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USL Push for the Playoffs: Sept. 13-14 Edition

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/13/16, 2:46PM EDT

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Western playoff race sees crucial midweek contests come to forefront

Three teams have now booked their places in the Western Conference field for the 2016 USL Playoffs after the weekend’s action, and the midweek action ahead will factor toward which teams remain in with a chance at the five remaining berths in the postseason, and which will have to wait another season.  

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. New York Red Bulls II – IN
Current Record:
19-3-6, 63pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Last Game: D 1-1 at Rochester Rhinos
Next Game: 9/17 vs. FC Montreal, 7 p.m. ET
The Red Bulls II claimed one USL single-season record with their draw against the Rhinos on Saturday, earning their 63rd point of the season, and will have the chance to set the record for single-season victories and total goals in a season when they host Montreal for their penultimate game of the season.

2. Louisville City FC - IN
Current Record:
16-4-8, 56pts
Maximum Points Available: 62
Last Game: W 2-0 vs. Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 9/17 at Saint Louis FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
Louisville guaranteed itself a home playoff game with its win against Richmond on Saturday night, and would claim the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference should it take three points in its final two games, or should FC Cincinnati and the Charlotte Independence drop points during their run-in.

3. FC Cincinnati - IN
Current Record:
14-6-7, 49pts
Maximum Points Available: 58
Last Game: W 2-0 at Wilmington Hammerheads FC
Next Game: 9/14 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7 p.m. ET
Cincinnati made it two wins out of two last week against Wilmington on Sunday, and could clinch a home quarterfinal in the playoffs on Wednesday night. A Cincinnati victory and a Charlotte Independence win or draw against the Richmond Kickers would move FCC out of reach of the four teams in the lower half of the Eastern Conference playoff positions.

4. Charlotte Independence - IN
Current Record:
14-7-6, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 57
Last Game: W 4-0 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Next Game: 9/14 at Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET
The Independence’s third consecutive win moved them within reach of a home quarterfinal in the playoffs as they prepare to visit Richmond on Wednesday night. A victory against the Kickers would move the side not only clear of Richmond with 51 points, but also give the Independence their 15th win of the season, handing it the total wins tiebreaker over both Charleston and Rochester – whose maximum totals currently sit at 51 points as well – for a top-four finish. 

5. Charleston Battery - IN
Current Record:
12-7-9, 45pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Next Game: 9/17 at Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET
The Battery rebounded for a victory on Saturday night and will be hoping for the Kickers to take a victory against Charlotte on Wednesday night to keep its hopes of a top-four place alive. With the Battery visiting the Kickers next on Saturday, they’ll be hoping the door to hosting a playoff game remains open.

6. Rochester Rhinos - IN
Current Record:
11-5-12, 45pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Next Game: 9/17 at Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m. ET
The Rhinos will also be hoping for a Kickers victory on Wednesday after their late draw with the Red Bulls II saw the club’s hope of hosting a playoff game get a little bit slimmer. With a visit to the Independence on Saturday up next, the Rhinos would like to be within range to pull level on points with a win at Ramblewood Stadium.

7. Richmond Kickers - IN
Current Record:
12-7-8, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Last Game: L 2-0 at Louisville City FC
Next Game: 9/14 vs. Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m. ET
The Kickers’ 10-game undefeated streak came to an end in Louisville, but the side’s top-four hopes would be revived should it rebound with a win against Charlotte on Wednesday. The Independence have taken victories in both of the previous meetings between the teams this season, meaning there’s also a chance at revenge on the line for Richmond, which will have both Charleston and Rochester in its corner.

8. Orlando City B
Current Record:
8-12-8, 32pts
Maximum Points Available: 38
Last Game: L 2-1 at Toronto FC II
Next Game: 9/17 at FC Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET
Orlando continued to flail as it fell for the sixth time in the past seven games despite taking an early lead against Toronto. OCB’s margin of error is down to two points over Wilmington, and Saturday’s game with a motivated Cincinnati side will offer no respite or easy points to get over the finish line.

9. Wilmington Hammerheads FC
Current Record:
7-12-9, 30pts
Maximum Points Available: 36
Last Game: L 2-0 vs. FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 9/17 at Harrisburg, 7 p.m. ET
The Hammerheads couldn’t follow up their victory against Orlando with another against Cincinnati, and remain two points back of OCB with two games to go. This Saturday will be crucial as Wilmington visits fellow chaser Harrisburg, with Orlando facing the big test of Cincinnati on the road. A win for the Hammerheads would see the side move into eighth, and might be just enough to earn a playoff place.

10. Harrisburg City Islanders
Current Record:
7-15-6, 27pts
Maximum Points Available: 33
Last Game: L 4-1 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Next Game: 9/17 vs. Wilmington Hammerheads FC, 7 p.m. ET
The City Islanders saw all of the teams around them lose over the weekend, but still need to win out to have a chance at a playoff berth. A home game against fellow chaser Wilmington comes next on Saturday night. Fail to win, and the season is over for Coach Bill Becher’s side.

11. Bethlehem Steel FC
Current Record:
6-13-9, 27pts
Maximum Points Available: 33
Last Game: L 2-1 at Charleston Battery
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 3 p.m. ET
It’s do or die for the Steel after their defeat to the Battery. Anything other than a win against the Riverhounds on Sunday afternoon at Goodman Stadium and Bethlehem is mathematically out of the picture, but there’s a major carrot hanging in front of the side. Take victory, and Orlando City B is the visitor for what could then be an all-or-nothing clash in the final game of the regular season.

14. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Current Record:
6-16-5, 23pts
Maximum Points Available: 32
Last Game: L 4-0 at Charlotte Independence
Next Game: 9/14 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET
Mathematically, the Riverhounds are still alive, but they’d need to win all three of their remaining games, and hope for others to fall by the wayside. Wednesday’s game with Cincinnati could be the final call for this season.

Mathematically eliminated: Toronto FC II, FC Montreal

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Sacramento Republic FC - IN
Current Record:
13-6-9, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Last Game: D 1-1 at LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/17 vs. LA Galaxy II, 10:30 p.m. ET
Sacramento was boosted by its late equalizer, and Rio Grande Valley FC’s loss to Portland, as it continues to pursue the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Republic FC will be hoping its rivals the Galaxy II can do it a favor and take points off the Toros before the two California clubs clash again on Saturday night at Bonney Field.

2. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC - IN
Current Record:
13-8-7, 46pts
Maximum Points Available: 52
Last Game: W 2-0 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 9/17 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2, 9 p.m. ET
The Switchbacks jumped into second place in the Western Conference, and sealed their second consecutive trip to the playoffs, with a win in Vancouver on Sunday. Now the side will be hoping the LA Galaxy II can grab points from both Sacramento and Rio Grande Valley this week to open up a path to first place in the conference.

3. Rio Grande Valley FC - IN
Current Record:
12-6-9, 45pts
Maximum Points Available: 54
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Portland Timbers 2
Next Game: 9/14 at LA Galaxy II, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Toros had already clinched a playoff berth thanks to Friday’s result between Real Monarchs SLC and Orange County Blues FC, but the side’s loss to Portland saw it lose the inside track to the top spot in the conference. That said, the Toros can move into first with a victory against the LA Galaxy II on Wednesday night. A win would move RGVFC level on points and wins with Sacramento, and the Toros’ plus-20 goal differential – which would increase with a victory – currently outstrips the plus-12 mark of Republic FC.

4. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Current Record:
11-8-9, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 48
Last Game: L 2-0 vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Portland Timbers 2, 5 p.m. ET
Vancouver missed out on the chance to clinch a playoff berth against Colorado Springs, but could be in by the time it plays again depending on the results for Orange County Blues FC and Real Monarchs SLC. A win against Portland would seal a postseason berth regardless of other results, though, and Coach Alan Koch will probably want his side to pick up some positive momentum ahead of the playoffs with two games remaining.

5. OKC Energy FC
Current Record:
10-5-12, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Next Game: 9/18 vs. Swope Park Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Energy FC was on the verge of booking its place in the playoffs until Seattle’s dramatic equalizer, which not only delayed OKC clinching a postseason berth, but also dented its hopes of a top-three finish. OKC is two points away from the playoffs, and as with Vancouver could be in by the time it takes the field again on Sunday. Winning out to put pressure on the teams above it will be the priority, though, for a side that has aspirations of a deep playoff run.

6. LA Galaxy II
Current Record:
10-7-10, 40pts
Maximum Points Available: 49
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 9/14 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Galaxy II continued to edge toward the postseason for a third consecutive occasion with their draw against Sacramento, and now can guarantee a playoff berth with four points from their final three games. The Galaxy II could potentially clinch a playoff berth on Wednesday with a win against RGVFC and a San Antonio FC draw or loss to Real Monarchs SLC the same night. A victory against the Toros would also bring a boost to both Sacramento and Colorado Springs in their pursuit of first place in the conference.

7. Swope Park Rangers
Current Record:
11-10-6, 39pts
Maximum Points Available: 48
Last Game: W 3-0 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Next Game: 9/18 at OKC Energy FC, 7 p.m. ET
The Rangers took a comprehensive victory against the Roughnecks to ease themselves away from the rest of the pack in the Western Conference, and now sit five points away from claiming a playoff berth. Should both Real Monarchs SLC and Orange County fail to take a victory in their next games, a win on the road for the Rangers in OKC would book a place in the postseason.

8. Orange County Blues FC
Current Record:
11-12-4, 37pts
Maximum Points Available: 43
Last Game: W 2-0 at Real Monarchs SLC
Next Game: 9/17 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
The Blues took the victory they needed against the Monarchs, and will now be hoping Real can do them a favor and take points off San Antonio on Wednesday night, which would keep Orange County in the eighth and final playoff position going into its massive game with RGVFC on Saturday night.

9. San Antonio FC
Current Record:
9-10-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 44
Last Game: L 3-1 vs. Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 9/14 at Real Monarchs SLC, 10 p.m. ET
San Antonio slipped out of the top eight with its loss to Saint Louis, but can get back in with a win on the road on Wednesday night as it makes up its game in hand on Orange County against Real Monarchs SLC. With the game a must-win for the Monarchs too, it will be a big challenge for SAFC, but a win would put the side in the position of being able to match its foes over the final two games to clinch a playoff berth.

10. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Current Record:
9-11-8, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 41
Last Game: D 2-2 at OKC Energy FC
Next Game: 9/17 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 9 p.m. ET
S2’s late equalizer against OKC was memorable, but the reality is it probably wasn’t enough for the side’s playoff hopes. With two games remaining, S2 will need to beat a strong Colorado Springs side on the road on Saturday to have any hope of a postseason berth. A loss could signal the end of the road for the side’s playoff aspirations.

11. Real Monarchs SLC
Current Record:
9-12-6, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 42
Last Game: L 1-0 vs. Orange County Blues FC
Next Game: 9/14 vs. San Antonio FC, 10 p.m. ET
The Monarchs’ path to the playoffs became even more fraught after their 2-0 defeat to Orange County that saw the side play most of the game with only 10 men. The defeat means a victory against San Antonio FC on Wednesday night is now a must if the side is to have a chance at a late run to the playoffs.

12. Saint Louis FC
Current Record:
8-11-9, 33pts
Maximum Points Available: 39
Last Game: W 3-1 at San Antonio FC
Next Game: 9/17 vs. Louisville City FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
Saint Louis got the first win of the three it will need to earn a playoff berth. The margin for error is now down to zero, however, as a failure to take a victory against King’s Cup rival Louisville will see STLFC mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

13. Portland Timbers 2
Current Record:
9-14-4, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Last Game: W 1-0 at Rio Grande Valley FC
Next Game: 9/13 at Arizona United SC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Portland grabbed a victory against Rio Grande Valley FC for its second in a row, but with Swope Park and Orange County also taking victories, T2 will need to win its final three games to have a chance at the playoffs. A loss to Arizona on Tuesday could see the side be mathematically eliminated as early as Wednesday.

14. Arizona United SC
Current Record:
8-12-7, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Last Game: D 1-1 at San Antonio
Next Game: 9/13 vs. Portland Timbers 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
Arizona’s margin for error has also dropped to almost zero, as the side needs a victory against the Portland Timbers 2 on Tuesday night in a contest that will see the loser potentially eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday night.

Mathematically eliminated: Tulsa Roughnecks FC

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