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USL Weekend Preview – Week 13

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/16/17, 2:36PM EDT


A new home for the Independence, and a playoff rematch in Cincinnati

TAMPA, Fla. – After a busy midweek highlighted by action in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that saw both FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic FC advance to the Fifth Round for the first time in their histories, Week 13 of the 2017 USL Regular Season kicks off on Friday night for an 11-game slate that begins a big run of games over the next 10 days. The weekend’s action is highlighted by a big rematch from the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs, and the opening of a new home in the Eastern Conference.

After playing their first four home games of the season around the region, the Charlotte Independence will play their first game at the new Sportsplex at Matthews on Saturday night when the Harrisburg City Islanders come to visit. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati and the Charleston Battery are set to square off at Nippert Stadium in the first meeting between the clubs at the venue since the Battery’s upset win in the USL Cup Playoffs a season ago.

The clash between the San Antonio FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC highlights Saturday night’s Western Conference action, with the Roughnecks having advanced past SAFC in the Open Cup when they first met this year. Sunday evening brings another must-see game, with the Swope Park Rangers and Phoenix Rising FC both looking to build off big victories last weekend.

Every game of the 2017 USL season will be available on the league’s Match Center, with updates from across the league also available via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Saturday, June 17
Charlotte Independence vs. Harrisburg City Islanders
7 p.m. ET, Sportsplex at Matthews

The Charlotte Independence move into their new, permanent home at the Sportplex at Matthews with a visit from the Harrisburg City Islanders, and will be aiming to end a three-game winless streak that to get back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Charlotte (3-3-4, 13pts) earned a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium last Saturday night, and still has games in hand on the teams above it in the standings. With the Independence set to be without standout forward Enzo Martinez due to suspension, however, it needs to start putting wins together to gain ground on the teams in the top eight.

The City Islanders (2-5-4, 10pts) are in a similar predicament to the Independence as they look to spoil Charlotte’s party, only Harrisburg’s winless streak has now stretched to eight games. Sitting three points back of the Independence entering Saturday’s contest, and coming off a 3-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Union in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, this game could be a critical one to the course of Harrisburg’s season.

FC Cincinnati vs. Charleston Battery
7 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium

The Eastern Conference-leading Charleston Battery and FC Cincinnati meet for the first time at Nippert Stadium since the Battery ended FCC’s season last fall. Since then the Battery also took victory on home turf in the opening weekend of this season, making FCC eager to turn the tables in front of another big home crowd.

Cincinnati (4-5-4, 16pts) is also in need of a win in a tightly-packed middle of the Eastern Conference standings, but is coming off a 1-0 victory against Columbus Crew SC in front of 30,160 fans at Nippert Stadium in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. The result, and news of a home game against the Chicago Fire in the Fifth Round, could have a buoyant effect on the club’s season as it looks to get back into the top eight.

By contrast, the Battery (8-2-3, 27pts) are flying high at the top of the Eastern standings after a 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers last Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium. Charleston is undefeated in four previous meetings with Cincinnati, and while the side was edged out 3-2 by Atlanta United FC in Wednesday night’s Open Cup clash, the Battery will enter hopeful of continuing that streak. 

Louisville City FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field

Louisville City FC returns home to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds looking to continue its strong form at Slugger Field this season, with a chance it could move into second place in the Eastern Conference with a victory.

Louisville (6-1-4, 23pts) took a pair of big wins in Week 12, defeating the Charlotte Independence on home turf in midweek and then earning the club’s first victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Sunday afternoon. Now trailing the Tampa Bay Rowdies by only a point, but with three games in hand, Louisville will look to continue its push toward the top.

Pittsburgh (4-5-4, 16pts) is moving in the opposite direction, with Louisville’s 1-0 win on May 20 beginning a four-game winless streak that has dropped the Riverhounds out of the postseason places. The Hounds grabbed a late draw against Toronto FC II last Saturday, though, and will hope the momentum of Romeo Parkes’ first goal of the season carries forward.

San Antonio FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field

San Antonio FC will look to continue its 13-game undefeated streak to start the season, and take another step toward Rio Grande Valley FC’s USL record 758-minute shutout streak when it hosts a Tulsa Roughnecks FC side that eliminated it from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last month.

SAFC (9-0-4, 31pts) is coming off back-to-back scoreless draws after playing to a 0-0 draw by OKC Energy FC last Saturday night at Taft Stadium. The side has now gone 646 minutes without conceding, but the two draws have allowed Real Monarchs SLC to move two points ahead at the top of the Western Conference standings.

The Roughnecks (5-6-0, 15pts) continued their up-and-down season last Sunday when it conceded twice late to fall 3-1 against the Swope Park Rangers. Tulsa will take some confidence from its Open Cup performance against San Antonio, though, which saw the side earn a 0-0 draw before advancing in a penalty shootout thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Fabian Cerda, who scored himself before saving from SAFC’s Diego Restrepo to send the side into its game against FC Dallas this past Wednesday night.

Sunday, June 18
Swope Park Rangers vs. Phoenix Rising FC
5 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field

The Swope Park Rangers and Phoenix Rising FC are separated by just a point, with the Rangers the right side of the playoff line, as they square off for the second time this season after a high-scoring encounter the last time out.

The Rangers (5-4-1, 16pts) grabbed a big win in their last outing as Mark Anthony Gonzalez struck twice late in a 3-1 win against Tulsa Roughnecks FC last Sunday. The win moved Swope Park into seventh place in the West, and after suffering a 4-3 defeat in its visit to the desert earlier this season will be hoping to turn the tables on home turf.

Rising FC (5-5-0, 15pts) saw the much-anticipated debut of Didier Drogba pay off as ideally as could have been hoped as the former Premier League champion had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 last Saturday. Sitting in ninth in the standings, but with games in hand on a few teams ahead of them, Rising FC could take a big step forward with a win on the road. 


Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati

30,160FC Cincinnati welcomed a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round modern-era record crowd of 30,160 as it defeated Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati will face the Chicago Fire in the Fifth Round on June 28.

123 – Real Monarchs SLC’s Chandler Hoffman’s 39 career USL regular-season goals have come at a rate of one every 123 minutes, or a rate of 0.73 goals per 90 minutes.

8Real Monarchs SLC recorded its eighth consecutive victory on Saturday against the Portland Timbers 2, tying Orlando City SC for the USL record set in 2014. The Monarchs face Reno 1868 FC this Monday night.

6 – Reno 1868 FC forward Dane Kelly has scored in six consecutive league contests, and now leads the USL with 12 goals this season. The league’s all-time leading scorer, Kelly has never previously claimed the USL Golden Boot.

2Sacramento Republic FC and FC Cincinnati advanced to the Fifth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time in their respective histories, as Sacramento defeated Real Salt Lake 4-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 11,569 at Papa Murphy’s Park on Wednesday night.


Photo courtesy Canada Soccer

- The draw for the Fifth Round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was made on Thursday morning, setting up a home game for FC Cincinnati against the Chicago Fire, and a trip to face the LA Galaxy for Sacramento Republic FC. The games are set to be played on June 28.

- The Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the Premier Development League’s Ocean City Nor’easters announced a major partnership agreement on Wednesday that is set to run through the 2018 season. Three current Riverhounds players – Keasel Broome, Chevaughn Walsh and John Manga – previously competed for the Nor’easters, who have a strong history of success in the PDL.

- Louisville City FC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye and OKC Energy FC’s Cody Laurendi both made their international debuts this week, for Canada and Puerto Rico respectively, as both teams earned positive results. Kaye played the final 11 minutes as Canada defeated Curacao 2-1 in preparation for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, while Laurendi recorded a shutout in a 0-0 draw for Puerto Rico on the road against Indonesia.

- Toronto FC II (2-7-5, 11pts) broke a 12-game winless streak with a 1-0 victory against Orlando City B (4-5-4, 16pts) in the opening game of Week 13 on Wednesday afternoon. Jordan Hamilton scored the only goal as TFC II moved off the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

- The New York Red Bulls II (5-6-2, 17pts) play host to Bethlehem Steel FC (5-6-1, 16pts) to open the weekend’s action on Friday night at MSU Soccer Park (7 p.m. ET | Match Center) in a key game in the Eastern Conference’s top eight. The Red Bulls II fell 3-0 to Louisville City FC last Sunday evening, while Steel FC rallied for a 2-1 victory against Saint Louis FC to vault into the playoff positions.

- Sacramento Republic FC (4-6-3, 15pts) will look to use its Open Cup victory on Wednesday night as a springboard for league success as it hosts Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (4-6-2, 14pts) at Papa Murphy’s Park on Saturday night (11 p.m. ET | Match Center). The two teams played to a 0-0 draw when they met for the first time this season on April 29 at Thunderbird Stadium, and both currently sit outside the top eight in the Western Conference.

- The Richmond Kickers (2-7-4, 10pts) play host to the Tampa Bay Rowdies (6-3-5, 23pts) on Saturday night at City Stadium (7 p.m. ET | Match Center) with both teams looking to end a recent win-drought. The Rowdies have drawn each of their past three games after a 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos, putting their second-place position in the Eastern Conference in peril, while the Kickers are winless in eight, and have scored only eight goals this season.

- Rio Grande Valley FC (5-4-2, 17pts) will try to continue its good home form when it plays host to the LA Galaxy II (2-8-2, 8pts) for the second time this season at H-E-B Park on Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). The teams played to a 1-1 draw in the first meeting of the season last month, but the Toros are coming off a strong 3-1 win against Seattle Sounders FC 2, while Los Dos fell 2-1 late against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday night.

- The Rochester Rhinos (4-1-5, 17pts) and Ottawa Fury FC (4-3-4, 16pts) will both look to bolster their position in the top eight of the Eastern Conference when they square off at Capelli Sport Stadium on Saturday evening (6:05 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Rhinos saw their Open Cup journey end on Wednesday night against the New England Revolution, but both teams have been in good form in the league of late which should make for an interesting first meeting between the clubs.

- OKC Energy FC (4-5-2, 14pts) will try to open its three-game trip to the Pacific Northwest on a positive note as it visits the Portland Timbers 2 (1-11-1, 4pts) on Friday night at Providence Park (10:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). Energy FC has moved within range of the top eight in the Western Conference with three wins in its last five league outings, and with Portland still mired at the bottom of the standings the visitors will be hopeful of a repeat of their 2-1 win on May 24 at Taft Stadium.

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