kickers
Date: Wednesday, May 23rd
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central, 4 p.m. Pacific, 11 p.m. UTC
Venue: City Stadium (Richmond, VA)
How to Watch: Stream not yet available (follow @usopencup on Twitter for updates)
How Richmond Kickers will look: The Kickers needed extra time and penalty kicks to triumph over Reading United during their second round match. Normally this extra playtime could be a disadvantage during their next match, but Richmond had a USL bye last week and they haven’t played since the Reading match. But going into extra time did have one other consequence. Richmond midfielder Oscar Umar picked up a red card in the 115th minute, so he won’t be available against Penn FC.
Expect the Kickers to field a strong lineup as they push to face an MLS team in the next round of the Open Cup. Of course, they won’t have any of their DC United loanees available during the match. The Open Cup rules are a little different, so they can’t get loaned down without being “cup tied” to the Kickers. So you won’t be seeing Dane Kelly or Travis Worra. Richmond also doesn’t have to look ahead as much to preserve their squad. Their next three matches are all at home.
How Penn FC will look: Penn FC also hasn’t played since last week, so they should be well rested heading into Wednesday’s match. They mixed up their attack during their match against FC Motown, and it lead to some interesting results. Isaac Osae didn’t make much of an impact at striker, but fellow Ghanaian Prince Baffoe scored a rocket of a goal from distance to put Penn FC ahead. He might get some more minutes during Wednesday’s match.
Penn FC may choose to bring some alternate starters for Wednesday’s match in favor of saving some of their first choice starters for Saturday’s match at Pittsburgh. All signs point towards the Riverhounds playing their best XI for their Open Cup match Wednesday against FC Cincinnati. So Pittsburgh might field a depleted squad on Saturday and Penn FC will want to bring their best to play for a Keystone Cup upset.
What to expect: Richmond has been unsteady against Pennsylvania competition so far in 2018. They lost both of their matches against Bethlehem Steel and they needed penalty kicks to get past Reading. But those three matches were all up in PA. The Kickers are much more formidable opponents when they’re in City Stadium.
Penn FC will need to lean on their defense to negate the Kicker’s home field advantage. Across all competitions, Penn FC has managed five clean sheets in ten matches. They allowed seven total goals, but three of them came during that horrible first half they had in North Carolina. So they should be able to handle the Kicker’s primary goal scoring threats in Heviel Cordoves and Brian Shriver.
While the Penn FC defense has been mostly excellent in 2018, the offense has struggled mightily at times. They pulled off three goals in their last Open Cup match, but they came late against a tired FC Motown squad. In order for Penn FC to get more shots on goal in Richmond, they’ll need to get improved delivery from their midfielders. Players like Freddie Opoku and Richard Menjivar have shown a knack for some skillful passing and Dan Metzger has played a key role in distributing the ball as well. But these guys might not be in the starting lineup for the Open Cup match, so it’ll be interesting to see who’s going to step up to take their place.
PREDICTION: This will be the first of at least four matches for these teams in 2018. Richmond has the edge as the home side, but I think they will be stopped by the Penn FC defense. I think Penn FC will manage a 1-0 win, possibly in extra time, to advance.