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USL Power Rankings – Week 22

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 08/22/16, 2:58PM EDT


A USL record in hand, the Toros continue their ascent up the rankings

Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

It’s not hyperbole to say that what we’re seeing from Rio Grande Valley FC is unprecedented in USL history. Certainly, there have been better defensive teams – the Toros won’t touch last year’s Rochester Rhinos’ overall goals-against record – but there’s something pretty remarkable about a side that has now gone 12 hours of game action without conceding a goal.

The Rhinos held the previous shutout streak record in the USL, going 568 minutes without conceding a goal as the side recorded six consecutive shutout victories to start the 2012 season. Gibson Bardsley – then of the Dayton Dutch Lions – broke the streak 28 minutes into Rochester’s seventh game of the season, a season that would end in crushing fashion in the semifinals of the 2012 USL Playoffs.

Now well past that mark, the Toros are combining strong possession and patience on the ball with an attack that has rediscovered its incisiveness over the past two weeks to move up to No. 3 in this week’s USL Power Rankings after another pair of victories. 

A point behind Sacramento and Vancouver with six games to go in the regular season, the Toros now have the chance to stretch how far this can go. A rematch of Sunday’s 2-0 victory against Colorado Springs figures to be a marquee game on Saturday night, and with what appears right now a relatively benign run-in, RGVFC could be poised for something more when the postseason arrives.

Here’s the new Top 10.

1. New York Red Bulls II (Previous: 1)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Louisville City FC
The first side to clinch a place in the 2016 USL Playoffs thanks to its victory on Friday night, New York now has a comfortable lead in its pursuit of its first silverware in the form of the USL regular season championship. An interesting week lies ahead, though, with a visit to Toronto FC II on Wednesday evening followed by a big clash on Sunday as it welcomes FC Cincinnati to Red Bull Arena.

2. Sacramento Republic FC (Previous: 4)
Last Week: W 4-0 vs. Portland Timbers 2
Back on top of the Western Conference standings after another four-goal display on Saturday night against T2, Sacramento is rounding into a strong vein of form. Republic FC went 6-1-1 from the start of August to the end of the regular season in 2014 while averaging more than two goals per game. A repeat performance could mean the road to the USL Championship passes through Bonney Field in the Western Conference.

3. Rio Grande Valley FC (Previous: 5)
Last Week: W 5-0 at Tulsa Roughnecks FC; W 2-0 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
The Toros now hold the USL record for consecutive shutout minutes after two more strong shutout victories moved the side within a point of first place with six games to go in the season. RGVFC’s 721-minute shutout streak will be tested in its rematch with Colorado Springs on Saturday night, but with the stage shifting to South Texas and the Switchbacks facing a big midweek contest against OKC Energy FC, the matchup is setting up nicely, as if the Toros need any additional help right now.

4. Richmond Kickers (Previous: 2)
Last Week: D 1-1 at Orlando City B
The Kickers remain undefeated in their last eight outings after a 1-1 draw with Orlando on Sunday night,  after the disappointment of seeing their rivalry clash with Charleston postponed on Wednesday. The rescheduling of that clash with the Battery for August 31 sets up a potentially tricky run-in for the Kickers, as they now prepare for five consecutive games with potential playoff teams – as well as Louisville City FC, which has already clinched – in relatively rapid succession. If Richmond gets it right, they’ll be a top-four team. If they falter, the door will open for someone else.

5. FC Cincinnati (Previous: 3)
Last Week: Bye
Cincinnati had a week off after its draw with Richmond, but now faces a big week of action that sees the Rochester Rhinos visit Nippert Stadium with the chance to move level on points with FCC, and then a visit to the first-place New York Red Bulls II on Sunday. While Cincinnati can’t afford to look past the Rhinos, though, the opportunity to exact some revenge for New York’s dramatic victory in the first meeting between the teams should provide major motivation for one of the biggest games this week.

6. Charlotte Independence (Previous: 9)
Last Week: W 4-0 vs. Orlando City B
The Independence have back-to-back wins, and are six games undefeated after a midweek romp against Orlando City B momentarily moved the side into the top four in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte is playing with some confidence right now, and with its varied attack could be a dark horse when the playoffs come around. A clash with Southern Derby rival Charleston comes next, and then what could be a sneaky-good game with Cincinnati on August 31.

7. Louisville City FC (Previous: 6)
Last Week: L 1-0 at New York Red Bulls II
Louisville couldn’t find a way through the Red Bulls II defense on Friday night, but the side played the game tightly enough that it doesn’t merit a serious drop down the rankings. The big question for the playoff-bound side now is how to get an attack that was so prolific for much of the season to regain its form over the final five games of the regular season. City’s hopes of a championship will likely depend on a solution being found, starting with the visit of a Bethlehem Steel FC side it drew 0-0 with earlier this season on Saturday.

8. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (Previous: 8)
Last Week: L 2-0 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
The Switchbacks played well against Rio Grande Valley FC on Sunday, especially being a man down for the second half after Rony Argueta’s red card, but it came out on the short end despite holding a 7-5 advantage in shots on goal on their visitors. The performance as a whole, though, means we’ll let one loss slide for a side that still looks deep, and strong, but games this week against OKC Energy FC and a rematch with the Toros will let us know if the Switchbacks are top-four material at the end of the season.

9. San Antonio FC (Previous: NR)
Last Week: W 3-2 vs. Arizona United SC; W 1-0 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Two wins in a week vaulted San Antonio into the Western Conference playoff positions, as they both broke Arizona’s three-game winning streak and then took a shutout victory against Seattle on Saturday night while missing regular starters Josh Ford and Stephen McCarthy. The likely season-ending injuries to both veteran players is a blow for SAFC, which must now weather a run of four games against three teams sitting directly below it in the Western Conference standings.

10. Rochester Rhinos (Last Week: NR)
Last Week: W 3-0 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
The Rhinos moved into the conversation for a top-four place in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night thanks to their victory against the Riverhounds, and with seven points from their past three games will enter Wednesday night’s game against Cincinnati on a little bit of a roll. After taking a victory in the first meeting between the two sides, the Rhinos could make the Eastern Conference look very interesting if they can complete a season sweep at Nippert Stadium.

Best of the Rest: OKC Energy FC, Orange County Blues FC, Real Monarchs SLC, FC Montreal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

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