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USL’s Week Ahead – Drive to Nissan Highlights Big Weekend

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/20/18, 11:30AM EDT


Inaugural openers in Nashville, Atlanta, Las Vegas complemented by big games in Phoenix, San Antonio, Tampa Bay

Photo courtesy Nashville SC

TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League is set for a massive Saturday of action in Week 2 of the 2018 regular season with 15 games on the schedule, including some notable home openers across the country. Leading the way is the inaugural professional home opener for Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on Saturday evening, as the city’s passionate fan base looks to boost the club to its first victory of the season. Another of the league’s newcomers will have a major spotlight focused on Cashman Field, with Nevada rivals Las Vegas Lights FC and Reno 1868 FC set to square off in the Entertainment Capital of the World, while established clubs Phoenix Rising FC, San Antonio FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will all open their highly-anticipated home slates at three of the USL’s finest venues.

All 561 regular-season games, the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs and the 2018 USL Cup can be accessed via’s Match Center.


In the USL’s 11 Things to Know, Nicholas Murray looks at a remarkable start to the season across the league, which saw Las Vegas Lights FC break out to its first victory, the Swope Park Rangers survive the chill in Reno and landmark attendance across the league that established a new high for the league’s opening weekend.


Photo courtesy Kiel Maddox / Fresno FC



Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Saturday, March 24
Louisville City FC vs. North Carolina FC

Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky | 3 p.m. ET
Louisville City FC welcomes North Carolina FC for the first meeting between the clubs, with the hosts looking to start the regular season with back-to-back wins for the first time in its history. Louisville got the defense of its USL Cup title off to a good start last Saturday with a 2-0 win against Nashville SC, but on the two previous occasions it has won its opening game of the season, a win hasn’t followed in the second game of the season. North Carolina will look to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in its home opener last Saturday, a contest that saw Steven Miller score the club’s first goal in the USL.

Richmond Kickers vs. Indy Eleven
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 5 p.m. ET
Indy Eleven will make its debut in the USL as it visits a Richmond Kickers side that will host its 26th home opener on Saturday at City Stadium. The Kickers have typically fared well in their home opener in the USL modern era, going 4-1-2 since 2011, but the side was handed a 4-1 defeat against Bethlehem Steel FC in its opening game of the regular season this past Sunday. Indy will be hoping to hit the ground running, and the attacking group led by MLS veterans Jack McInerney and Soony Saad could have an immediate impact for the USL newcomers ahead of the club’s home opener against FC Cincinnati.

Nashville SC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee | 6 p.m. ET
Nashville SC makes its home debut on the big stage of Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, as it welcomes a retooled Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC side to the Music City. Nashville is expecting a major crowd to be on hand to welcome it to the professional ranks, with more than 16,000 tickets already sold for the game, and that could lift the side as it looks to rebound from a 2-0 loss to defending champion Louisville City FC in its opening game of the season. The Hounds will kick off their season in Nashville after going through a solid preseason under new Head Coach Bob Lilley that has raised expectations for a side that missed out on the USL Cup Playoffs for the past two seasons.

ATL UTD 2 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Coolray Field, Gwinnett, Georgia | 7 p.m. ET
ATL UTD 2 makes its USL debut against the New York Red Bulls II on Saturday with a bevy of young talent set to be on display at Coolray Field. Led by Head Coach Scott Donnelly, Atlanta has brought in the experience of players like A.J. Cochran, most recently of Saint Louis FC, and Shawn Nicklaw to lead the way, but the spotlight will be firmly affixed to the likes for former U.S. Under-17 international Chris Goslin, one of numerous talented youngster that appear set to feature for the side this season. In the Red Bulls II, Atlanta faces an opponent that has set a high standard over its first three seasons. After a 2-1 victory against Toronto FC II that saw Andrew Tinari notch a pair of goals to start its fourth season last Saturday, New York will be aiming to spoil its host’s debut and pick up a valuable three points on the road.

Charleston Battery vs. Penn FC
MUSC Health Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
The Charleston Battery welcomes Penn FC for the opening game of its new era, with the latter looking to get off to a strong start in a tough road environment at MUSC Health Stadium. Now led by new Head Coach Raoul Voss, Penn has undergone an overhaul on and off the field this offseason that the club hopes will help it get back into playoff contention for the first time since it reached the USL Cup in 2014. The Battery will provide a strong test as they look to bounce back from an opening-season loss to FC Cincinnati that saw Charleston hold a 24-9 edge in shots but unable to break through the FCC defense in a 1-0 defeat.

Charlotte Independence vs. Toronto FC II
Sportsplex at Matthews, Matthews, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
The Charlotte Independence welcome a second consecutive visitor from north of the border as Toronto FC II visits on Saturday, with Charlotte aiming to build on an emphatic win to open the regular season. Newcomer Cordell Cato quickly helped fill the void left by departed leading scorer Enzo Martinez with a brace on his debut in a 4-1 win against Ottawa Fury FC this past Saturday, as the Independence made a strong first impression. Toronto held a lead against the New York Red Bulls II, but a missed second-half penalty kick by Ben Spencer left the door open for the hosts, who rallied for a 2-1 victory at Red Bull Arena. TFC II will be aiming to pick up some points on Saturday before it returns home to host its Ontario rival next weekend.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Florida | 7:30 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Bethlehem Steel FC square off in one of only two games this week to feature sides that both took victories in the opening weekend of the season, and both will be looking to add to impressive displays when they meet at Al Lang Stadium. The Rowdies picked up a 3-1 victory on the road this past Saturday against North Carolina FC, a big boost for the side after it claimed only three road wins a season ago, with Georgi Hristov among the goal-scorers. Hristov is now only three goals back of Rowdies legend Derek Smethurst for the club’s all-time lead in goals. Bethlehem put up its own impressive attacking display in a 4-1 win against the Richmond Kickers this past Sunday, with Brandon Allen picking up where he left off for the New York Red Bulls II with a pair of goals in his Steel FC debut.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Portland Timbers 2
Weidner Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado | 8 p.m. ET
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will look to take back-to-back victories to start the regular season for the second time in its short history when it hosts the Portland Timbers 2. The Switchbacks took a comprehensive 2-0 win against the LA Galaxy II this past Saturday and will now look to replicate their start to the 2016 season when they earned consecutive wins against OKC Energy FC and Phoenix Rising FC. T2 held the lead in its opening game of the season but conceded twice just before halftime to end up falling 2-1 to Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders FC 2 last Friday night. For T2 to pick up its first points of the season, it will have to accomplish something it has never done previously, with the Switchbacks having gone 3-0-0 in the past three meetings in Colorado Springs.

Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC
ONEOK Field, Tulsa, Oklahoma | 8 p.m. ET
Real Monarchs SLC will make its 2018 debut on the road against Tulsa Roughnecks FC, with the 2017 USL Regular Season champion looking to get its second season under Head Coach Mark Briggs off to a strong start. Real made some positive offseason additions, including the arrival of former Charleston Battery duo Maikel Chang and Justin Portillo and former Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC forward Masta Kacher which add attacking options to an already solid cast. The Roughnecks’ new-look lineup put in a decent display in its opening game but was unable to find a breakthrough in a 1-0 loss to Black Gold Derby rival OKC Energy FC this past Saturday. Tulsa has held the edge at home in the all-time series between the clubs, however, with a 2-1-0 mark going into Saturday’s game.

San Antonio FC vs. Saint Louis FC
Toyota Stadium, San Antonio, Texas | 8:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio FC and Saint Louis FC will both look to claim their first win of the season in SAFC’s home opener at Toyota Field, with the hosts looking to rebound from an opening-weekend loss on the road to Sacramento Republic FC. San Antonio has gone 1-0-1 in its previous two home openers, and after losing only once at home in the 2017 regular season, it will be hopeful of firing on all cylinders. Saint Louis claimed a 1-1 draw in its first visit to Texas this season last Friday night as Tony Walls scored an 82nd-minute equalizer against Rio Grande Valley FC and has some positive history on its side as well, having taken a 3-1 win in its only previous trip to Toyota Field.

Swope Park Rangers vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Shawnee Mission South District Stadium, Overland Park, Kansas | 8:30 p.m. ET
The Swope Park Rangers make their debut at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium in the other meeting between two opening-weekend winners with Seattle Sounders FC 2 the visitor for the defending Western Conference champions’ home opener. Swope Park took a dramatic 4-3 victory against Reno 1868 FC this past Saturday, as Kharlton Belmar scored two goals and recorded two assists while notching a stoppage-time game-winner in the snow at Greater Nevada Field. S2 also battled to a 2-1 victory against the Portland Timbers 2, as Nick Hinds scored the game-winner on his professional debut for the side, setting up an intriguing contest between two clubs that had a lot of young talent on display in their 2018 debuts.

Fresno FC vs. LA Galaxy II
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California | 10 p.m. ET
Fresno FC will aim to take its first victory in club history when the LA Galaxy II make the trip to Northern California on Saturday, with the USL expansion club having seen its comeback effort on the opening weekend of the season come up just short. The Foxes were welcomed by a stellar crowd of 7,769 fans for its inaugural home opener at Chukchansi Park, and got goals by Jemal Johnson and Renato Bustamante in its 3-2 loss to Las Vegas Lights FC, but now will want to put points on the board in the standings. The Galaxy II had a tough opening contest as they managed only one shot on goal in a 2-0 loss to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday, but the side does have experience at Chukchansi Park, having played an exhibition against former PDL club Fresno Fuego FC back in its inaugural season in 2014.

Orange County SC vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Champions Soccer Stadium, Irvine, California | 10 p.m. ET
California rivals Orange County SC and Sacramento Republic FC will renew acquaintances after both earning positive results in their first games of the season in a contest that will see former Orange County goalkeeper Josh Cohen return to face his former club as part of Republic FC’s squad. Cohen put in a solid display in Sacramento’s 2-1 victory against San Antonio FC this past Saturday and will now aim to lead Republic FC to back-to-back wins to start a season for a third consecutive year. Orange County grabbed a late point against Phoenix Rising FC in its home opener last Saturday as Columbus Crew SC loanee Alex Crognale scored the equalizer for a 1-1 draw. The teams split last year’s regular-season series, with both teams taking victory on home turf with one win apiece.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. OKC Energy FC
Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Phoenix, Arizona | 10 p.m. ET
Phoenix Rising FC and OKC Energy FC will renew their rivalry in Rising FC’s home opener on Saturday, with the hosts looking to pick up their first win of the season. Phoenix was denied all three points in its season-opener this past Saturday, as Orange County SC scored a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw that saw Solomon Asante score early for Rising FC in his debut for the club. Energy FC picked up victory in its home opener, as Francis Atuahene scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Black Gold Derby rival Tulsa Roughnecks FC. The victory got new Head Coach Steve Cooke’s tenure off to a positive start in OKC, and his side will now look to take its first win in Arizona since the final game of the regular season in the 2015 season.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Reno 1868 FC
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET
The first meeting between the Silver State rivals is set for Las Vegas Lights FC’s inaugural home opener, setting up the contest both clubs have been awaiting since Las Vegas joined the league last summer. Lights FC is coming in off a win in its USL debut, with Matt Thomas scoring the club’s first goal only 70 seconds into a 3-2 victory against fellow expansion club Fresno FC. Reno fell on the wrong end of a back-and-forth contest against the Swope Park Rangers this past Saturday in a snowy home opener at Greater Nevada Field and will be aiming to tighten things up as they head south for what should be one of the most compelling games of the weekend across North America.

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