TAMPA, Fla. – San Antonio shakes out of its slump, and shakes up the west’s picture, while Louisville continues its strong road form. Here’s what we learned from Week 13 in the USL:
1. SAFC SPRINGS SURPRISE: San Antonio FC has gone through understandable growing pains in its inaugural season, but on Saturday night it took its biggest win of the season with a 2-1 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in front of 6,092 fans at Toyota Field. The win was not only a big one for SAFC, keeping the side within touching distance of the eighth and final playoff place as the midway point of the season nears, but also helped shake up the top of the Western Conference, and the race for a top-four berth.
2. LATE, LATE SHOW: With the Switchbacks’ defeat, the door opened for the teams around them in the Western Conference to take advantage. Two of them, Vancouver and Sacramento, left it late, but both picked up wins that could be key later on this season. On Saturday night, Republic FC squandered a pair of leads against fellow contender Rio Grande Valley FC, but grabbed a victory with three minutes to go through Emrah Klimenta’s “was it a shot or a cross?” goal to come out a 3-2 winner. Then on Sunday, WFC2 struggled to find the target for most of the game against Portland, until Daniel Haber’s goal – also with three minutes to go – moved them four points clear in the standings.
3. TOROS SHOW TENACITY: While the result didn’t go its way, Rio Grande Valley FC should return home with a level of optimism after its trip to Sacramento. In a tough environment, and against an in-form Republic FC side, the Toros battled toe-to-toe throughout the contest, and if not for a piece of inspiration – or slice of bad luck – could have come away with a point. While the team slipped to fifth in the standings after the weekend’s action, that position could change quickly with two big games coming up this week against Arizona and Orange County on home turf.
4. STREAK BREAKER: After breaking the Charleston Battery’s 29-game home undefeated streak earlier this month, Louisville City FC turned the trick again on Saturday as it took a 1-0 victory against the Rochester Rhinos to break the defending USL champions’ 24-game home undefeated streak at Rhinos Stadium. While also gaining a modicum of revenge for its defeat in the USL Eastern Conference Championship Game a season ago, the win also kept Louisville solidly in first ahead of a busy week that sees it host first Toronto FC II, and then a massive showdown with FC Cincinnati in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3.
5. HOME COOKING: While Louisville was extending its undefeated streak to 12 games, FC Cincinnati’s reached nine on Saturday night as the side completed a 4-0-1 home stand in front of 19,112 fans at Nippert Stadium with a 2-1 win against Toronto FC II. Cincinnati had to work to get its reward, as Toronto took an early lead on a standout goal by Raheem Edwards, but Coach John Harkes said he believed his team was “finding its voice” as Harrison Delbridge and Eric Stevenson’s goals two minutes apart proved the difference, and kept Cincinnati within striking distance of its River Cities Cup rival.
6. ARISE, ARIZONA: The offseason changes made by Arizona United SC have taken time to come into focus, but after the team’s first back-to-back wins of the season, there’s starting to be reason to think United could be a contender to slide into the playoff positions by the end of the season. Saturday’s 2-1 win against a good Saint Louis FC side was another positive step, and it will be worth watching how the side does when it takes its show on the road against Rio Grande Valley FC before returning home to host Sacramento.
7. GRIND IT OUT: After losing two games in a row on home turf, something that hadn’t happened in the club’s history in the USL, the Charleston Battery appeared set for another frustrating night at MUSC Health Stadium until a late penalty kick brought them a 1-0 victory against the Harrisburg City Islanders, and a continued hold on their fourth-place position in the East. It hasn’t always been vintage Charleston soccer this season, but the Battery’s ability to continue to get results has them in a familiar position, and they have the appearance of a team that could be a tough out when the playoffs come.
8. OFF THE SLIDE: One place behind Charleston in the Eastern Conference following the weekend’s action are the Charlotte Independence, who got a much-needed 1-0 win against the Richmond Kickers on Saturday night. After a five-game winless streak, Charlotte had hit a wall the previous weekend with a lackluster first-half performance that resulted in a defeat to Bethlehem Steel FC. Against Richmond, the Independence seemed close to their best, and while they needed two big late saves from John Berner to preserve the win, the team will be feeling much better about its position ahead of a trip to Harrisburg on Friday.
9. ROUGHNECKS RALLY BACK: The side remains adrift at the bottom of the Western Conference, but Tulsa Roughnecks FC fans will at least be able to take heart from the fight their side showed in earning a 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy II in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3. Down 2-0 within the opening 25 minutes, the door was open to another devastating performance for the side against Los Dos, but over the final hour of the game the Roughnecks found a way back in, and looked a different side to the one that had gone winless in more than a month. The hope will now be a return match with the Galaxy II this Friday can see the side put in that effort for a full 90 minutes, and snap what is now a five-game winless streak.
10. LOS DOS DROP AGAIN: On the other hand, the LA Galaxy II will likely look at Friday’s result as another lost opportunity, as the side drew for the eighth time this season, and the second time in as many weeks after having led in the second half. Los Dos lead the league in draws with eight this season, and on five of those occasions had held the lead in the contest. As a result, the side sits five points back of conference leader Vancouver, instead of potentially holding a five-point lead.
11. REFOUND ENERGY: After a difficult week that saw OKC Energy FC first see its undefeated streak in the league come to an end in South Texas, and then see its elimination from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in a penalty shootout, the side will definitely have been happy to rebound with a positive 3-1 win against the Swope Park Rangers on Saturday night. The night was a particularly happy one for Michael Thomas, who returned to his home city to face his former organization, and found the net to provide a late first-half equalizer which helped propel OKC to a solid victory, and the chance to make a big move in the West in the upcoming weeks.