Just a week removed from their 3-1 victory over FC Motown, Penn FC headed south to face the Richmond Kickers with (as we know now) a game against the Philadelphia Union on the line. Penn FC had won their second Open Cup came in each of the last two seasons, but they were never over USL opponents. They hadn’t faced a USL team in the Open Cup since they lost to the Rochester Rhinos in 2015. Unfortunately for the Penn FC team, their 2018 Open Cup run would end the same was as their 2015 one as they fell to the Richmond Kickers 3-2.
Penn FC went with a two striker formation for Wednesday’s match after favoring a one striker approach for most of the season. However, the players on the pitch often deviated from the formation chart Penn FC tweeted above. Chris Hill and Haruna Shaibu played as the center backs during the match while Prince Baffoe was the right back. Also, Fabio De Sousa played at more of a wide position and Isaac Osae was the main striker.
It was also a much younger lineup than Penn FC had typically used so far this season. De Sousa, who made his debut for the team during the match, is only 20. Ghanian Haruna Shaibu is younger still at only 19. Most of the older, veteran players got the night off, perhaps in anticipation of Saturday’s upcoming match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Both teams spent the first ten minutes feeling each other out, but it was Richmond who put the pieces together first. They managed to put Penn FC in an early 2-0 hole courtesy of Luiz Fernando. His first goal came in the 13th minute when he buried a pass from Conner Shanosky in the bottom left corner of the goal. The second goal came under similar circumstances as the Penn FC defense failed to clear the ball and Yudai Imura passed it to an open Fernando in front of the net. He easily finished it and the Kickers were up 2-0.
For what it’s worth, the Penn FC defense settled down after this and the offense was finally able to put together a focused attack. This paid off in the 36th minute after Sal Barone earned a corner kick. After the kick was defended, Saalih Muhammad was able to collect the ball near the end line and fire a cross that Jorge Rivera redirected just enough to put it under the crossbar. I was Rivera’s first goal in a Penn FC uniform and it gave the boys in blue some hope as they went into halftime.
Both sides came out looking to score early in the second half, but both goalkeepers managed to hang tough. A wild sequence of events began in the 58th minute as Richmond appeared to score their third goal off of a Raul Gonzalez header. The scoreboard changed and the Red Army even popped smoke. But Gonzalez was called offside and Penn FC restarted play while the Kickers were distracted.
Richmond never fully regained their equilibrium, and Penn FC made them pay in the 60th minute. Fabio De Sousa sent a long pass for Rivera, who found himself one on one with Richmond goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg. Rivera used some nifty ball movement to shake the keeper, then passed the ball into the net for the equalizer.
The Kickers made their most important play in the 66th minute as they brought on both Heviel Cordoves and Brian Shriver to boost their attack and look for the go-ahead goal. But neither of them made an immediate impact, and it looked like the game could be headed for extra time. But the final blow for Penn FC came in the 83rd minute and it was courtesy of Cordoves. Austin Yearwood crossed a ball from the left that found an open Cordoves in front of the Penn FC net where he tapped in the go-ahead goal.
Penn FC kept fighting, and they nearly managed to find a second equalizer. Richie Menjivar was substituted on in the 84th minute and gave a boost to the offense. As the clock wound down, he made a final shot for Penn FC that went just wide to the right. The referee gave more than the advertised 3 minutes of stoppage, but there was no equalizer to be found for Penn FC. For the first time since 2015, they failed to win their second Open Cup match.