Undefeated in its six, Reno slides into fifth place ahead of rivalry showdown Saturday
Reno 1868 FC continued its ascension up the Western Conference Standings on Wednesday night.
Defender Brent Richards netted the game-winner inside the far post in the 77th minute to give Reno a 3-2 win over Rio Grande Valley FC in front of 4,844 at Greater Nevada Field.
Now winners in four of its last five (with one draw), Reno (4-3-3) surged into a three-way tie for fifth place. Rio Grande (4-4-2) sunk into a tie for eighth.
“We needed a game like this to realize that we can win a close one,” Reno coach Ian Russell said. “We went with a different formation in the last 10 minutes that really paid off for us.”
In its last USL match, Reno allowed an equalizer with three minutes left at Colorado Springs and settled for a 3-3 draw. On Wednesday night, the defense surrendered another late equalizer (in the 74th minute) when midfielder Eric Bird converted a penalty kick.
Richards delivered his decisive rebuttal three minutes later.
“It feels really good because as a defender, I don’t score many goals anymore,” Richards said. “We got a win at home so it felt great for the team.”
USL leading scorer Dane Kelly scored his 11th goal of the season in the 22nd minute, just inside the near post, off a perfect assist from Antoine Hoppenot. Kelly’s tally drew Reno even at 1-1, following Rio Grande’s go-ahead goal just two minutes prior.
Midfielder Chris Wehan’s assist to Luis Felipe Fernandes in the 66th minute gave Reno its first lead, 2-1. Fernandes was the second different defender to score for the home 11.
“We have a lot of goal-scorers on this team,” Russell said. “This gives us a lot of momentum ahead of our game against Sacramento.”
Fernandes also assisted Richards’ winner 11 minutes later.
Reno only has two days off before returning to Greater Nevada Field on Saturday to host Sacramento Republic FC. Sacramento (4-5-3) is part of the three-way with Reno for fifth place and will be playing its adopted rival for the second time in 11 days. Reno fell 2-0 in Northern California last Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup match.
First touch is at 7:30 p.m. The first 1,868 fans through the rotunda entrance will receive a free hat.
“We need the fans here Saturday too so we can keep moving on,” Fernandes said.