TAMPA, Fla. – One of the most historic clubs in the USL, and one of the newest, both host their home openers to highlight the fifth weekend of the 2017 USL Regular Season, which also features the return of one of the biggest rivalry matchups in the league in the River Cities Cup.
Coming off its first win in the USL a week ago, Ottawa Fury FC will welcome its fans to TD Place for its inaugural USL home opener as Toronto FC II visits for the first edition of the Battle of Ontario on Saturday afternoon. Later in the evening, the Rochester Rhinos kick off their 22nd home opener at Capelli Sport Stadium in a meeting of the past two winners of the USL Cup, with the New York Red Bulls II the visitors.
Nippert Stadium is expected to be packed on Saturday night when FC Cincinnati hosts Louisville City FC in the renewal of the River Cities Cup rivalry between the two Eastern Conference contenders. Then on Sunday, the Swope Park Rangers will try to equal a piece of USL history when they visit Phoenix Rising FC, which will introduce its latest big-name signing – Didier Drogba – to the club’s fans after his arrival, scheduled for Friday.
Photo courtesy FC Cincinnati
Saturday, April 22
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Toronto FC II
2 p.m. ET, TD Place
Ottawa Fury FC and Toronto FC II meet for the first time on Saturday afternoon at TD Place as Fury FC hosts its inaugural home opener. A strong crowd expected to be on hand to welcome Ottawa home after securing its first win of the season a weekend ago.
Fury FC (1-2-0, 3pts) saw Steevan Dos Santos record a Goal of the Year candidate in its 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers last Saturday at City Stadium. The Cape Verde forward’s volleyed goal from the halfway line lifted Ottawa to its first points of the season, which will provide a solid platform to build on as the side looks to push its way up the Eastern Conference.
Toronto (1-2-1, 4pts) returns to action after a bye in Week 4. The side earned a point in its last outing against Rochester. TFC II’s young talent has already shown positive signs this season, and could take some confidence from a preseason victory against Ottawa when the two sides met in early March in Vaughan, Ontario.
Rochester Rhinos vs. New York Red Bulls II
6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium
The past two winners of the USL Cup meet on Saturday night at Capelli Sport Stadium when the Rochester Rhinos host their 22nd home opener against the New York Red Bulls II. With the sides having met in the postseason each of the past two years, another highly competitive clash is expected.
Rochester (1-1-1, 4pts) is coming off a tough road defeat against the Charleston Battery that saw the Rhinos lose for the first time this season. The historic club has typically fared well in its first home game of the season in recent years, however, taking victories in five of its six home openers since the USL began in 2011.
The Red Bulls II (2-2-0, 6pts) are coming off a bounce-back victory last Friday night when they defeated Orlando City B 3-1 to end a two-game losing streak. Vincent Bezecourt has been in fine form this season, and had a goal and two assists to move him to four goals in the regular season so far.
FC Cincinnati vs. Louisville City FC
7 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium
The River Cities Cup renews its rivalry on Saturday night when FC Cincinnati hosts an undefeated Louisville City FC in its third consecutive high-profile contest at Nippert Stadium. FCC reported more than 15,000 tickets had been sold for the contest on Wednesday night, which should make for a rollicking atmosphere between two clubs separated by just a 90-minute drive.
Cincinnati (2-2-1, 7pts) has taken four points from the first two games of its first home stand of the season after a 1-1 draw in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday night that drew 15,227 to Nippert Stadium. Harrison Delbridge became the first player other than Djiby Fall to score for FCC as he leveled the score against the Rowdies in the 36th minute.
Louisville (3-0-1, 10pts) continued its undefeated streak to start the season with a 2-1 victory against the Rowdies last Saturday night in front of 9,074 fans at Slugger Field. City has now claimed three consecutive victories, with George Davis IV having scored in all three contests for the co-leaders in the Eastern Conference.
Sunday, April 23
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Swope Park Rangers
10 p.m. ET, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
The only remaining team with a perfect record this season, the Swope Park Rangers, go on the road in pursuit of equaling a USL record when they visit Phoenix Rising FC on Sunday night. Rising FC will be looking to build on its first victory of the season and will also unveil Didier Drogba to its fans.
Phoenix (1-2-0, 3pts) rallied to earn its first win of the season two weeks ago, and then made the announcement that former UEFA Champions League and Premier League champion Drogba had signed with the club. The former Ivory Coast international is set to arrive in Phoenix on Friday, and will be introduced to the club’s fans at Sunday’s game.
The Rangers (3-0-0, 9pts) are coming off their third win to start the season, a 1-0 victory against Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday night, and their seventh consecutive regular-season victory overall. That’s only one shy of Orlando City SC’s eight-game winning streak in the 2014 regular season, which stands as the longest in the USL’s history.
Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
23,144 – FC Cincinnati’s attendance of 23,144 against Saint Louis set a USL record for a club’s home opener, surpassing the mark of 20,231 set by Sacramento Republic FC in 2014.
318 – New York Red Bulls II rookie Arun Basuljevic has attempted the most passes of any player in the USL, an average of 63.6 per game.
84 – The Swope Park Rangers are completing passes at a rate of 84.3 percent, which leads the league, while averaging 501 passes per game.
4 – Djiby Fall’s four-goal game for FC Cincinnati against Saint Louis FC was the first in the USL since Irvin Herrera scored four for Saint Louis against Tulsa Roughnecks FC on May 21, 2016.
2 – The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Marcel Schäfer notched the No. 2 spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 on Wednesday night for his long-range strike that was tracked at having traveled 37 yards against FC Cincinnati.
Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer
- Five players with USL experience are part of the U.S. U17 National Team selected for the 2017 CONCACAF U17 Championship that kicks off on Friday in Panama. The top four teams from the 12 competing at the event will reach the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup in India later this year.
- The Harrisburg City Islanders (2-1-1, 7pts) extended their undefeated streak to three games on Tuesday night, but were denied a third consecutive win as Orlando City B scored in stoppage time to earn a 1-1 draw at FNB Field. OCB’s Pierre Da Silva now leads the USL with four assists after providing the delivery for Zach Carroll to notch the equalizer.
- The Tampa Bay Rowdies (3-1-1, 10pts) return home to Al Lang Stadium to cap a tough week when they host the Charleston Battery (3-1-0, 9pts) on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Rowdies took one point from their two road contests in Louisville and Cincinnati, and now face a Battery side that romped to a 5-0 win against Rochester behind a hat trick by Romario Williams last Saturday night in its last outing.
- The I-405 Derby resumes on Saturday night when the LA Galaxy II (1-3-0, 3pts) play host to Orange County SC (2-1-0, 6pts) for the first time this season at StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium (10:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). Orange County is coming off a bye after its 2-1 win on the road against the Portland Timbers 2 two weeks ago, while Los Dos are looking to snap a three-game losing streak.
- San Antonio FC (3-0-1, 10pts) will try to continue its undefeated start to the season when it visits Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (2-1-1, 7pts) at Thunderbird Stadium (6 p.m. ET | Match Center). WFC2 has taken back-to-back victories as it returns for its first game at Thunderbird this season, while SAFC recorded a big 4-0 win against Reno last week to continue its momentum ahead of a three-game trip through Cascadia over the upcoming week.
- Rio Grande Valley FC (2-2-0, 6pts) will attempt to continue its strong upturn in form when it hosts Tulsa Roughnecks FC (1-2-0, 3pts) at H-E-B Park on Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Toros are on a two-game winning streak, and will have the chance to take revenge against the improved Roughnecks, who handed RGVFC one of their two defeats to start the season at ONEOK Field on April 1.
- Saint Louis FC (3-1-1, 10pts) will have the chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as it takes on the Charlotte Independence (0-1-2, 2pts), who are still looking for their first win of the season as they visit Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). STLFC fell on the road to Cincinnati last Saturday, while the Independence played to a 1-1 draw with Pittsburgh on home turf.
- Reno 1868 FC (0-3-1, 1pt) will try to find its first victory in club history when it hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (2-2-1, 7pts) at Greater Nevada Field on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET | Match Center). Reno suffered another defeat in San Antonio last Saturday night, and will be hoping for a turnaround against a Switchbacks side that held on to earn a 2-1 win against Real Monarchs SLC in its last outing.
- Sacramento Republic FC (3-2-0, 9pts) hopes to snap a two-game losing streak when it hosts the Portland Timbers 2 (0-5-0, 0pts) at Papa Murphy’s Park on Saturday night (10:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). T2 has suffered five consecutive one-goal defeats to start the season, while Sacramento was edged by OKC and Swope Park last week in a pair of 1-0 defeats. Republic FC took a 4-0 win against Orange County in its only prior home game this season.
- Two of the USL’s historic clubs square off on Saturday evening when the Richmond Kickers (1-3-0, 3pts) and Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1-2-2, 5pts) both looking to get back on a winning track at City Stadium (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Kickers are on a three-game losing streak after their setback against Ottawa last Saturday, while the Riverhounds have taken one point from their past two games after a 1-1 draw against Charlotte.
- Seattle Sounders FC 2 (2-2-0, 6pts) will try to break a streak of alternating losses and wins when they host Real Monarchs SLC (3-1-0, 9pts) at Starfire Stadium on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Monarchs fell for the first time this season in their last outing on the road against Colorado Springs, while S2 earned a 2-1 win against the LA Galaxy II to even their record for the season.
- Bethlehem Steel FC (1-2-0, 3pts) plays host to Orlando City B (1-3-2, 5pts) on Sunday afternoon at Goodman Stadium (4 p.m. ET | Match Center) with OCB looking to end its three-game trip to the Northeast on a positive note. Both teams met the Harrisburg City Islanders in their last outings, with Bethlehem falling 3-2 to Rochester last Saturday night, and Orlando earning a 1-1 draw against Harrisburg this past Tuesday.