VANCOUVER, BC – Whitecaps FC Reserves (MLS Reserve League 3W-1L-3D) take on United Soccer Leagues (USL) PRO outfit Richmond Kickers (USL PRO 11W-0L-8D) Tuesday in the second inter-league match between the two sides this season. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT at UBC's Thunderbird Stadium.
Whilst Vancouver tasted defeat for the first time this season in their last run-out against Real Salt Lake a week ago, Richmond remain the only undefeated side in USL PRO.
The two-match series between Richmond and Vancouver will count in both the USL PRO and MLS Reserve League standings. As part of a partnership between MLS and USL, each of the 13 USL PRO teams will compete in two inter-league games against MLS Reserve squads.
Kekuta Manneh finds the back of the net against Richmond.
Vancouver are coming off the back of their first loss of the season as they fell to a 3-2 defeat away at Real Salt Lake on July 16. Whitecaps FC raced into a two goal lead through Kevin Cobby and Kekuta Manneh before Real Salt Lake came back with three goals in the final half hour to claim the victory,
The team has been able to rely on striker Tommy Heinemann this campaign as the Missouri native leads the team with eight goals. Manneh has also enjoyed a productive year with five assists, the highest on the team.
Despite Richmond’s impressive season so far, Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie believes the potential to be the first team to beat the USL PRO side could be a big motivation for the players.
“They’re probably one of the only teams in the country who are unbeaten, so it’s a big challenge to see if we can be the first team to beat them this season," he said. "All of our players will be motivated to make that happen.”
Goalkeepers: Joe Cannon, David Ousted
Defenders: Jackson Farmer**, Greg Klazura, Carlyle Mitchell, Ethen Sampson*
Midfielders: Aminu Abdallah, Marco Bustos**, Kianz Froese**, Erik Hurtado, Daigo Kobayashi, Marlon Ramirez*, Matt Watson
Strikers: Tommy Heinemann, Corey Hertzog, Kekuta Manneh
*Whitecaps FC U-23
**Whitecaps FC U-18
Richmond are enjoying a strong campaign as they battle Orlando City for the USL PRO regular season title. The Florida outfit currently lead the Kickers by a single point but Richmond are the only side in the league that are unbeaten and can boast a miserly defence that has only conceded a league-low 15 goals.
The main threat for Richmond comes from Joseph Ngwenya, whose seven goals this season is the best on the team. Feeding Ngwenya, a former D.C. United and Houston Dynamo striker, are the duo of Nathan Robinson and Brian Ownby, who have six and five assists respectively.
Whitecaps FC Reserves have met Richmond Kickers only once since joining MLS, as the sides battled to a 1-1 draw on June 23. An early goal for Vancouver from Manneh was cancelled out shortly after the break by Kickers top-scorer Ngwenya.
All time, the ‘Caps first team holds a record of 2W-0L-3D against Richmond Kickers, including a heartbreaking playoff loss on penalty kicks on September 18, 2005, back when the Blue and White played in the USL First Division.
There are also a couple player connections between the two clubs, as Whitecaps FC midfielder Matt Watson played two seasons with the Kickers, including capturing the regular season and playoff title in 2006. Also, Richmond midfielder Philippe Davies is a product of the ‘Caps Residency program and spent three years with the club from 2008 to 2011.
Vancouver have a two-week break before they resume their MLS Reserve League campaign with the highly-anticipated away match at Portland Timbers on August 4. Kickoff at Jeld-Wen Field is scheduled for 2 p.m. PT.