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USL Race for the Playoffs – Sept. 20

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/20/17, 2:45PM EDT


Reno, Charlotte take aim at playoff position

Louisville City FC needed some help on Saturday night, but the Eastern Conference leader became the third side to clinch a playoff place this weekend to mark the third successive season City has advanced to the postseason. The Charlotte Independence narrowly missed out on joining Louisville on Saturday night, but with the top four sides in the Eastern Conference squaring off on Wednesday night, Charlotte gets another chance to book its place as it also looks to put pressure on City for top spot.

There’s also the chance for Reno 1868 FC to clinch its playoff post in the Western Conference on Wednesday night with two games that will affect the postseason picture set to cap off the night’s action. Both Orange County SC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will be looking on intently hoping for results that will boost their chances.


1. Louisville City FC
Current Record:
 15-5-6, 51pts
Maximum Points Available: 69
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.1
Last Game: D 2-2 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Next Game: 9/20 vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville’s draw with Steel FC left it needing help on Saturday night, which was duly provided by the club’s Kings’ Cup-rival Saint Louis FC, as its defeat of Orlando City B handed City its playoff position. Thanks to draws for the Charlotte Independence and Rochester Rhinos, Louisville’s lead at the top of the Eastern Conference also remained at three points, and with the Rhinos coming to town on Wednesday, the chance to create separation is available for Head Coach James O’Connor’s side.

2. Charlotte Independence
Current Record:
 13-5-9, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 63
Points Needed to Clinch: 1
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.5
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Ottawa Fury FC
Next Game: 9/20 at Charleston Battery, 7 p.m. ET
The Independence moved within a point of claiming their second consecutive playoff berth thanks to Lewis Hilton’s late equalizer against Ottawa Fury FC. It was a result that had an even bigger impact for its visitors on Saturday night, and now with a draw on Wednesday against the Charleston Battery, they can book a place in the playoffs.

3. Charleston Battery
Current Record:
 12-7-8, 44pts
Maximum Points Available: 59
Points Needed to Clinch: 5
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.7
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Richmond Kickers
Next Game: 9/20 vs. Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m. ET
The Battery can’t quite clinch a playoff spot on Wednesday night with a victory against the Charlotte Independence as the side’s meet in their rescheduled contest from Sept. 9, but the hosts would move within a win of claiming a seventh consecutive playoff berth and also move within a point of the Independence for second place. They will have to do so without Romario Williams, though, who will start a three-game suspension after his sending off against Richmond on Wednesday.

4. Rochester Rhinos
Current Record: 
11-5-10, 43pts
Maximum Points Available: 61
Points Needed to Clinch: 6
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.7
Last Game: D 1-1 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Next Game: 9/20 at Louisville City FC, 7 p.m. ET
Back-to-back draws by the Rhinos have opened the door for both the Charleston Battery and Tampa Bay Rowdies in the race for a top-four position in the postseason, and with the challenge of squaring off against conference-leader Louisville City FC up next, it’s no sure thing that the Rhinos will get back on a winning track on Wednesday night. Six points from clinching a playoff position, every point is going to matter from here on out.

5. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Current Record: 
10-7-8, 41pts
Maximum Points Available: 59
Points Needed to Clinch: 8
Avg. Finishing Position: 4.6
Last Game: W 3-2 at Harrisburg City Islanders
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Charlotte Independence, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Rowdies will have been very pleased by most of the results this weekend, which not only reduced the club’s magic number to earn a playoff berth but also opened the door to a chance at a top-four berth. With the Charlotte Independence set to visit this weekend in one of Week 27’s must-see games, Tampa Bay will be hoping for victories by the Independence and Louisville on Wednesday night to keep Charleston and Rochester within reach.

6. FC Cincinnati
Current Record: 
10-9-9, 39pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Points Needed to Clinch: 10
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.4
Last Game: W 4-2 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Next Game: 9/23 at Saint Louis FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
FCC got exactly the result it needed on Saturday night and then got the added bonus of seeing other results fall favorably, as its playoff chances rose to 77 percent after this weekend’s action. Things aren’t completely locked away, but a victory on the road against Saint Louis FC on Saturday night would put the side in a very strong position going into its final three games of the season.

7. New York Red Bulls II
Current Record:
 11-12-5, 38pts
Maximum Points Available: 50
Points Needed to Clinch: 11
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.9
Last Game: L 4-2 at FC Cincinnati
Next Game: 9/30 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 4 p.m. ET
The Red Bulls II saw their undefeated streak come to an end against Cincinnati, but are still well-positioned to reach the postseason thanks to the rest of the weekend’s results. With a week off next, New York will be hoping for positive results for Bethlehem and Cincinnati to allow the side to retain a top-eight position.

8. Orlando City B
Current Record:
 8-7-12, 36pts
Maximum Points Available: 48
Points Needed to Clinch: 13
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.9
Last Game: L 2-0 at Saint Louis FC
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Charleston Battery, 7:30 p.m. ET
Back-to-back defeats for OCB have put a major hit on the club’s playoff hopes, especially given the ground Saint Louis FC was able to make up with its win on Saturday. Orlando’s game at home on Saturday night against the Charleston Battery isn’t an absolute must-win, but with the side now ninth in points available, it’s going to need some help to hold onto a top-eight spot.

9. Bethlehem Steel FC
Current Record:
 10-11-5, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 53
Points Needed to Clinch: 14
Avg. Finishing Position: 7.5
Last Game: D 2-2 at Louisville City FC
Next Game: 9/24 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 3 p.m. ET
Given the weekend’s other results, the only way things could have gone better for Steel FC is if it had been able to hold onto either of its leads against Louisville City FC on Friday night. With two games in hand on the three teams sitting above it in the current standings, Bethlehem is favored to reach the postseason. A win against in-state rival Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon at Goodman Stadium would only  increase those odds.

10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Current Record:
 8-9-11, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 47
Points Needed to Clinch: 14
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.0
Last Game: D 1-1 vs. Rochester Rhinos
Next Game: 9/24 at Bethlehem Steel FC, 3 p.m. ET
The difference between making the playoffs and missing out is usually a narrow one, which made the Rochester Rhinos’ late equalizer against the Riverhounds on Saturday night that much more difficult to bear for Pittsburgh. The Riverhounds aren’t without hope, however, and a win against Bethlehem Steel FC on Sunday at Goodman Stadium would more than double their playoff chances according to from 19.8 percent to 43.4 percent.

11. Saint Louis FC
Current Record:
 9-12-7, 34pts
Maximum Points Available: 46
Points Needed to Clinch: 15
Avg. Finishing Position: 10.1
Last Game: W 2-0 vs. Orlando City B
Next Game: 9/23 vs. FC Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. ET
Saint Louis got the win it had to have against Orlando City B on Saturday night, but the hard work to earn a place in the postseason continues this Saturday as FC Cincinnati comes to visit. Once again, facing a side sitting ahead of it in the standings on home turf a victory for STLFC is almost essential if the side is to reach the postseason for the first time.

12. Ottawa Fury FC
Current Record:
 7-9-11, 32pts
Maximum Points Available: 47
Points Needed to Clinch: 17
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.2
Last Game: D 1-1 at Charlotte Independence
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Louisville City FC, 2 p.m. ET
As with the Riverhounds, Ottawa’s inability to close out what would have been a massive road win against the second-place Independence is the sort of result that will end up defining a season, especially one that has now seen Ottawa record four consecutive draws. Louisville’s visit to TD Place on Sunday afternoon is now a must-win and hope for plenty of dropped points in the positions directly ahead.

13. Harrisburg City Islanders
Current Record:
8-14-7, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 40
Points Needed to Clinch: 18
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.6
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. Toronto FC II
Next Game: 9/27 vs. Ottawa Fury FC, 6:30 p.m. ET
Victory against Toronto FC II was a positive, but time continues to draw near on the City Islanders’ playoff hopes as it awaits its next outing against Ottawa Fury FC.

14. Richmond Kickers
Current Record:
 6-14-8, 26pts
Maximum Points Available: 38
Points Needed to Clinch: 23
Avg. Finishing Position: 14.0
Last Game: L 1-0 at Charleston Battery
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7 p.m. ET
The Kickers were almost mathematically eliminated after their defeat by the Charleston Battery on Saturday night but could do some other teams near the top of the standings a favor when they return home on Saturday to face the Rochester Rhinos. With Rochester vying for a top-four finish, Richmond is more than capable of playing spoiler against its long-time rival.

Eliminated: Toronto FC II


1. Real Monarchs SLC
Current Record: 17-5-5, 56pts
Maximum Points Available: 71
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 1.2
Last Game: L 2-0 at Phoenix Rising FC
Next Game: 9/22 vs. Orange County SC, 9 p.m. ET
The bad news for the Monarchs is they’re on a three-game winless streak for the first time this season. The good news is that no-one else managed to take advantage of their loss against Phoenix Rising FC, leaving the side four points clear with five games to go. A return home for what is a crucial game for Orange County SC on Friday night will have plenty of viewers from Oklahoma City and Colorado Springs, but it also offers the chance for Real to put pressure on its challengers for the USL Regular Season Championship.

2. San Antonio FC
Current Record:
 14-3-10, 52pts
Maximum Points Available: 67
Points Needed to Clinch: IN
Avg. Finishing Position: 2.2
Last Game: L 5-2 at Swope Park Rangers
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
With its playoff berth in hand, San Antonio crashed in the final game of its four-game trip against the Swope Park Rangers, but thanks to Reno’s loss against Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday night, SAFC’s chances of a top-two finish were barely diminished. Those same Toros come to H-E-B Park on Saturday night with their slim playoff hopes alive, but San Antonio will be looking for a big bounce-back performance after its worst defensive display in club history.

3. Reno 1868 FC
Current Record: 
14-6-7, 49pts
Maximum Points Available: 64
Points Needed to Clinch: 3
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.3
Last Game: L 1-0 at Rio Grande Valley FC
Next Game: 9/20 vs OKC Energy FC, 10 p.m. ET
Reno gets another chance to clinch a playoff place in its inaugural season on Wednesday night, and this time, its opportunity arrives in front of its home fans at Greater Nevada Field. With eighth-place OKC Energy FC the visitor, though, 1868 FC will need to put in a much sharper performance than on Saturday night and will have to do so without leading scorer Dane Kelly, who will be absent after his red card.

4. Swope Park Rangers
Current Record:
 14-6-6, 48pts
Maximum Points Available: 63
Points Needed to Clinch: 4
Avg. Finishing Position: 3.7
Last Game: W 5-2 vs. San Antonio FC
Next Game: 9/23 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 8 p.m. ET
The Rangers put in their best attacking performance of the season against a tired San Antonio FC side on Sunday, and thanks to Reno 1868 FC’s loss on Saturday night, they are now back in the conversation for a top-three finish. Having matched its point total from a season ago with five games to go, the Rangers will be hoping for OKC Energy FC to get a result when it visits Greater Nevada Field on Wednesday.

5. Sacramento Republic FC
Current Record:
 12-8-6, 42pts
Maximum Points Available: 60
Points Needed to Clinch: 10
Avg. Finishing Position: 5.9
Last Game: W 2-1 vs. LA Galaxy II
Next Game: 9/23 vs. OKC Energy FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Given the streakiness Sacramento has shown this season, its back-to-back victories over the past two weeks are likely the start of a drive that will end up putting the club back in the USL Cup Playoffs. It can take another big step forward to that goal on Saturday when it hosts OKC Energy FC, which will be coming off a Wednesday-night clash with Reno 1868 FC.

6. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Current Record:
 12-11-4, 40pts
Maximum Points Available: 55
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 6.7
Last Game: L 2-0 at OKC Energy FC
Next Game: 9/23 vs. LA Galaxy II, 8 p.m. ET
The Roughnecks fought hard to rally back against Energy FC, but despite the defeat, they are still in good position to reach the playoffs for the first time. With four of the club’s last five games of the season at ONEOK Field, starting with the LA Galaxy II on Saturday night, the path is still clear for Head Coach David Vaudreuil’s side.

7. Phoenix Rising FC
Current Record:
 11-7-7, 40pts
Maximum Points Available: 61
Points Needed to Clinch: 12
Avg. Finishing Position: 5.4
Last Game: W 2-0 vs. Real Monarchs SLC
Next Game: 9/20 at Seattle Sounders FC 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
Rising FC continued its surge with its highest-profile victory of the season so far against Real Monarchs SLC and now enters the final challenging stretch of its season with three games across eight days in Cascadia. By the time the side returns to Arizona, though, it could have a playoff place in hand, especially if it knocks off Seattle on Wednesday night in the biggest game of the trip.

8. OKC Energy FC
Current Record:
 10-11-6, 37pts
Maximum Points Available: 52
Points Needed to Clinch: 15
Avg. Finishing Position: 8.3
Last Game: W 2-0 vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Next Game: 9/20 at Reno 1868 FC, 10 p.m. ET
Energy FC’s victory against Black Gold Derby rival Tulsa Roughnecks FC moved it to the inside track in terms of the apparent three-team race for the final playoff berth, but it will need to keep its momentum going as it faces a tough road trip this week out west. With Reno 1868 FC hoping to kick off a party at Greater Nevada Field by clinching its first playoff spot, Energy FC is going to have to put in a big performance to hold onto its edge over Orange County and Colorado Springs.

9. Orange County SC
Current Record:
 9-9-9, 36pts
Maximum Points Available: 51
Points Needed to Clinch: 16
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.0
Last Game: W 2-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Next Game: 9/22 at Real Monarchs SLC, 9 p.m. ET
Jerry van Ewijk’s late winner against Vancouver on Sunday night could end up being one of the defining moments of Orange County’s season if it’s able to return to the postseason for a third successive year, but the road to the playoffs is still a difficult one for Head Coach Logan Pause and his side. Friday’s visit to Western Conference-leader Real Monarchs is next, with OCSC hoping for a favor from Reno 1868 FC that could give it the chance to jump past Energy FC into the top eight.

10. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Current Record: 
9-11-11, 35pts
Maximum Points Available: 47
Points Needed to Clinch: 17
Avg. Finishing Position: 9.5
Last Game: D 1-1 at Seattle Sounders FC 2
Next Game: 9/23 vs. Swope Park Rangers, 8 p.m. ET
The Switchbacks had arguably the worst weekend of any side in the Western Conference as it was first unable to earn its first victory at Starfire Stadium against Seattle Sounders FC 2, but then on Sunday, they saw both of its main rivals for the eighth and final playoff spot take victories. Colorado Springs is now in must-win territory when it hosts Swope Park on Saturday, and it will be hoping to see both OKC Energy FC and Orange County SC fall before it takes to Weidner Field to keep both within touching distance.

11. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Current Record:
 9-15-4, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 43
Points Needed to Clinch: 21
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.4
Last Game: D vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Next Game: 9/20 vs. Phoenix Rising FC, 10:30 p.m. ET
Another game, another draw, and the further the playoffs slip away from S2 after Saturday night’s result against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. While the result was appreciated in Oklahoma City and Orange County, it wasn’t what Seattle needed to keep its playoff hopes energized, and a loss to a Phoenix Rising FC side that is currently the hottest in the Western Conference would push S2 to the brink of mathematical elimination.

12. Rio Grande Valley FC
Current Record:
 8-13-7, 31pts
Maximum Points Available: 43
Points Needed to Clinch: 21
Avg. Finishing Position: 11.7
Last Game: W 1-0 vs. Reno 1868 FC
Next Game: 9/23 at San Antonio FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
A victory against Reno 1868 FC on Saturday night was nice, but likely too little, too late for the Toros’ playoff hopes. RGVFC’s only real role now is to try and spoil the plans of others, something it did a nice job of against Reno. With Texas rival San Antonio FC up next, the Toros will be hoping to push into the offseason with another feather in its cap.

13. LA Galaxy II
Current Record: 7-15-5, 26pts
Maximum Points Available: 41
Points Needed to Clinch: 26
Avg. Finishing Position: 12.8
Last Game: L 2-1 at Sacramento Republic FC
Next Game: 9/23 at Tulsa Roughnecks FC, 8:30 p.m. ET
Ethan Zubak’s record-setting goal after 10 seconds will be one of the highlights of the Galaxy II’s 2017 season, but the side is now on the brink of mathematical elimination after its defeat to Sacramento. The end could come as early as this Saturday, as a loss to Tulsa Roughnecks FC would likely push Los Dos past the point of no return.

Eliminated: Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Portland Timbers 2

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