Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League will host the biggest day of games in its history on a Super Saturday of action across North America this week, with 16 regular-season contests that include some high-profile contests between early-season contenders in both the Eastern and Western Conference. Super Saturday’s action leads off with the meeting of Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Slugger Field and defending regular-season champion Real Monarchs SLC’s home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Portland Timbers 2. Back in the Eastern Conference, Indy Eleven will make its debut at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday evening as regional rival FC Cincinnati visits for another intriguing early-season contest, and the Keystone Derby Cup rivalry kicks off as Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC hosts Penn FC at Highmark Stadium in its home opener. The night wraps up with a big litmus test for the undefeated Las Vegas Lights FC as defending Western Conference champion the Swope Park Rangers visit Cashman Field.
All 561 regular-season games, the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs and the 2018 USL Cup can be accessed via USLSoccer.com’s Match Center.
In the USL’s 11 Things to Know, Nicholas Murray looking at a Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC side that almost spoiled Nashville SC’s inaugural professional home opener in front of 18,922 fans at Nissan Stadium, and a pair of impressive home performances by Phoenix Rising FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies that burnished the contender status of both clubs.
Photo courtesy Lucy Gonzalez / Nashville SC
Nashville SC welcomes @USL president Jake Edwards to commemorate our inaugural season home opener.— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) March 24, 2018
Earlier today, Nashville SC owners presented @EdwardsUSL with a commemorative jersey.
Music City thanks the @USL for being part of Nashville's soccer movement! #OurTownOurClub pic.twitter.com/dp4rXGPzR2
Current and former USL players were called into national team duty this week, with 14 current players selected to represent countries throughout the Caribbean and beyond for international exhibition games, and another eight into the U.S. U20 National Team camp being conducted in Spain that saw the side claim a 1-0 victory against France U21 on Sunday.
The spotlight will fall on five of the league’s alumni on Tuesday night, however, as the U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Paraguay in an international exhibition set for Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, home of the USL’s North Carolina FC (7:30 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes).
With almost 70 appearances in the USL between them, goalkeepers Alex Bono (Toronto FC II) and Zack Steffen (Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC), defender Erik Palmer-Brown (Swope Park Rangers) and midfielders Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls II) and Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC 2) all featured in the league over the past three seasons, and now are aiming to become key figures within the national team squad.
The USL’s status as a proving ground for the top young professionals in the country will continue to offer strong competitive opportunities for those looking to make the next step in the international ranks from the U17 National Team and upward.
Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC
Wednesday, March 28
OKC Energy FC vs. Orange County SC
Taft Stadium | 8 p.m. ET
OKC Energy FC and Orange County SC will both look to rebound from defeats in their last outings when they meet for the first of two games in the week for both clubs. Energy FC took victory in its home opener two weeks ago, but then fell to a 4-1 defeat against Phoenix Rising FC this past Saturday and will be hoping a return to Taft Stadium helps reenergize the team quickly. OKC has won five consecutive games on home turf dating back to the 2017 season and swept its regular-season series with Orange County a season ago, boding well for a bounce-back display. Orange County fell 1-0 to Sacramento Republic FC this past Saturday and is still looking for its first win under new Head Coach Braeden Cloutier but has seen reason for optimism in its first two games as it has outshot its opponents 10-5 in shots on target this season.
Seattle Sounders FC 2 vs. Fresno FC
Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Washington | 10 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders FC 2 will look to make it two wins from two at Cheney Stadium when it welcomes a Fresno FC side looking for its first win in club history when it makes the trip up the west coast for Wednesday night’s clash. S2 is looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss to Western Conference pacesetter the Swope Park Rangers this past Saturday night in a contest that saw David Estrada score twice but in which the visitors were ultimately overpowered by the Rangers’ dynamic attack. Fresno rallied to earn a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy II on Saturday for its first point in the USL, but now will be looking to get into the win column for the first time and avoid conceding early for a third consecutive game. The Foxes conceded in the second minute in their opening contest against Las Vegas Lights FC, and the third minute against Los Dos.
Saturday, March 31
New York Red Bulls II vs. Charleston Battery
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey | 1 p.m. ET
A rematch from the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs sees the New York Red Bulls II play host to the Charleston Battery looking to continue their recent undefeated streak in the series. The Red Bulls II have gone undefeated in the past four meetings between the clubs, winning three of them including last season’s 4-0 victory in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the postseason at MUSC Health Stadium. New York fell 3-1 to ATL UTD 2 this past Saturday as 2017 PDL Most Valuable Player Brian White scored his first professional goal in the loss. The Red Bulls II will now aim to bounce back against a Charleston side that is coming off its first win of the season, a 1-0 victory against Penn FC that came about thanks to Ataulla Guerra’s standout finish.
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Nashville SC
Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania | 2 p.m. ET
Bethlehem Steel FC will take aim at a second consecutive home win to start the season when it hosts a Nashville SC side still looking to record its first goal after two games of the season. Nashville welcomed a crowd of 18,922 to Nissan Stadium this past Saturday afternoon in its inaugural professional home opener, but was held to a 0-0 draw by Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. NSC has recorded four shots on goal in two games, and will be hoping to break its duck as it visits a Steel FC side that fell 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on the road this past weekend, but put up an impressive 4-1 win in its home opener against the Richmond Kickers two weekends ago. Bethlehem also holds a significant edge in duels won – 55.3 to Nashville’s 44.1 – going into the contest as midfield duo Derrick Jones and James Chambers have made life tricky for opponents.
Louisville City FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky | 3 p.m. ET
Two of the leading contenders in the Eastern Conference square off when defending USL Cup champion Louisville City FC plays host to a Tampa Bay Rowdies side that is coming off back-to-back victories to start the season. The Rowdies claimed a 2-0 win against Bethlehem Steel FC this past Saturday as both Georgi Hristov and Leo Fernandes scored their second goals in as many games, with Hristov’s goal moving him within two of legendary forward Derek Smethurst’s all-time lead in goals scored in Tampa Bay’s history. Louisville will get back to action this Saturday after its past weekend’s game against North Carolina FC was washed out by heavy rains that left conditions unplayable and will be aiming to build on a solid 2-0 win against Nashville SC in its second home game of the regular season.
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Portland Timbers 2
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah | 3 p.m. ET
Real Monarchs SLC enters the big stage of Rio Tinto Stadium for its home opener ahead of the official opening of the club’s new home, Zions Bank Stadium, and welcomes a Portland Timbers 2 team that is primed to try and spring another surprise after a late victory in Week 2. The Monarchs needed their own late heroics to take victory in their season opener as goals just under 90 seconds apart by Chandler Hoffman and Charlie Adams led to a 3-2 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC, which got the club’s defense of its regular season championship off to a winning start. Portland heads back to the Rocky Mountains for a second straight week and will do so with some confidence after Augustine Williams’ goal earned a 1-0 win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday night.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. Orange County SC
ONEOK Field, Tulsa, Oklahoma | 4 p.m. ET
Tulsa Roughnecks FC will host its first afternoon kickoff at ONEOK Field in club history when it welcomes Orange County SC and will be hoping the change in kickoff time will lead to a change in fortune after two defeats to start the season. The Roughnecks were minutes away from a first win of the season last Saturday as Joaquin Rivas scored twice to put the side up against Real Monarchs SLC with seven minutes to go, but two late goals by the Monarchs swung the pendulum back Real’s way in a 3-2 loss for Tulsa. Orange County will complete its swing through Oklahoma on Saturday having visited OKC Energy FC on Wednesday night in the first leg of its trip.
Richmond Kickers vs. North Carolina FC
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 5 p.m. ET
The Richmond Kickers and North Carolina FC will renew a regional rivalry that dates to the last decade when NCFC was still known as the Carolina RailHawks when the sides meet at City Stadium this Saturday. Richmond is still in search of its first win of the regular season after a 1-0 loss to Indy Eleven in its home opener this past Saturday, but the performance showed signs for optimism according to Head Coach Leigh Cowlishaw as his new-look attack starts to come together. North Carolina was washed out this past weekend as its visit to Louisville was postponed and will be aiming to take its first points of the club’s USL era after a 3-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on opening weekend.
Saint Louis FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, Fenton, Missouri | 5 p.m. ET
Saint Louis FC hosts its home opener and will aim for its first win of the season when Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC visits Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis. A passionate crowd will welcome the first home game for new Saint Louis Head Coach Anthony Pulis, which picked up a point from its first two games of the season despite a creditable performance in its 2-1 loss to San Antonio FC last Saturday. Kyle Greig scored the opening goal in that contest, and will be hoping for more against the Switchbacks, who make their first road trip of the season after falling 1-0 to the Portland Timbers 2 at Weidner Field this past Saturday.
LA Galaxy II vs. San Antonio FC
StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium, Carson, California | 6:30 p.m. ET
The LA Galaxy II will look to build on their first point of the season as they host San Antonio FC for their fifth home opener in club history on Saturday afternoon. Los Dos earned a 1-1 draw with Fresno FC last Saturday at Chukchansi Park as they held on for more than an hour while down to 10 men after Justin Dhillon’s first-half red card. Adding to that point could prove tough against San Antonio, however, which recorded a solid 2-1 victory against Saint Louis FC this past weekend behind goals from Mikey Lopez and Kris Tyrpak. SAFC will be looking for another win to keep pace in the early-season race for position in the Western Conference in its second trip to California so far in 2018, but the teams have finished all square in both of their prior meetings at StubHub Center.
Charlotte Independence vs. ATL UTD 2
Sportsplex at Matthews, Matthews, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
The Charlotte Independence will try to complete a perfect three-game home stand to start the season when they play host to an ATL UTD 2 side that impressed in its USL debut this past weekend. The Independence rolled to a 2-0 victory against Toronto FC II to earn its first two-win start to a season as Caleb Calvert notched a goal and assist, while fellow Colorado Rapids loanee Sam Vines also impressed in the performance. Atlanta announced its arrival in the USL with a 3-1 victory against the New York Red Bulls II behind two goals from rookie Jon Gallagher and another by Yosef Samuel and would certainly turn some heads if it was able to back up that opening win with success in its first road trip of the season.
Indy Eleven vs. FC Cincinnati
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana | 7 p.m. ET
Indy Eleven is expected to welcome a big crowd to its inaugural home opener in the USL as FC Cincinnati visits Lucas Oil Stadium for one of the high-profile matchups of the weekend. Indy took a 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers behind Jack McInerney’s first goal for the club this past Saturday and will now enter its new home looking to make a statement both on the field and in the stands to announce its arrival to the league. Cincinnati should provide a solid test of the on-field credentials after its season-opening victory against the Charleston Battery, and a 4-2 win against Columbus Crew SC’s reserve squad this past Sunday as the club went through its bye week in preparation for its trip to face the Eleven.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Penn FC
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
The opening game in the fourth edition of the Keystone Derby Cup rivalry also serves as Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s home opener as both the hosts and Penn FC look to claim their first wins of the seasons. Riverhounds SC earned a point in its season-opening visit to Nashville SC this past Saturday, and if not for the upright and a pair of good saves by NSC goalkeeper Matt Pickens could have emerged with the first win under Head Coach Bob Lilley. Penn FC also put in a solid display but came out on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss to the Charleston Battery in Raoul Voss’ first game as Head Coach at the club. With Pittsburgh currently holding the Cup, Penn will be champing at the bit to get one over its in-state rival to open this year’s series
Reno 1868 FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Greater Nevada Field, Reno, Nevada | 7 p.m. ET
Reno 1868 FC will play host to Phoenix Rising FC looking to pick up its first win of the regular season after its midweek game with Rio Grande Valley FC was postponed due to bad weather in Texas caused flight cancellations. Reno earned its first point of the season this past Saturday as it drew 1-1 with Silver State Cup rival Las Vegas Lights FC thanks to a first professional goal by Danny Musovski. Phoenix is off to an undefeated start, meanwhile, having taken a 4-1 victory against OKC Energy FC in its home opener behind the first hat trick in club history by Chris Cortez. After a scoreless draw in the equivalent matchup a season ago, there should be more fireworks on display this Saturday night.
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC
H-E-B Park, Edinburg, Texas | 8:30 p.m. ET
Sacramento Republic FC will try to start the season with three consecutive wins when it visits Rio Grande Valley FC, with the Toros set to return to action after their midweek game with Reno 1868 FC was postponed. RGVFC took a draw in its first game of the season with Saint Louis FC as Pablo Aguilar scored the first goal of the 2018 USL regular season but will be aiming to sharpen its passing in its second outing on home turf. Sacramento took a second straight win to start 2018 as Cameron Iwasa scored an outstanding goal to lift the side to a 1-0 victory against Orange County SC this past Saturday and would match its start to the 2017 season should it return home with a win against the Toros.
Fresno FC vs. OKC Energy FC
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California | 10 p.m. ET
Fresno FC and OKC Energy FC will both take to the field for the second time in Week 3 when they meet at Chukchansi Park on Saturday. The Foxes make their first road trip of the season to visit Seattle Sounders FC 2, while Energy FC will head west after playing host to another California club, Orange County SC, at Taft Stadium, with both midweek games set for Wednesday night.
Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Swope Park Rangers
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET
Las Vegas Lights FC will try to continue its undefeated start to its inaugural season on Saturday night but should expect a major test from a Swope Park Rangers side that has swept to consecutive victories to start the defense of its Western Conference championship. The Rangers have been led by Kharlton Belmar, who has scored twice in each of the club’s opening two games to lead the early race for the USL Golden Boot. That has fueled an attack that leads the league with eight goals in the early season, which will pose a challenge for Las Vegas’ defense. Lights FC has held its own in its first two contests, however, and took a 1-1 draw with Reno 1868 FC last Saturday before 9,019 fans at Cashman Field in its inaugural home opener. Another big crowd could help lift the hosts as they face the biggest challenge of their young season.