The Richmond Kickers dropped a 1-0 decision to the Wilmington Hammerheads Saturday night in front of 3,909 at Legion Stadium when forward Corey Hertzog notched the lone goal in the 66th minute.
Scoreless through the first half despite early chances on both sides of the field, it was Wilmington who put the first dangerous shot on frame. Bryce Taylor intercepted the ball in Kickers territory and eluded his mark as he sliced down the right wing in the 19th minute. The Hammerheads midfielder switched the ball to the far side, connecting with Cody Arnoux, who settled it and laid it off to Mark Briggs. He redirected the bouncing ball to Manny Guzman who turned and slotted it across the goalmouth but it whizzed inches wide of the far post.
The Kickers responded minutes later, earning a corner kick in the 26th minute. Midfielder Stanley Nyazamba delivered an outswinger into the box, finding a leaping Jason Yeisley at the penalty spot but despite reaching highest, the defender's determined header curled just over the bar.
Answering back seconds later, the Hammerheads nearly took the lead when Briggs intercepted the ball in the midfield and fed it through to Arnoux 25 yards out. The former Major League Soccer forward unleashed a curling ball from distance but stood by as his effort dipped fruitlessly over the bar.
Kickers forward Christopher Agorsor nearly found the back of the net before the break but his off-balance attempt glanced inches past the upright in the 32nd minute. Matthew Delicate won the ball in the air and flicked it on to Ryan Heins who nodded it once more to Agorsor, sandwiched between defenders at the top of the box. Knocked off his feet, he still managed to get a touch on the ball and chipped the goalkeeper but watched helplessly from the ground as the ball bounced just wide of the open target.
Hertzog was a constant threat early in the second half, twice denied by Pascale within the first five minutes. First he directed an aggressive free kick on target but the Kickers veteran goalkeeper scooped it up. Two minutes later, his long throw-in from the left wing was cleared out but fell to an onrushing Paul Nicholson who fired a long-range missile into Pascale's arms.
The dangerous attacker's persistence paid off in the 66th minute when Bryce Taylor slotted the ball through traffic to him 30 yards out. Driving 10 yards towards the box, he released a left-footed strike but bounced just inside the left post, inches from Pascale's outstretched hands.
A 71st minute free kick nearly led to the equalizer when Mike Callahan served the ball into the box from 30 yards out. Positioned at the endline, Yeisley reached for the loose ball but it was swept away by a Hammerheads defender, falling to Agorsor at the six yard box but his close range strike from a difficult angle was cleared off the line.
Then, Kalungi narrowly missed the chance to bury a rebound came five minutes later when Callahan lined up a corner kick and swung the ball into the crowded box. Agorsor's blocked shot dropped to Kalungi's feet but his shot to the near post was deflected wide.
Pressing for the equalizer in the 84th minute, second half substitutes Nozomi Hiroyama and David Bulow teamed up on the left flank, allowing a heavily marked Hiroyama to control the ball at the top of the box. He played the ball through to an awaiting Edson Elcock but his shot from point blank range soared skyward.
A dramatic frenzy ensued with three minutes remaining in regulation, starting when Kalungi earned his second caution and was ejected in the 87th minute. A second Kickers defender left the match through injury seconds later before Hammerheads midfielder Luke Holmes was awarded a penalty kick after a late challenge in stoppage time. Chukwudi Chijindu stepped up to the spot but Pascale guessed correctly and dove to his right to prevent the Hammerheads from doubling the score.
The Richmond Kickers return to City Stadium on Friday, July 13 to host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.