TAMPA, Fla. – The 2017 USL Regular Season Championship could be claimed on Saturday night, as Week 28 of the USL regular season concludes what has already been a remarkable week of action, including the arrival a third first-time qualifier to the USL Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Real Monarchs SLC is five points away from the regular season crown and the first silverware in its history. It could claim the championship should it take victory in the marquee game of the weekend, as the Monarchs square off with the second-place team in the Western Conference, Reno 1868 FC, at Greater Nevada Field. Elsewhere in the West, a visit from San Antonio FC to ONEOK Field to face Tulsa Roughnecks FC will be key in playoff positioning for both, while Phoenix Rising FC will try to continue its 11-game undefeated streak as it visits Sacramento Republic FC.
In the Eastern Conference, the weekend gets underway on Friday night with a crucial contest between the Charlotte Independence and FC Cincinnati, with the Independence looking to hold onto second place after back-to-back defeats and sixth-place Cincinnati aiming to move closer to claiming a playoff spot and away from the red line. Saturday brings another key game in the playoff race, with the ninth-place New York Red Bulls II hosting the 11th-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds, while Louisville City FC will try to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East when it faces the fifth-place Rochester Rhinos.
Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati
Friday, September 29
Charlotte Independence vs. FC Cincinnati
7 p.m. ET, Sportsplex at Matthews
Both the Charlotte Independence and FC Cincinnati are in need of victory for different reasons when the two teams meet in the second edition of the Queen Cities Cup rivalry on Friday night, with Charlotte under pressure in second place in the conference standings and Cincinnati hovering above the red line in sixth place.
The Independence (13-7-9, 48pts) were looking a solid proposition for a top-two finish at the start of Week 27, but back-to-back defeats on the road saw the Charleston Battery pull within a point with three games remaining. Winless in its last three games, Charlotte needs to get back to form on its home turf, as it looks to seal a first home playoff game in club history.
Cincinnati (10-9-10, 40pts) continued its inconsistent season last Saturday night but rallied for a 2-2 draw against Saint Louis FC, thanks to Danni König’s penalty kick in second-half stoppage time. Despite that, the pressure is still on FCC with the ninth-place New York Red Bulls II sitting only two points back. Undefeated in its last five games (2-0-3), Cincinnati still has plenty to do in its final three outings of the regular season.
Saturday, September 30
Rochester Rhinos vs. Louisville City FC
6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium
Louisville City FC will take a second crack at clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in club history when it completes its three-game trip to the Northeast. The club visits the fifth-place Rochester Rhinos in the second meeting between the teams this season.
The Rhinos (11-7-10, 43pts) are looking to get their bid for a top-four finish back on track after back-to-back defeats left the side winless in its last four outings, allowing the Tampa Bay Rowdies to move back past them in its pursuit of a home playoff contest. After a 1-0 loss on the road against the Richmond Kickers last time out, Rochester will try to avenge its 2-1 defeat to Louisville on Sept. 20 at Slugger Field.
Louisville (16-6-7, 55pts) had the chance to clinch the No. 1-seed in the East on Wednesday night, but for a second time this season, it was unable to solve Toronto FC II goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo, as the Reds took a 1-0 victory. That defeat put a severe dent in City’s hopes of claiming the USL Regular Season Championship, but after finishing second in the Eastern Conference in each of its first two seasons, ensuring the road to the Eastern Conference Championship goes through Slugger Field would be a nice consolation.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. San Antonio FC
8 p.m. ET, ONEOK Field
Tulsa Roughnecks FC has a chance to claim a place in the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history when it takes on San Antonio FC, with the hosts looking to build on a victory last time out and get revenge for their loss at Toyota Field earlier in the season.
The Roughnecks (13-11-4, 43pts) took their third win in the past five games with a 1-0 victory against the LA Galaxy II last Saturday night thanks to a goal by Joey Calistri. Tulsa would book a first trip to the postseason should it take victory against San Antonio, and Orange County SC suffer defeat against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, which kicks off at the same time in Colorado Springs at Weidner Field on Saturday night.
Victory could be a tough task against SAFC (14-4-10, 52pts), which is looking to snap its first two-game losing streak of the season and keep its top-four position in the Western Conference intact. San Antonio lost for the first time at home last Saturday night to Rio Grande Valley FC and is now only three points ahead of the charging Phoenix Rising FC with four games to go in the regular season, making a win key to claiming a home playoff game when the postseason arrives.
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Reno 1868 FC
10 p.m. ET, Greater Nevada Field
Real Monarchs SLC could know before it kicks off on Saturday night whether a chance to claim the 2017 USL Regular Season Championship is on. A win against its closest competitor in the Western Conference – in what is arguably the must-see game of the weekend in the USL – could secure the club’s first title.
The Monarchs (18-5-6, 60pts) moved five points clear in the race for the first silverware of the season, thanks to its victory on Wednesday night against Sacramento Republic FC and Louisville City FC’s surprise loss to Toronto FC II. Real can clinch the title on Saturday night should Louisville, San Antonio and the Swope Park Rangers all fail to take victory, which would leave the Monarchs needing a win to earn the trophy.
That final part of the equation will be a challenge, though, with 1868 FC (16-6-7, 55pts) undefeated at Greater Nevada Field since the opening day of the regular season. Boasting the highest-scoring attack in the league, Reno can keep its own hopes of usurping the Monarchs with a win of its own, which would reduce the gap at the top to two points with two games to go for both teams.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Papa Murphy’s Park, 10:30 p.m. ET
Coming off clinching its first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs in club history, Phoenix Rising FC will look to complete a perfect four-game road trip when it visits Sacramento Republic FC, which is itself coming off a tough midweek defeat as it looks to earn another trip to the postseason.
Republic FC (12-10-6, 42pts) fell for the second successive game on Wednesday night as Real Monarchs SLC took a 2-0 victory at Papa Murphy’s Park thanks to two early second-half goals. Sitting in seventh place in the West, Sacramento is still in solid shape to reach the playoffs with a five-point cushion on ninth-place Orange County SC but will not want to see that gap get any narrower.
Phoenix (14-7-7, 49pts) has no such concerns, and enters as the hottest team in the USL with five consecutive wins and four consecutive clean sheets to its name. Rising FC’s 2-0 win against the Portland Timbers 2 on Wednesday night booked its first trip to the postseason, and now the side is taking aim at San Antonio FC in fourth place with the goal of earning a home playoff game.
Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
1,150 – Real Monarchs SLC’s Chandler Hoffman scored the 1,150th goal in the USL this season on Wednesday night, as he reached a new individual single-season high with his 15th goal of the year.
15 – Toronto FC II goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo recorded 15 saves in two shutouts against Louisville City FC this season, allowing the last-place Reds to claim the regular-season series against first-place City (1-0-1).
6 – Pittsburgh Riverhounds forward Corey Hertzog – who sits tied for fifth in the race for the USL Golden Boot with 13 goals – has hit the woodwork six times this season, more than any other player in the league.
5 – Ottawa Fury FC forward Steevan Dos Santos saw his five-game scoring streak end on Wednesday night in a 1-0 defeat to the Harrisburg City Islanders, one shy of tying Reno 1868 FC’s Dane Kelly for the longest streak in the USL this season.
Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati
- SCG Fields, LLC, was unveiled on Monday as the Official Field Builder of the USL. SCG will be an official supplier for all related properties, including the United Soccer League – one of the most prominent Division II professional leagues in the world – USL’s Division III, the Premier Development League (PDL) and the Super Y League.
- 2018 USL expansion club Fresno FC announced on Monday that adidas would be the 2018 USL expansion club's official outfitter. The German giants will become the club’s exclusive uniform and equipment provider and will be outfitting all FFC players, coaches and staff. The multi-year deal will extend through the 2021 USL season.
- Harrisburg City Islanders defender Abass Mohammed earned his first call-up to the Ghana National Team this week in advance of the country’s key World Cup Qualifying contest on Oct. 7 against Uganda.
- The New York Red Bulls II (11-12-5, 38pts) and Pittsburgh Riverhounds (8-10-11, 35pts) square off in a game that is crucial to the playoff hopes of both clubs when they meet at MSU Soccer Park on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET | Match Center). New York enters the weekend in ninth place in the Eastern Conference but has won each of its last four home games to keep itself in the playoff race, scoring four goals in both of its last two outings at MSU Soccer Park. The Riverhounds sit in 11th after a narrow 3-2 defeat to Bethlehem Steel FC this past Sunday, a result that extended Pittsburgh’s winless streak to four games (0-2-2).
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (5-16-8, 23pts) plays host to the Portland Timbers 2 (2-20-6, 12pts) on Saturday afternoon at MacLeod Atletic Park (6 p.m. ET | Match Center) with pride on the line, as both teams look to rebound from losses to Phoenix Rising FC in the past week. WFC2’s 4-0 defeat to Rising FC last Sunday was its third in its last four outings, which mathematically eliminated the side from playoff contention. Already mathematically eliminated, T2 fell 2-0 to Phoenix on Wednesday night at Providence Park.
- Saint Louis FC (9-12-8, 35pts) will try to rebound from a disappointing draw in its last contest when it visits the Harrisburg City Islanders (9-14-7, 34pts) at FNB Field on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET | Match Center). The City Islanders have regained form with three wins in their last four games after a 1-0 win against Ottawa Fury FC that saw Ropapa Mensah find the net after Harrisburg had been reduced to 10 men late in the first half. Saint Louis squandered a two-goal lead this past Saturday in a 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati which left the side sitting three points out of the Eastern Conference playoff positions with three games remaining.
- The Tampa Bay Rowdies (12-7-9, 45pts) and Bethlehem Steel FC (11-11-6, 39pts) meet for the second time in Week 28 on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET | Match Center) after the two teams played to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday afternoon at Goodman Stadium. Tampa Bay took the lead twice in the opening game of the home-and-home series that was caused by the postponement of the game from Sept. 9 due to Hurricane Irma, only for Steel FC to hit back on both occasions to earn a draw. With the Rowdies sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and Steel FC in seventh, a victory for either side would be big in their pursuit of the playoffs.
- Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (9-12-8, 35pts) plays host to Orange County SC (9-9-10, 37pts) with both teams needing a win to keep themselves in playoff contention when they meet at Weidner Field on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Switchbacks are in must-win territory after a 3-1 defeat to the Swope Park Rangers last Saturday night, which moved the side five points back of eighth-place OKC Energy FC and likely in need of victory in each of its final three games. Orange County enters Saturday’s game three points back of Energy FC with a game in hand after it played to a 0-0 draw against Real Monarchs SLC last Friday night. Anything other than a win for Orange County, though, would give Energy FC the chance to extend its lead at home on Sunday night.
- Rio Grande Valley FC (9-13-7, 34pts) will try to build on a big road victory in its last outing, as it welcomes the Swope Park Rangers (16-7-6, 54pts) to H-E-B Park on Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). RGVFC earned a 1-0 victory against San Antonio FC at Toyota Field this past Saturday, as Jose Escalante scored the only goal of the game. Six points out of the playoff positions with only three games remaining, the Toros will likely need to win out to keep their hopes of a return to the postseason alive, but they’ll get a strong test from a Rangers side that took a 3-0 victory on Wednesday night against the LA Galaxy II to move into third place in the Western Conference and has now scored 11 goals during a three-game winning streak entering Saturday’s game.
- The Charleston Battery (13-8-8, 47pts) will be looking to earn at least a draw to clinch their place in the USL Cup Playoffs when they take on Ottawa Fury FC (7-10-12, 33pts) on Sunday afternoon at TD Place (2 p.m. ET | Match Center). Charleston missed out on the chance to move into second place in the Eastern Conference last Saturday, as a late winner earned Orlando City B a 2-1 victory at Orlando City Stadium. The defeat broke a two-game winning streak for the Battery, as it looked to clinch a place in the USL Cup Playoffs. Ottawa’s playoff hopes are almost sunk, meanwhile, after a 1-0 loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders on Wednesday night extended the side’s winless streak to nine games and put the side six points back of eighth place with only three games to go.
- Orlando City B (9-8-12, 39pts) will try to build on a win that moved it into the postseason places in the Eastern Conference when it visits the Richmond Kickers (7-14-8, 29 points) on Sunday evening at City Stadium (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). Orlando grabbed a late 2-1 victory against the Charleston Battery last Saturday night, as Lewis Neal’s winner proved the difference at Orlando City Stadium. OCB now enters the weekend a point ahead of the ninth-place New York Red Bulls II, who face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday afternoon and could put pressure on Orlando to match their result. Richmond has proved a pest for teams looking to book their place in the playoffs of late, with its 1-0 win against the Rochester Rhinos this past Saturday the latest in a run of four wins in the past six games. The teams have each claimed one victory in the series this season, with OCB having taken victory at City Stadium behind a goal by Hadji Barry on Aug. 12, part of a 6-5-4 away record.
- OKC Energy FC (11-11-7, 40pts) will look to maintain its hold on a place in the top eight in the Western Conference as it welcomes the LA Galaxy II (7-17-5, 26pts) to Taft Stadium on Sunday night (6 p.m. ET | Match Center) for the completion of Los Dos’ trip through the Midwest. OKC took a big 3-1 victory against Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday to earn a three-point cushion over Orange County SC for the eighth and final place in the Western Conference playoff positions, and on Sunday kicks off a three-game home stand to conclude the regular season. Los Dos are coming off a 3-0 defeat to the Swope Park Rangers on Wednesday night and after elimination from playoff contention have only pride left to play for.