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USL Race for the Playoffs – Sept. 9-10

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/08/17, 12:01PM EDT

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Crucial contests set for middle of both conferences this weekend

Fans of both Reno 1868 FC and San Antonio FC probably felt their hearts skip a beat if they were tuned into Wednesday night’s USL Game of the Week between Phoenix Rising FC and Orange County SC, but the two late efforts off the post for Rising FC meant that neither 1868 FC or SAFC will be able to clinch a playoff berth this weekend, even though both teams got closer thanks to the result.

That means the focus for this weekend’s action in the race for the USL Cup Playoffs will center around the race for the final positions in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. For teams like Ottawa Fury FC, Saint Louis FC, Orange County SC and Rio Grande Valley FC, the pressure to take victory Saturday is on. 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Louisville City FC
Current Record:
 14-5-5, 47pts
Maximum Points Available: 71
Points Needed to Clinch: 6
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.3
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Charleston Battery
Next Game: 9/9 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7 p.m. ET
Orlando City B’s draw on Thursday night edged Louisville a point closer to clinching a playoff place, but the club can’t quite cross the finish line even with a win against the Riverhounds with nine teams guaranteed to have at least 50 points by the time the weekend is out. A road win against Pittsburgh would do quite a favor for the teams trying to ward off their host’s recent push up the standings.

2. Charlotte Independence
Current Record:
 13-5-8, 47pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 6
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.3
Last Game: W 3-0 vs. Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 9/16 vs. Ottawa Fury FC, 7 p.m. ET
The Independence won’t be in action this weekend after the postponement of their game with the Charleston Battery to Sept. 20 due to Hurricane Irma’s potential progress up the Atlantic coast. Their fans should, then, be hoping to see a couple of upsets from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as they host Louisville City FC and Ottawa Fury FC as it visits the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday night.

3. Charleston Battery
Current Record:
 11-7-8, 41pts
Maximum Points Available: 59
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.3
Last Game: L 1-0 at Louisville City FC
Next Game: 9/16 vs. Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET
As with the Independence, the Battery will be off this weekend in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. A win for Ottawa would also do Charleston nicely as it looks to remain in third position ahead of the Rhinos.

4. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Current Record:
 10-7-8, 41pts
Maximum Points Available: 59
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.7
Last Game: W 3-2 at Harrisburg City Islanders
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Charlotte Independence, 7:30 p.m. ET
A second away win of the season returned the Rowdies to the top four in the Eastern Conference in midweek, and the side will now return to attend to personal matters with Hurricane Irma looking likely to arrive in Florida this weekend. Tampa Bay will also be hoping its friends at Ottawa Fury FC can do itself a favor in Rochester and benefit the Rowdies along with it.

5. Rochester Rhinos
Current Record:
 11-5-8, 41pts
Maximum Points Available: 65
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.2
Last Game: W 1-0 at Toronto FC II
Next Game: 9/9 vs. Ottawa Fury FC, 6:05 p.m. ET
The Rhinos dropped to fifth after Tampa Bay’s victory, but would end the weekend in third place with any kind of result against visiting Ottawa Fury FC. Saturday’s early-evening clash might be among the most closely watched of the weekend, with Fury FC in dire need of a win to stay in touch with the top eight and teams in different areas of the standings hoping for a decisive outcome that will boost their chances.

6. Orlando City B
Current Record:
 8-6-12, 36pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Points Needed to Clinch: 17
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.2
Last Game: L 2-0 vs. Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 9/16 at Saint Louis FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
The end of Orlando’s 12-game undefeated streak will also bring some nerves to the club as it looks over its shoulder this weekend at teams that are within range to pass it with a win. OCB will be hoping two squads at the opposite ends of the standings in Louisville City FC and Toronto FC II can pull out results this weekend to keep them in sixth place ahead of a crucial road trip to Saint Louis.

7. New York Red Bulls II
Current Record:
 10-11-5, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 18
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.3
Last Game: W 4-2 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Next Game: 9/9 at Toronto FC II, 8 p.m. ET
New York saw another break fall its way in midweek thanks to Orlando’s defeat to the Richmond Kickers. Now the Red Bulls II have the chance to move into sixth place as they visit Toronto FC II on Saturday, no pushover for sure, but a team that New York is 4-0-1 against all-time.

8. FC Cincinnati
Current Record:
 9-9-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 18
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.3
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Next Game: 9/12 at Harrisburg City Islanders, 6:30 p.m. ET
Cincinnati will also have been pleased to see OCB’s defeat but still has some serious score-watching to do this weekend before it returns to action against the City Islanders next Tuesday. Victories for Rochester, Louisville and Harrisburg would be big for FCC’s chances.

9. Bethlehem Steel FC
Current Record:
 10-11-4, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 20
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.7
Last Game: D 1-1 at Orlando City B
Next Game: 9/15 at Louisville City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET
With Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay postponed, Steel FC will hope for some favorable results on Saturday night before a very tough trip to face Louisville City FC, the prelude to a run at the end of the month that could determine the fate of the season as Bethlehem faces Pittsburgh once and the Rowdies twice.

10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Current Record:
 8-8-10, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 52
Points Needed to Clinch: 19
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.0
Last Game: D 1-1 at FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 9/9 vs Louisville City FC, 7 p.m. ET
The door into the postseason opened a little wider for the Riverhounds thanks to Orlando City B’s defeat on Thursday night. Pittsburgh can now move into the top eight with a victory on Saturday night. While the opponent is first-place Louisville City FC, adding to a five-game undefeated streak with a win would make a serious statement to the Riverhounds’ fellow contenders after last week’s draw in Cincinnati.

11. Saint Louis FC
Current Record: 
8-10-7, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Points Needed to Clinch: 22
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.9
Last Game: D 2-2 at Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/9 vs. Harrisburg City Islanders, 8:30 p.m. ET
Saint Louis will need to take advantage of the chance to host a City Islanders side that has lost five games in a row after Wednesday’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies if STLFC is to keep within range of the top eight. The side will have to be careful of Harrisburg, however, which showed the sort of danger it can muster even in defeat as it broke a six-game scoreless streak.

12. Ottawa Fury FC
Current Record:
 7-9-9, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Points Needed to Clinch: 23
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.0
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 9/9 at Rochester Rhinos, 6:05 p.m. ET
It’s about make-or-break time for Ottawa, which still has at least one game in hand on every team except for Bethlehem above it in the race for the playoffs but needs to find a way to start putting wins together after a five-game winless streak. A visit to the Rochester Rhinos is a tough place to make it happen, but Ottawa would make some other clubs very happy if it could come away with three points on Saturday.

13. Richmond Kickers
Current Record:
 6-13-8, 26pts
Maximum Points Available: 41
Points Needed to Clinch: 28
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.7
Last Game: W 2-0 at Orlando City B
Next Game: 9/16 at Charleston Battery, 7 p.m. ET
The Kickers’ third win in its last four outings and first road victory of the season, gave teams around the Eastern Conference red line a nice boost. With nine points to make up in its final five games, Richmond is starting to look like that won’t make the playoffs but could have a major role in who ends up where at the end.

14. Harrisburg City Islanders
Current Record:
 6-14-6, 24pts
Maximum Points Available: 42
Points Needed to Clinch: 29
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.4
Last Game: L 3-2 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Next Game: 9/9 at Saint Louis FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
Harrisburg got out on the right foot against Tampa Bay, breaking a 616-minute scoreless streak to open the scoring, but the club’s fifth consecutive defeat leaves it one step closer to elimination. A visit to a Saint Louis side that’s as desperate for a win as it is awaits Harrisburg on Saturday, but a win will likely be more helpful to the playoff hopes of others than the City Islanders themselves.

15. Toronto FC II
Current Record:
 5-15-7, 22pts
Maximum Points Available: 37
Points Needed to Clinch: 31
Avg. Finishing Position: 14.6
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Rochester Rhinos
Next Game: 9/9 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Orlando’s loss didn’t mean much for Toronto, with a loss to the Red Bulls II still seeing the side eliminated from postseason contention.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Real Monarchs SLC
Current Record:
 17-4-4, 55pts
Maximum Points Available: 76
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.2
Last Game: L 2-1 vs. San Antonio FC
Next Game: 9/9 at Portland Timbers 2, 10 p.m. ET
The Monarchs visit Portland on Saturday looking to rebound from their loss to San Antonio with a playoff position in hand, but they’re hoping that the LA Galaxy II might be able to help them by claiming points of SAFC as their pursuit of the USL Regular Season Championship resumes.

2. San Antonio FC
Current Record:
 13-2-9, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 72
Points Needed to Clinch: 7
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.5
Last Game: W 2-1 at Real Monarchs SLC
Next Game: 9/9 at LA Galaxy II, 10:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio can’t clinch a playoff place this weekend thanks to Orange County SC’s draw with Phoenix Rising FC in midweek, but it can still put itself within range while also keeping the pressure on Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the standings with a road win against the Galaxy II on Saturday night.

3. Reno 1868 FC
Current Record:
 14-5-6, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Points Needed to Clinch: 7
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.8
Last Game: W 2-1 at LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/9 at Seattle Sounders FC 2, 10 p.m. ET
Reno continued to roll with its sixth consecutive victory on Wednesday night by defeating the Galaxy II, and is now level on points with San Antonio, although SAFC does hold a game in hand. 1868 FC can’t clinch a playoff berth this weekend, but it could set a new single-season USL record with a three-goal outing against Seattle. With S2 fighting for its playoff life, just picking up another win would likely be good enough for Reno on Saturday night in what’s set to be a hard-fought contest.

4. Swope Park Rangers
Current Record:
 13-6-6, 45pts
Maximum Points Available: 66
Points Needed to Clinch: 10
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.8
Last Game: W 2-0 vs. OKC Energy FC
Next Game: 9/9 at Orange County SC, 10 p.m. ET
The Rangers remain a solid proposition for fourth place after Phoenix’s draw with Orange County in midweek, but Swope Park could do some other clubs in the race for a playoff berth a major favor if it can go on the road this Saturday and take victory against OCSC.

5. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Current Record:
 12-10-4, 40pts
Maximum Points Available: 58
Points Needed to Clinch: 15
Avg. Finishing Position: 5.8
Last Game: W 3-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 9/17 at OKC Energy FC, 6 p.m. ET
The Roughnecks’ victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 further solidified their chances at reaching the postseason for the first time in club history, with Head Coach David Vaudreuil’s side now a 97.9 percent chance to reach the USL Cup Playoffs according the SportsClubStats.com. Tulsa will watch from the sidelines this weekend as it gears up for a final regular-season meeting with OKC Energy FC.

6. Sacramento Republic FC
Current Record: 
10-8-6, 36pts
Maximum Points Available: 60
Points Needed to Clinch: 19
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.6
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Next Game: 9/9 at Rio Grande Valley FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
Sacramento got a minor boost from Phoenix Rising FC’s draw with Orange County on Wednesday night, with the two sides currently neck-and-neck in the projected final standings. Ending the side’s current winless streak now has to be the priority for Republic FC, and defeating Rio Grande Valley FC would also reduce the number of contenders for the final playoff positions.

7. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Current Record: 
9-10-10, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 52
Points Needed to Clinch: 21
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.6
Last Game: D 2-2 at Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 9/9 vs. Phoenix Rising FC, 8 p.m. ET
Sitting as a 46.2 percent chance to make the playoffs entering the weekend’s action, the Switchbacks are looking at every game as a Cup Final, but Saturday’s clash with Phoenix Rising FC might matter more than most considering the relative position in the standings for both clubs. Earn a victory, and every Switchbacks fan will quickly turn attention to rooting for Vancouver to take at least a point from OKC Energy FC on Sunday evening.

8. Phoenix Rising FC
Current Record:
 9-7-7, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 61
Points Needed to Clinch: 21
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.5
Last Game: D 0-0 vs. Orange County SC
Next Game: 9/9 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 8 p.m. ET
Rising FC is still in good shape for a playoff berth after Wednesday night’s draw, although it may look back on the game and still be trying to figure out how those two late efforts both came back off the woodwork. Saturday’s visit to Colorado Springs is going to be a pivotal one for the West as a whole, however, as finely poised as things currently are around the red line in the conference standings.

9. OKC Energy FC
Current Record: 
9-10-6, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 22
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.3
Last Game: L 2-0 at Swope Park Rangers
Next Game: 9/10 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, 6 p.m. ET
Energy FC will do some serious scoreboard watching on Saturday night before it takes on Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on Sunday, with positive results for Phoenix Rising FC and the Swope Park Rangers on the road at the top of the wish list for Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen’s squad.

10. Orange County SC
Current Record:
 7-8-9, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Points Needed to Clinch: 25
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.8
Last Game: D 0-0 at Phoenix Rising FC
Next Game: 9/9 vs. Swope Park Rangers, 10 p.m. ET
Orange County managed to earn a point on the road on Wednesday night, but the side is still without a win since July 29. OCSC and Energy FC now have the same potential maximum points total, and with Orange County now rated only a 16.4 percent chance to reach the postseason taking its first victory at Champions Soccer Stadium is a must against the Rangers on Saturday to jumpstart a playoff push.

11. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Current Record:
 9-15-2, 29pts
Maximum Points Available: 47
Points Needed to Clinch: 26
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.1
Last Game: L 2-0 at Phoenix Rising FC
Next Game: 9/9 vs. Reno 1868 FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
S2 is effectively in must-win territory as it prepares to try and end Reno 1868 FC’s six-game winning streak, but with the side having gone 1-4-0 in its last five home games it doesn’t inspire a great amount of confidence that three points – and the return to the playoff hunt that could come with it – is in the offing on Saturday night.

12. Rio Grande Valley FC
Current Record:
 7-12-7, 28pts
Maximum Points Available: 46
Points Needed to Clinch: 27
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.0
Last Game: L 1-0 at LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/9 vs. Sacramento Republic FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
The Toros are effectively in win-or-go-home mode at this point, but should they take victory on Saturday night to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, it would provide a nice boost to the other teams above them as well. With RGVFC winless in five and Sacramento winless in four, it will be interesting to see which team, if either, can break out of its recent downturn. 

13. LA Galaxy II
Current Record:
 7-14-4, 25pts
Maximum Points Available: 46
Points Needed to Clinch: 30
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.6
Last Game: L 2-1 vs. Reno 1868 FC
Next Game: 9/9 vs. San Antonio FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Galaxy II’s loss to Reno on Wednesday night makes it almost a certainty that the side won’t return to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, with seven games remaining to make up a nine-point differential and overtake five teams for a playoff position seeming a bridge too far for the side. Los Dos could prove an effective spoiler, though, and both Real Monarchs SLC and Reno 1868 FC will be hoping they are this weekend when the side takes on second-place San Antonio FC.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Current Record:
 5-14-7, 22pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Points Needed to Clinch: 36
Avg. Finishing Position: 13.3
Last Game: L 3-1 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Next Game: 9/10 at OKC Energy FC, 6 p.m. ET
Vancouver would likely need to win out in its last six games of the season to have a chance at the playoffs, and even that might not be enough with 40 points the maximum the side can muster this year. WFC2 will have teams on its side on Sunday evening, though, as it looks to take points off OKC Energy FC.

Eliminated: Portland Timbers 2

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