Pierre Gardan’s in net heroics earned a 2-1 victory for the Black and Gold in an exhibition against the Richmond Kickers.
From the opening kick the Richmond Kickers showed they would play aggressively. They intercepted the kick off from VCU and pushed the ball toward the net. They gave themselves an early scoring chance but Pierre Gardan came out of the net and shut down their opportunity less than a minute into the game. The Kickers kept Gardan busy in the first half.
The Kickers owned time off possession, however VCU proved to be in an aggressive mindset for the scrimmage. Both teams came out attacking thus the pushed the ball too far up field and were subject to early turnovers.
The Kickers stayed on the attack throughout the half. Richmond used set pieces and open field offense to great success. They got the ball inside the box with a chance for a redirection 4 times in the first 10 minutes.
Early on VCU’s offense was limited to one player making a run before eventually being cut off and turning the ball over. Richmond dominated the time of possession and scoring chances early on with an onslaught during the first several minutes. They had nothing to show for their efforts. In the 17th minutes the Rams made Richmond pay for failing on several great chances.
While working solo down the right side of the pitch, Ryo Shimazaki freed himself enough to show off his excellent shooting touch. Shimazaki unleashed a shot from the right corner of the box which arched its way over the goalie before touching down in the back-left corner of the net.
Shimazaki took the ball down the right side for the Rams and was never pressured by the defense allowing him to get off a perfect shot. The Kickers goalie made a diving effort but it was no match for the perfect shot off the foot of the native of Japan.
Outside of a few more aggressive pushes from the Rams, they didn’t threaten much the rest of the half. VCU goalie Pierre Gardan proved to be an excellent backstop. He faced several shots and near crosses in front of the net, in the face of the Kickers constant attack, Gardan ensured VCU would lead at half. The defenders in Black and Gold also offered a helping foot for their embattled goaltender.
The assault on VCU’s net continued in the second half. The Kickers set themselves up with a corner kick in first 2 minutes. It was a very close miss for Richmond.
They would immediately get back into position to score. In the 49th minute, Anthony Grant, tied the game with a quick touch inside the goal area. Grant accepted a cross sent in front of the net form the right side, he managed to score despite Gardan partially blocking the shot. Gardan collided with Grant’s legs during the play. Grant needed a moment to recover before coming off the field. He would return to action shortly after his exit. A few minutes later he would create another close call by sending the ball in front of the net before it was denied.
The Kickers continued to put stress on the Rams’ defense after their equalizing shot. It looked like they were destined to take their first lead of the game when they forced Gardan to make several more stops during the early portion of the second half.
Luc Fatton put an end to their offense when he grabbed the lead back for the Rams 15 minutes into the second half. Fatton found his way down filed working one on one with a defender. He found himself enough space to deliver an accurate strike near the penalty mark. The goal killed the Kickers momentum as VCU finally found way to sustain possessions on offense.
It was a brief respite, Richmond again began to control to time of possession for the rest of the half. The final 20 minutes of the game kept everyone on the edge of their seats. The Black and Gold could not keep the Kickers off them. Gardan had to make two more diving stops in the final five minutes to hang on for the 2-1 victory at City Stadium. Gardan was unquestionably the MVP for VCU. The Rams also showed they have some playmakers offensively who can create on their own. Shimazaki and Fatton provided the Rams with just enough offense to slip past the Kickers.
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