After trailing the Charlotte Eagles at home for the first time since August of 2006, the Richmond Kickers scored three unanswered in the final half hour of the USL Second Division championship Saturday to win the 2006 championship rematch and claim their second title in four years.
A brilliant through ball off the center line from Darren Toby in the 14th minute found Diego Martins on a run down the middle of the defense. Martins sweetly struck the ball on the bounce at the top of the box, sending his shot inside the far post past Ronnie Pascale. A back-and-forth game that saw numerous dangerous opportunities for both sides, several for Charlotte's Diego Martins, strongly turned in Richmond's favor midway through the second half largely through the pair of halftime inserts David Bulow and John DiRaimondo and particularly on the equalizer in the 63rd minute.
A lofted Bulow cross from the left flank found Edson Elcock charging the far post. Elcock was able to get his head on the ball and nod it down in front of Steward Ceus, bouncing it past the keeper from point-blank range and into the goal for his second tally of the season.
A DiRaimondo free kick from the left flank in the 83rd minute found its way inside the far post, slightly skipping off the head of Charlotte defender Ben Johnson at the near corner of the six, forcing Ceus to pause on the play.
Two minutes later a ball flicked on by Matthew Delicate sent Bulow down the middle, forcing Ceus to charge out to make a play, but committed a foul that led to a penalty. Bulow calmly slipped the penalty inside the left post for the two-goal margin.
USL First Division
Wednesday, Aug. 26
Miami FC Blues 0 at Carolina RailHawks 9
The RailHawks posted the biggest victory in the league since 1998, scoring five times in the final 15 minutes of the first half and not letting up as every bounce and shot seemed to go their way. Joseph Kabwe scored the final goal of the first half and added the next two in the second for a hat-trick in the win. The result also earned Carolina, as well as idle Charleston, berths in the postseason.
Thursday, Aug. 27
Cleveland City Stars 0 at Minnesota Thunder 3
After falling in Cleveland a week ago, the Thunder responded in kind. Marco Terminesi set up Lawrence Olum seven minutes in and secured the win with two strikes of his own in the final two minutes of the contest.
Friday, Aug. 28
Portland Timbers 0 at Charleston Battery 0
An early send-off to Ian Fuller 26 minutes in for an altercation with Ryan Pore left the Battery short-handed against the league leaders. But the hosts showed well despite the handicap and battled the league leaders to the stalemate. The result extended Portland's record unbeaten run to 24 games.
Saturday, Aug. 29
Miami FC Blues 0 at Austin Aztex 1
Eddie Johnson found the back of the net for Austin 14 minutes in and the Aztex held on for the victory, pulling themselves off the bottom of the table.
Minnesota Thunder 1 at Puerto Rico Islanders 3
Melvin Tarley gave the visitors the lead six minutes in, but the rain-soaked pitch proved too much as the Islanders tallied three unanswered through Nicholas Addlery, Sean Fraser and Cristian Arrieta for the win, becoming the fourth side to advance to the playoffs.
Rochester Rhinos 1 at Vancouver Whitecaps 1
Deadlocked in the second half, Charles Gbeke gave the hosts the edge in the 66th minute, but Steve Kindel, a member of the Whitecaps championship team last year, set up Ze Roberto 10 minutes from time for the equalizer.
Sunday, Aug. 30
Carolina RailHawks 1 at Montreal Impact 1
Tony Donatelli grabbed the lead for the home side 33 minutes into the contest, but a half hour later John Cunliffe broke through for Carolina to give the RailHawks a point on the road.