With the defeat of Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday night, and the pack not sitting too far behind in the USLSOccer.com Power Rankings a week ago, it was somewhat inevitable that we’d have a new No. 1 going into the new week.
Well, as it turns out, we’ve got two of them.
Reno 1868 FC and Louisville City FC sit as the co-leaders in this week’s list, with City’s victory against the Charleston Battery on Saturday to keep it on top of the Eastern Conference putting it on level terms with 1868 FC, which extended its winning streak to five games after its victory against Orange County SC.
After going five games without a win to start the season, 1868 FC’s surge toward the top of the Western Conference is one of the most impressive stories of the season, and the side showed no signs of slowing down in the first of back-to-back games in California. Reno is now 10 points from clinching a playoff place after this weekend’s results – more on that tomorrow in the latest Race for the Playoffs – and needs only five goals to break the single-season goal-scoring record.
If you’re looking for a comparison to Reno’s inaugural season success, Louisville would certainly be a good place to start, what with City having finished second in the Eastern Conference two years ago on its way to a trip to the Eastern Conference Final of the 2015 USL Cup Playoffs. That standard hasn’t slipped in the subsequent two seasons, with Louisville looking good to earn its first No. 1 seed this postseason. It never pays to look too far into the future, but a USL Cup Final between these two squads in November could be a very exciting prospect.
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.
T-1. Reno 1868 FC (45pts)
Last Week: W 3-1 at Orange County SC
With the way the side has ticked along this season offensively, it wasn’t a surprise that a lack of Dane Kelly didn’t put a stop to 1868 FC’s offensive production as the club’s 10th three-goal performance of the season saw it tally twice early to take complete control against its hosts. Reno would move into second place with a win against the LA Galaxy II on Wednesday night, and also sit tied for the second-most wins in the league.
T-1. Louisville City FC (45pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Charleston Battery
Louisville had to scrap to claim the regular-season series over the Battery, but thanks to Guy Abend’s first goal in more than a year the side maintained its place at the top of the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, City also recorded its 10th shutout of the season, putting it tied for third in the league as it continues to get things done at both ends of the park.
Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
3. San Antonio FC (40pts)
Last Week: W 2-1 at Real Monarchs SLC
It wasn’t just that San Antonio became the first team to defeat Real Monarchs SLC at Rio Tinto Stadium, it was the manner which it accomplished the feat. For a side that’s been on the wrong end of late goals this season – including when it faced the Monarchs for the first time this season – Saturday’s win will likely prove cathartic as it looks to hold onto second place in the conference standings, and potentially make a run at the leaders.
4. Real Monarchs SLC (37pts)
Last Week: L 2-1 vs. San Antonio FC
The Monarchs’ first trip to the postseason was a silver lining to its disappointing late letdown, but the side’s fate in terms of top spot in the Western Conference and the USL Regular Season Championship is still firmly in its hands. Saturday’s visit to the last-place Portland Timbers 2 offers a great opportunity for a bounce-back performance.
5. Charlotte Independence (32pts)
Last Week: W 3-0 vs. Richmond Kickers
The Independence not only rebounded well from their first loss at the Sportsplex at Matthews in their win against the Kickers, but also will have been pleased to see Louisville take victory against the Charleston Battery, which would seem to set up a duel for first place down the stretch in the Eastern Conference. With Charlotte heading to Charleston this weekend as well, the chance to continue the Battery’s slump in form will also be an appealing one.
6. Swope Park Rangers (22pts)
Last Week: W 2-0 vs. OKC Energy FC
The Rangers regained their footing with their victory against Energy FC, and now appear certain of at least a top-four spot in the Western Conference after the rest of the weekend’s results. After doing some teams a favor with its win against OKC this past Saturday, Swope Park could do the same this coming weekend as it visits Orange County SC with the chance to clinch a playoff place coming into view.
Photo courtesy Nick Tre. Smith / Swope Park Rangers
7. Orlando City B (15pts)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
OCB almost extended its undefeated streak with a win last Thursday night against Bethlehem, only to conceded a late equalizer. After the rest of the weekend’s results, however, Orlando is still in very good position for a return to the playoffs, and will be hoping to bolster those hopes as the Richmond Kickers visit this Thursday night.
8. Rochester Rhinos (12pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 at Toronto FC II
The Rhinos’ win against Toronto might not appear the most impressive on paper, but TFC II had coming in undefeated in its last four games on home turf. With back-to-back wins Rochester is now in the top four in the Eastern Conference, and had two games in hand on the third-place Charleston Battery side with which it sits level on points.
T-9. Phoenix Rising FC (6pts)
Last Week: W 2-0 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Victory against Seattle opened a string of playoff race six-pointers for Rising FC in solid fashion, and the side is in excellent position to reach the playoffs for the first time given its eighth-place position and games in hand on those around it. That could change quickly in the upcoming week with two more contests against playoff challengers. Phoenix first hosts a reeling Orange County SC that has to snap its cold streak to have a chance at the postseason, and then visits Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field, a test under any circumstances, but particularly when the Switchbacks need victories to solidify their top-eight position.
Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
T-9. Charleston Battery (6pts)
Last Week: L 1-0 at Louisville City FC
The Battery are still looking a decent proposition for a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference, especially given the road form of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, but their battling performance against Louisville left them with nothing to show for it. Now with only one win in its last 10 games, Charleston will face regional rival the Charlotte Independence this Saturday in one of the weekend’s must-see games.
Also receiving votes – New York Red Bulls II 5, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 5, Tulsa Roughnecks FC 3, Tampa Bay Rowdies 2