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Opening Night of Championship Playoffs Produces Upsets, Late Winners

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 10/24/19, 1:24AM EDT

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Newcomers Legion FC, Bold FC earn victories, former title-winners Battery, Republic FC also advance


Birmingham Legion FC was one of two USL Championship Playoffs newcomers to take victory in the Play-In Round on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Rob Kinnan / North Carolina FC

TAMPA, Fla. – Two former USL Championship Final winners and two first-time playoff participants advanced through the Play-In Round of the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs on a thrilling opening night of postseason action that saw two late game-winners and one game decided by a penalty shootout.

2012 champion the Charleston Battery was one of two road teams to advance as they took victory in a penalty shootout against Ottawa Fury FC to reach the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, where they were joined by first-year side Birmingham Legion FC, which got a stoppage-time winner from J.J. Williams to defeat North Carolina FC.

2014 champion Sacramento Republic FC also struck late as Thomas Enevoldsen’s 82nd-minute goal brought New Mexico United’s inaugural season to a close, but United’s fellow expansion side Austin Bold FC took the most comfortable win of the night against the LA Galaxy II to reach the Western Conference Quarterfinals and a date with top seed Phoenix Rising FC.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 10 Birmingham Legion FC 3, No. 7 North Carolina FC 2 (Full Report & Highlights)
CARY, N.C.
– J.J. Williams scored in second-half stoppage time to lift Legion FC to victory as the playoff newcomer rallied twice to defeat hosts North Carolina at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. North Carolina first took the lead in the 19th minute through Nazmi Albadawi, but a redirection by Femi Hollinger-Janzen leveled for Birmingham 10 minutes before halftime. NCFC regained the lead as Dre Fortune scored a curling finish to the top-left corner just before the hour-mark, but Legion FC hit back again in the 66th minute through Haiti international Zach Herivaux. Then, as the game looked to be headed to extra time, Williams cut in from the right and unleashed a shot from 25 yards to the far corner in the 93rd minute that grabbed a thrilling victory for the travelling Legion FC support.

No. 9 Charleston Battery 1, No. 8 Ottawa Fury FC 1 (Full Report & Highlights)
Charleston wins 5-4 in a penalty shootout
OTTAWA – The Charleston Battery scored on all five shots in a penalty shootout to earn victory on the road against Ottawa Fury FC for their first playoff victory since the 2016 season. Charleston took the lead in the 27th minute after a good opening to the game as Kotaro Higashi put away a breakaway chance, but Fury FC leveled five minutes before halftime when Mour Samb put home a first-time finish from Onua Obasi’s pass from the left. The game remained level as Fury FC had the better of the play through regulation and extra time, and there was still nothing to separate the sides after three rounds of the shootout. Then Samb shot off the crossbar to open the fourth round, and after Ian Svantesson converted to put Charleston ahead, the Battery’s Jarad van Schaik closed out a perfect run in the fifth round with a shot to the right corner to send his side through.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 8 Austin Bold FC 2, No. 9 LA Galaxy II 0 (Full Report & Highlights)
AUSTIN, Texas
– Austin Bold FC scored in either half as it took victory in its playoff debut against the LA Galaxy II at Bold Stadium. The hosts struck in just the ninth minute as a counterattack off an LA free kick sent Xavier Baez down the right side, and after he won a 50-50 challenge to retain possession, the Mexican midfielder set up Ema Twumasi for a first-time finish. Austin almost added a second seven minutes later only for Sean McFarlane’s near-post flick of Baez’s corner from the right to be ruled a handball before Andre Lima finished with a diving header, but from another set piece early in the second half McFarlane poked home a finish from the top of the six-yard area to double Austin’s lead. The hosts saw out the remainder of the contest from there as Twumasi and Baez put in a pair of solid performances.

No. 7 Sacramento Republic FC 2, No. 10 New Mexico United 1 (Full Report & Highlights)
SACRAMENTO, Calif.
– Sacramento Republic FC rallied from conceding inside the opening minute as Thomas Enevoldsen’s late goal earned the hosts victory at Papa Murphy’s Park. United scored the fastest goal in USL Championship Playoffs history as Devon Sandoval put the visitors ahead after 13 seconds on a shot that took a deflection on its way to goal to wrongfoot Republic FC goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Sacramento picked up the pace as the first half went on, however, and the hosts leveled deep in stoppage time as Keven Aleman’s close-range finish just crossed the line. Republic FC then took the lead with eight minutes to go when Sam Werner played a 45-yard ball from the left channel into the right side of the penalty area that Enevoldsen caught flush on the volley to fire home low at the near post to give Sacramento its first home playoff victory since it won the 2014 USL Championship Final.

Follow the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs

Every game of the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs through the Eastern and Western Conference Finals can be seen in the United States on ESPN+ and internationally through the Championship’s YouTube channel, with the Final set to air nationally on ESPN2 on Sunday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

2019 USL Championship Playoffs

Eastern Conference Play-In Round
Wednesday, October 23

No. 10 Birmingham Legion FC 3, No. 7 North Carolina FC 2
No. 9 Charleston Battery 1, No. 8 Ottawa Fury FC 1 AET
Charleston wins 5-4 in a penalty shootout

Western Conference Play-In Round
Wednesday, October 23

No. 8 Austin Bold FC 2, No. 9 LA Galaxy II 0
No. 7 Sacramento Republic FC 2, No. 10 New Mexico United 1

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Saturday, October 26

No. 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. No. 10 Birmingham Legion FC, Highmark Stadium, 7 p.m. ET
No. 4 Louisville City FC vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Rowdies, Slugger Field, 7 p.m. ET
No. 3 Indy Eleven vs. No. 6 New York Red Bulls II, Michael A. Carroll Field, 7:30 p.m. ET
No. 2 Nashville SC vs. No. 9 Charleston Battery, First Tennessee Park, 8 p.m. ET

Western Conference Quarterfinals
Saturday, October 26

No. 4 Real Monarchs SLC vs. No. 5 Orange County SC, Zions Bank Stadium, 3 p.m. ET
No. 2 Reno 1868 FC vs. No. 7 Sacramento Republic FC, Greater Nevada Field, 8:30 p.m. ET
No. 1 Phoenix Rising FC vs. No. 8 Austin Bold FC, Casino Arizona Field, 10:30 p.m. ET
No. 3 Fresno FC vs. No. 6 El Paso Locomotive FC, Chukchansi Park, 10:30 p.m. ET.

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