There has only been one season in USL history when the league’s record for goals in a single-season hasn’t been broken. Considering everything, especially the manner which the league’s schedule has expanded since the 2011, that shouldn’t be a very big surprise.
What Reno 1868 FC is in the process of doing this season, however, is making sure that the record might stand for quite a while, even with the league’s regular season expanding again next year. The new No. 1 team in the USLSoccer.com Power Rankings – by a point from Louisville City FC – has ridden a historic attack to a playoff place in its inaugural season, and shows no signs of slowing down as the playoffs approach.
1868 FC scored nine goals in the past week, including a hat trick for Lindo Mfeka, as it clinched a playoff place on Wednesday against OKC Energy FC and another six-goal outing on Saturday night to move within touching distance of Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the Western Conference. Reno’s squad includes the leaders for both the USL Golden Boot in Dane Kelly (18 goals) and Assists Champion in Chris Wehan (11 assists), and this weekend it became the second club this season to have two double-digit goal-scorers in the league this season after the Charlotte Independence, as Antoine Hoppenot’s brace moved him to 10 goals for the season.
The USL Cup Playoffs can certainly be a different animal – the Red Bulls II were the first team to lead the league in goals and also win the USL Cup – but the way Reno is playing is putting it in a different stratosphere to anything we’ve seen before in the league.
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. Reno 1868 FC (47pts)
Last Week: W 3-0 vs. OKC Energy FC, W 6-1 vs. Portland Timbers 2
A place in the playoffs in hand, Reno’s next pursuit is that of first place in the Western Conference. 1868 FC will get a chance at Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday night at Greater Nevada Field after the Monarchs’ midweek visit to Sacramento Republic FC. Anything other than a win for Real at Papa Murphy’s Park will mean top spot is up for grabs on Saturday.
2. Louisville City FC (46pts)
Last Week: W 2-1 vs. Rochester Rhinos, D 1-1 at Ottawa Fury FC
Louisville continued its undefeated streak but missed out on its chance to move level with Real Monarchs SLC on Sunday, as it was unable to hold its lead against Ottawa Fury FC. Another pair of road games is up next with Toronto FC II and the Rochester Rhinos both set to welcome the Eastern Conference leader. A pair of wins, and first place in the race for the USL Regular Season Championship could be City’s.
3. Swope Park Rangers (37pts)
Last Week: W 3-1 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Eight goals in two games and a place in the postseason is a major statement of intent from the defending Western Conference champion, with the Rangers now having bested its points total from a season ago in its road victory against the Switchbacks on Saturday. The Rangers entered last year’s postseason on a four-game winning streak. With four games to go this season, Swope Park might be hitting its stride at just the right time again.
4. Phoenix Rising FC (36pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 at Seattle Sounders FC 2, W 4-0 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
Rising FC’s longest undefeated streak in club history has now been joined by its longest winning streak in the club record book, with Sunday’s win against WFC2 the fourth in a row for Phoenix. At the center of it all is the club’s now-stellar defense, which has conceded only four goals in the past 10 games and has it in position on the road to wrap up a playoff berth by the end of the week.
5. Real Monarchs SLC (29pts)
Last Week: D 0-0 vs. Orange County SC
The Monarchs looked a lot more like themselves on Friday night but weren’t able to find a breakthrough against Orange County to earn a victory that would have taken some of the pressure off at the top of the Western Conference. A tough road trip is up next, with Real needing a win against Sacramento on Wednesday in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 to ensure it enters the weekend still in the lead for the USL Regular Season Championship.
6. Tampa Bay Rowdies (26pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. Charlotte Independence
The Rowdies make a big return to the top 10, thanks to not only their victory against the Independence but also the manner which the rest of the Eastern Conference faltered around them on Saturday night. Tampa Bay’s 10th home win of the season has given it a chance at second place at the end of the season, but this week’s home-and-home series against Bethlehem Steel FC will certainly test those aspirations.
7. San Antonio FC (22pts)
Last Week: L 1-0 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
Back-to-back defeats for the first time this season have put San Antonio suddenly facing the prospect of finishing as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and the pressure is going to be on this weekend when it visits Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field. Regaining momentum has to be a priority as the postseason approaches for Head Coach Darren Powell.
8. Charlotte Independence (13pts)
Last Week: L 3-0 at Charleston Battery, L 1-0 at Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Independence are still second in the Eastern Conference but are now feeling the heat after defeats to two of their rivals for that spot in the span of a week. Getting back home should do Charlotte some good, but a visit from FC Cincinnati side fighting for its playoff life is going to be no small task on Friday night.
9. Charleston Battery (11pts)
Last Week: W 3-0 vs. Charlotte Independence, L 2-1 at Orlando City B
The Battery would probably have sat higher than this if they hadn’t missed out on their opportunity to move into second place on Saturday night, but a loss to Orlando City B saw the side take another step back just as it appeared to be building momentum. A visit to Ottawa on Sunday afternoon is going to be another test against a side whose position in the standings doesn’t match its ability to test the conference’s better teams.
10. Tulsa Roughnecks FC (5pts)
Last Week: W 1-0 vs. LA Galaxy II
The Roughnecks are closing in on a place in the playoffs for the first time after Saturday’s victory against Los Dos, a remarkable achievement for Head Coach David Vaudreuil and his players. Saturday’s clash at home to San Antonio also offers a chance at another piece of history for the side, which has never earned a point in four previous meetings with SAFC.
Also receiving votes – FC Cincinnati 3, New York Red Bulls II 1