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USL Power Rankings – Week 3

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/11/16, 5:06PM EDT


Switchbacks return to top of the pile, with Red Bulls II hot on their heels

Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Win pretty. Win ugly. Win when the conditions suit you, or when they provide a second opponent to battle.

The grind of a season requires teams to do all of these things to finish on top. As illustrated by Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC or the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, three points is three points, no matter how they’re obtained.

And when the team is clicking along, you can see the sort of back-to-back performances the New York Red Bulls II have put together. Three points, and impressive ones at that. There’ll come a time when John Wolyniec’s side has to grind, but right now they’re among the most fun sides to watch in the USL.

Here’s the new Top 10.

1. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (Previous: No. 4)
Last Week: W 2-0 vs. Arizona United SC
After doing nothing wrong a week ago, the Switchbacks got back to doing most everything right on Saturday in their home opener. The timing and understanding the side had allowed it to make the most of its chances against a well-organized Arizona side, and despite adverse conditions, the Switchbacks still rolled through.

2. New York Red Bulls II (Previous: No. 3)
Last Week: W 4-0 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Two weeks in a row, the Red Bulls II played the sort of soccer that not only entertained, but was lethal in the final third. Take your pick of the three goals they provided after the Steel’s early error. A classic cut-back and finish, a slide-rule sequence that ended with a back-post finish, and a three-pass move that ended with a perfect chip. All beautiful, and all an indication of how many ways the Red Bulls II can beat you.

3. Swope Park Rangers (Previous: 2)
Last Week: D 1-1 at San Antonio FC
The Rangers went into a tough environment, then threatened to spoil San Antonio FC’s party with an early goal, but were forced in the end to settle for a point. Still undefeated, the Rangers didn’t show quite the same attacking edge as in their previous two wins on Saturday night, but that should be chalked up to a good San Antonio side that was geared up to put on a show for its fans in its home debut.

4. Charleston Battery (Previous: No. 8)
Last Week: W 2-1 vs. Wilmington Hammerheads FC
The Battery were looking very comfortable against Wilmington thanks to Romario Williams’ second-minute goal, but found an extra gear in the final 30 minutes as they looked for all three points against an improved Hammerheads side. Charleston will always threaten from both set pieces and throw-ins near opposing penalty areas thanks to its strength in the air, while the club’s home undefeated streak in the USL has now reached 23 months.

5. Richmond Kickers (Previous: NR)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Rochester Rhinos
Richmond won it second in a row on home turf as it battled not only the defending champions, but also the elements that saw a good crowd at City Stadium bundled up warm. Given those two factors, Saturday wasn’t going to bring the type of expansive soccer we saw from Richmond in its opening win, but getting the three points was paramount on a tough evening of action.

6. Sacramento Republic FC (Previous: 7)
Last Week: D 0-0 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
The only side still yet to concede so far this season, Sacramento looked the more likely side to break the deadlock against Vancouver on Sunday, and thus jump ahead of WFC2 here. As stout as the defense has been, though, the difficulties the side had in front of goal late last season have carried through to this year. Sacramento has only scored two goals in its last five games going back to its penultimate game of the 2015 regular season.

7. LA Galaxy II (Previous: 1)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Orange County Blues FC
One big comeback for a draw on the road is one thing, but being pegged back by your rival on home turf to allow them their first point of the season is another. The Galaxy II have already played four games this season, and are still undefeated, but Friday night’s performance lacked the snap of the previous three. They’ll want to regain that with San Antonio coming in on Wednesday night.

8. FC Cincinnati (Previous: No. 9)
Last Week: W 2-1 vs. Charlotte Independence
Fantastic opening goal? Check. Outstanding debut crowd? Check. Three points in your inaugural home opener? Check. FC Cincinnati’s debut at Nippert Stadium was definitely an impressive one as it bagged back-to-back victories. Up next is a big test, though, with Louisville’s attack looking rejuvenated for the first game in the battle for the River Cities Cup.

9. San Antonio FC (Previous: No. 10)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Swope Park Rangers
San Antonio put in an impressive display against the visiting Swope Park Rangers, but it wasn’t quite enough to earn a victory as Jon Kempin’s performance shone brightest of all in front of a record crowd at Toyota Field. Another trip to the west coast is next, with games against the LA Galaxy II and Orange County the next hurdles for Darren Powell’s club to clear.

10. Louisville City FC (Previous: NR)
Last Week: W 4-1 vs. Orlando City B
Coach James O’Connor wanted a response from his side after its defeat to the New York Red Bulls II, and after going behind to Orlando City B on Saturday, he definitely got one. Niall McCabe and Kadeem Dacres ran the show for City, whose attack livened up satisfactorily ahead of what should be a must-see contest against FC Cincinnati this Saturday.

Best of the Rest – Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2; Real Monarchs SLC; Rio Grande Valley FC; Toronto FC II