After a nine-week run at the top of the USLSoccer.com Power Rankings, Real Monarchs SLC remains with the best record in the USL, but the Charlotte Independence’s ascent to the top of the Eastern Conference, thanks to an 11-game undefeated streak, has moved the North Carolina club to the top of the rankings.
The Independence came out on top, and secured a unanimous vote as they moved up from tied for No. 2 a week ago, thanks to their 3-1 victory against fellow Eastern Conference contender Louisville City FC. Despite being without leading scorer Jorge Herrera, the Independence took a comprehensive victory as Enzo Martinez recorded the club’s second hat trick this season.
After being held scoreless over its two games in the past week, the Monarchs slipped into third place in the rankings, one point behind fellow Western Conference side San Antonio FC. Moving up strongly to sit a point behind the Monarchs, meanwhile, are the Tampa Bay Rowdies, whose recent run of form at home has seen the side a matter of minutes away from five consecutive wins and holding a four-game shutout streak at Al Lang Stadium.
The five-person USLSoccer.com voting panel tabulates 10 points for first-place team votes, nine points to the second-place team and so forth to one point for 10th place. The accrued points among the group determines the final ranking.
Here’s your new Top 10:
1. Charlotte Independence (50pts)
Last Week: W 3-1 vs. Louisville City FC
Enzo Martinez’s inspired performance led the Independence to the top of the Eastern Conference and gave the club the opportunity to bolster its advantage in midweek, when it takes on Toronto FC II. With either a win or a draw against the Reds, Charlotte will equal its longest undefeated streak in club history of 12 games, set two seasons ago. With the Independence having scored seven goals in their past two outings, Toronto’s defense will have to be on its game on Wednesday night.
2. San Antonio FC (40pts)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Orange County SC
San Antonio retained its second-place position after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Orange County SC, but the side will again have been disappointed to leave points on the table after conceding a late penalty kick at home. Up next is a big test against a Reno 1868 FC side that is in good form and will be wanting a little revenge after SAFC’s 4-0 victory at Toyota Field early in the season.
3. Real Monarchs SLC (39pts)
Last Week: D 0-0 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC; L 2-0 vs. OKC Energy FC
The Monarchs slide a couple of places after being held scoreless in back-to-back games for the first time since a three-game scoreless streak early in the 2016 season. Results elsewhere meant Real’s lead at the top of the Western Conference remained healthy, but the side will be looking to get back on track this Saturday when its Rocky Mountain rival Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC visits Rio Tinto Stadium.
4. Tampa Bay Rowdies (38pts)
Last Week: W 3-0 vs. Harrisburg City Islanders
The Rowdies fourth consecutive shutout victory at Al Lang Stadium continued the club’s month-long surge back into contention for first place in the East. While it will need the Independence to start slipping up from time-to-time to have a chance at top spot, the Rowdies can also help their own cause when it comes to homefield advantage in the playoffs by improving on the road. Tampa Bay is just 1-4-5 away from home this season, a number it will look to change on Sunday against Saint Louis FC.
Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
5. Louisville City FC (25pts)
Last Week: L 3-1 at Charlotte Independence
Louisville’s loss against the Independence was disappointing, but the side continued to battle well on the road and is still in good shape in the Eastern Conference standings. City will get a chance to refocus quickly, too, with FC Cincinnati coming to Slugger Field this Saturday to conclude the River Cities Cup series. Louisville has taken victory after each of its prior three defeats this season. Will Saturday see history repeat itself?
6. Reno 1868 FC (22pts)
Last Week: L 1-0 at OKC Energy FC; W 3-2 at Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Reno came away from its three-game trip through the Midwest with a pair of victories, and thanks to dropped points from both the Swope Park Rangers and San Antonio FC, the club is even closer to the top three in the standings after the weekend. San Antonio is now set to visit Greater Nevada Field on Saturday, a massive opportunity for Head Coach Ian Russell’s squad, as the best attack in the league hosts the best defense.
7. Swope Park Rangers (19pts)
Last Week: D 0-0 at Saint Louis FC
The Rangers emerged with a point from their visit to cross-state rivals Saint Louis FC thanks to a debut penalty-kick save by goalkeeper Darrin McLeod and remain solidly in position at the top of the Western Conference. Getting back in the win column sooner rather than later is going to be important, though, and with Orange County SC making the trip to Children’s Mercy Victory Field on Saturday after its midweek game at home, the Rangers could do some other teams in the playoff race a big favor this weekend.
Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC
8. Charleston Battery (18pts)
Last Week: L 1-0 at Toronto FC II
The Battery’s overall resume is still looking good, as is the club’s second-place position in the Eastern Conference, but the six-game winless streak is starting to become a concern after Saturday’s loss in Toronto. Charleston gets back on home turf this Saturday against a New York Red Bulls II team that will be buzzing after its first win against Rochester and a chance at a season-sweep of the Battery after a 2-1 win at MSU Soccer Park earlier this season.
9. Sacramento Republic FC (17pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Republic FC’s finishing looked a little rusty against WFC2, understandable since the club didn’t see much action over the past month. Getting the victory was an important step forward, however, and now the side will head to face Portland on Sunday evening, looking to sharpen up and potentially close the gap on the conference’s front-runners.
10. OKC Energy FC (3pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Reno 1868 FC; W 2-0 vs. Real Monachs SLC
Two wins, two shutouts, and suddenly Energy FC’s playoff predicament is looking a lot more manageable as it prepares for the second Black Gold Derby of the season. The boost in form of the club’s attack is certainly a pleasant turn of events for the club, which has scored nine goals in a five-game undefeated streak. A road win against its biggest rival would not only boost OKC’s playoff hopes further, but also be a major blow for the Roughnecks, raising the stakes for the contest even further.
Also receiving votes – FC Cincinnati 2, Tulsa Roughnecks FC 1, Rochester Rhinos 1