Kickers Blank Eagles For Championship.

RICHMOND, Va. (Saturday, August 26, 2006) — Strikers Robert Ssejjemba and Chris Carrieri staked Richmond to a two-goal advantage and the Kickers withstood rally to defeat the defending titlist Charlotte Eagles 2-1 and capture the United Soccer Leagues Second Division championship tonight before 3,288 at University of Richmond Stadium.

It was the third title for Richmond in its 13-year history. The two others came in 1995 when the Kickers captured the rare double, taking the A-League (now the USL First Division) and U.S. Open Cup championships, but financial difficulties forced the club to drop this season one tier to third division of American soccer.

Charlotte came up empty on the first good scoring chance of the match in the second minute when the ball skipped to attacker Andy Guastaferro at the top right corner of the six-yard box. Guastaferro used his first touch to drill a volley just inside the near post, but goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale was there to make the quick save.

Richmond went ahead 1-0 in the ninth minute after midfielder Michael Burke, advancing on goal from the left flank, was taken down by Eagles defender Aaron Faro in his penalty area. Ssejjemba buried the subsequent penalty kick into the right side of the net as keeper Dan Benton guessed wrong and dove in the opposite direction.

Midfielder Kevin Knight set up the second Kickers’ second tally with a cross from the right side into the middle. Carrieri controlled it with his chest, then beat a diving Benton with a volley into the lower right corner for the 2-0 advantage.

Burke, the league’s “Most Valuable Player,” produced another quality chance for Richmond just before intermission. His shot from the top of the box was saved by Benton, but continued to trickle toward the net. Charlotte defender Ben Johnson cleared the ball away from danger just before Ssejjemba reached it.

Desperation drove the Eagles to produce some opportunities as time wound down. In the 89th minute, defender Ross Spencer pushed down the right side and sent a low cross to midfielder Sam Casey, but he sent his shot over the crossbar from just above the six-yard box.

A minute later, forward Andriy Budnyy perfectly led Spencer with a through pass. Spencer maneuvered around Pascale and deposited a left-footer into the right side of the empty net, pulling Charlotte to within 2-1.

Richmond survived the frenzy of stoppage time and claimed its trophy.

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