St.Kitts International Tishan Hanley leads US Pro Team Kickers to dominating win in U.S. Open Cup game

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Going into Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup matchup with RVA FC, Richmond Kickers coach Leigh Cowlishaw was worried about his players’ energy level heading into a stretch of three games in five days. Fortunately, the Kickers didn’t have to sweat too much.

Former RVA forward Tishan Hanley came on at halftime and scored two rapid-fire goals, and Alex Lee added three assists as the Kickers advanced to the third round of the cup with a 6-1 victory at Sports Backers Stadium.

“We put ourselves in a great situation at halftime being three goals up,” Kickers coach Leigh Cowlishaw said. “It allows us to put players in immediately. Our big focus is that we’ve got two games — Friday at Oklahoma, Sunday at Chicago — and we’re trying to manage the squad as much as possible.”

The Kickers’ third-round opponent will be New York Greek American Atlas SC, which advanced with a victory over the Ocean City Nor’easters on Wednesday. The game will be held at City Stadium on May 28 at 7 p.m.

Both teams got off to a cagey start as the Kickers controlled possession without creating much in the way of scoring chances in the early going. After 25 minutes of the Kickers pumping unsuccessful crosses into the box, the breakthrough came when Shay Spitz played Lee into space on the right flank. His cross found Samuel Asante at the far post, and the diminutive midfielder headed past RVA goalkeeper Bill Groben to open a prolific scoring night.

“I saw him going down the flank and made a run into the box,” Asante said. “I didn’t know I was going to get it, but it came to me perfectly.”

“We started to wear them down after about 25 minutes,” Cowlishaw said. “The first goal is crucial in these encounters, because it takes a lot of pressure off us and allows us to play our game. Once we got that first goal, I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem on the night.”

Spitz doubled the lead 10 minutes later off an Asante cross. Groben saved his diving header, but Spitz buried the rebound into the top netting.

Spitz also had a hand in the third goal, making a long run down the left flank and taking an uncontested shot. Groben got a hand on the ball, but Jason Yeisley blasted the rebound home moments before the first half came to a close.

Hanley made his mark on the match in the 62nd minute, taking a long ball from Luke Vercollone, rounding Groben and shooting in from a tight angle for his first Kickers goal. He doubled his tally two minutes later off an assist from Lee.

“He’s moved on and is doing bigger and better things, which is the whole reason behind our program,” RVA coach Grover Gibson said of Hanley. “We’re not here to be a professional team. We’re here to be a steppingstone to move these players on. It was very pleasing to see him have a very good game.”

RVA, making its Open Cup debut, finally struck a minute after Hanley’s second goal when Jonathan Orlando took a through ball from fellow substitute Dan Lauretano, took a touch in the box and shot in low past Kickers goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal came on RVA’s second shot on goal.

RVA created another chance in the 76th minute when Ryan Zinkhan played Manel Bel into space with a nifty pass, but the ball took a deflection off a Kickers defender and sailed wide.

Kickers midfielder George Davis IV closed out the scoring in the 88th minute off a low cross from Lee.

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