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USL's Week Ahead – Stage Set as Monarchs Open New Home

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/24/18, 11:18AM EDT

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Zions Bank Stadium to make debut in Monday night clash with Las Vegas Lights FC


Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC

TAMPA, Fla. – The newest venue in the United Soccer League will officially open next Monday night in Herriman, Utah, as Real Monarchs SLC plays its first game at Zions Bank Stadium against Las Vegas Lights FC to cap an exciting seven days of action across the league’s two conferences. With Week 7’s 17-game slate kicking off on Tuesday night before Week 8 kicks off in Utah, teams in either conference continue to jockey for position with five teams left standing with undefeated records. Lights FC is also featured in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 this Friday night, as San Antonio FC visits Cashman Field, while Saturday’s schedule brings some intriguing games that includes a first meeting between the Charlotte Independence and Indy Eleven, the renewal of an in-state rivalry when Saint Louis FC visits the Swope Park Rangers and a clash between two teams separated by only a point in Phoenix Rising FC and Fresno FC.

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

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In the USL’s 11 Things to Know, Nicholas Murray looks at a historic night for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and veteran forward Georgi Hristov, another compelling clash between Phoenix Rising FC and the Swope Park Rangers in their first meeting since the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs and a back-and-forth meeting between Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and FC Cincinnati that ended up all square.

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Photo courtesy Erik Schelkun / FC Cincinnati

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USL REGULAR SEASON SPOTLIGHT | RAPID-FIRE PREVIEWS


Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Tuesday, April 24
Penn FC vs. Nashville SC

FNB Field, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania | 6:30 p.m. ET
Penn FC (0-1-3, 3pts) will look to earn its first victory of the season as it plays host to Nashville SC (2-2-1, 7pts) in its second home game of 2018. Penn claimed its third consecutive draw on Saturday night, when a late bicycle kick by Ken Tribbett earned the side a 1-1 draw with the Charleston Battery. The goal was Tribbett’s first for the Harrisburg-based club since his prior stint with the club in 2015, when he scored three times on his way to being nominated for the USL Rookie of the Year award before a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Union. Nashville is coming off a bye week that followed a 2-1 loss to Nashville SC, a result that snapped a three-game undefeated streak for the side. NSC’s visit to Indy marked the second appearance for the club of Canadian international David Edgar as a halftime substitute, and he could be in line for his first start in Nashville’s colors on Tuesday.

ATL UTD 2 vs. Charleston Battery
Coolray Field, Gwinnett, Georgia | 7 p.m. ET
A new regional rivalry enters its first meeting as ATL UTD 2 (1-0-3, 6pts) hosts the Charleston Battery (1-2-2, 5pts) looking to continue its undefeated start to the new season. Both teams are coming off a 1-1 draw this past Saturday. Atlanta struck late through U.S. Under-20 international Andrew Carleton from the penalty spot to earn a point against defending USL Cup champion Louisville City FC at Coolray Field, while Charleston conceded a late goal against Penn FC in its visit to FNB Field. Carleton will be going up against some former teammates, having played for the Battery in the 2016 USL season, when Atlanta United and Charleston held a partnership. The Battery played Atlanta’s MLS side to a 0-0 draw in the 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup in February.

Wednesday, April 25
Richmond Kickers vs. Toronto FC II
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 7 p.m. ET
The Richmond Kickers (1-3-1, 4pts) will look to get back on a winning path when they play host to Toronto FC II (0-3-1, 1pt) after a week away from competitive action. The Kickers suffered a 2-1 defeat to Louisville City FC on April 14 in their most recent outing, falling to the defending USL Cup champion despite holding a halftime lead on Brian Shriver’s second goal of the season and a seven-save performance by goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg. Toronto earned its first point of 2018 in its last contest, as it played to a 0-0 draw with North Carolina FC at BMO Field in a game that saw the hosts put in their best display of the season behind the debut of Mariano Miño. The 24-year-old Argentine will be a player to watch for the visitors, as TFCII looks for its first win on the road since a 3-2 victory against the Charlotte Independence last August.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Orange County SC
H-E-B Park, Edinburg, Texas | 8 p.m. ET
Orange County SC (4-1-1, 13pts) will try to continue its four-game winning streak when it visits Rio Grande Valley FC (0-3-2, 2pts) to open a busy week for the Californian side. Orange County is making its second consecutive visit to Texas, having taken a 3-0 victory against San Antonio FC at Toyota Field on April 14 in its most recent outing. Thomas Enevoldsen continued his strong start to the season with his fifth goal of the campaign against SAFC and sits second in the league only to the Swope Park Rangers’ Kharlton Belmar. Rio Grande Valley once again held a lead in its most recent outing but conceded three second-half goals to fall 3-2 to the Portland Timbers 2 last Wednesday night, leaving the Toros still in search of a first win this season.

Friday, April 27
Las Vegas Lights FC vs. San Antonio FC

Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
The USL Game of the Week visits the entertainment capital of the world, as Las Vegas Lights FC (2-0-2, 8pts) looks to continue its undefeated start to the season against San Antonio FC (1-2-3, 6pts). Las Vegas extended its run of form to four games without a loss thanks to a 1-1 draw against Sacramento Republic FC on April 14, a game which saw Freddy Adu make his first start for the club. The game is the first of two in four days for Lights FC, which will be the guest as Real Monarchs SLC opens Zions Bank Stadium on April 30. San Antonio enters looking to break a five-game winless streak that continued this past Sunday in a 0-0 draw against Fresno FC at Chukchansi Park that saw goalkeeper Diego Restrepo record a six-save shutout. The streak is San Antonio’s longest since a six-game winless streak early in the 2016 season.

Saturday, April 28
Ottawa Fury FC vs. FC Cincinnati

TD Place, Ottawa, Ontario | 2 p.m. ET
Ottawa Fury FC (0-3-1, 1pt) welcomes FC Cincinnati (2-1-2, 8pts) to TD Place with both teams coming off games in which they needed late equalizers to earn a point at home in their last outings. Fury FC claimed its first point of the season this past Saturday afternoon when a crowd of 6,137 fans at the club’s home opener in 2018 saw a late own goal by North Carolina FC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis – caused by a bending, near-post corner by Cristian Portilla – earn the host a 1-1 draw. Cincinnati needed to rally twice in its 2-2 draw against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in front of 24,505 at Nippert Stadium on Saturday night, with Kenney Walker marking his return to the lineup with the second goal for the hosts after coming on as a substitute. FCC is winless in its last three games after winning two road games to kick off the new season.

Toronto FC II vs. New York Red Bulls II
BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario | 6:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC II returns to action for the second time in the week as it plays host to the New York Red Bulls II (3-1-2, 11pts) for the second meeting between the clubs this season. New York rallied for a 2-1 victory on the opening weekend of the 2018 season at Red Bull Arena behind a pair of goals from Andrew Tinari and sits third in the Eastern Conference after a 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy II this past Sunday evening. New York has yet to win away from home this season, however, with all three of its victories coming on home turf.

Charleston Battery vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
MUSC Health Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
The Charleston Battery return home after their midweek outing to host the Tampa Bay Rowdies (4-2-0, 12pts), with the visitors looking to break a two-game road losing streak after its impressive victory this past Saturday night. Former England international Joe Cole scored a goal and added an assist in the Rowdies’ 2-0 win against Western Conference foe Real Monarchs SLC at Al Lang Stadium to keep Tampa Bay perfect at home in 2018, but since victory at North Carolina FC to kick off the new season, the side has suffered road defeats against Louisville City FC and the New York Red Bulls II – a trend it will be looking to end in Charleston.

Charlotte Independence vs. Indy Eleven
Sportsplex at Matthews, Matthews, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
The Charlotte Independence (2-2-1, 7pts) and Indy Eleven (3-1-0, 9pts) both return to action after a bye in Week 6, with the Independence looking to get things back on track after suffering losses in their last two outings. Charlotte fell 2-0 to North Carolina FC in its last outing on April 14 – its first home loss of the season. Indy, meanwhile, is coming off a 2-1 victory against Nashville SC that produced a two-goal performance by Soony Saad to earn the attacking midfielder USL Player of the Week honors for Week 5. The contest will mark the first meeting between the two clubs and could see ex-Indy Eleven standout Eamon Zayed square off with his former club, with the Irish forward having joined the Independence this offseason after scoring 26 goals over two seasons for the Eleven.

North Carolina FC vs. Penn FC
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
North Carolina FC (1-3-2, 5pts) will try to build on a three-game undefeated streak when it welcomes Penn FC for the Pennsylvania club’s second outing of the week. NCFC took a pair of draws in its road trip to Canada last week, coming up just short of its first road victory of the season this past Saturday in a 1-1 draw against Ottawa Fury FC. Daniel Rios’ third goal of the season gave North Carolina a first-half lead at TD Place, but a late own goal by NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis off a mishandled corner kick saw the hosts claim a point from the contest.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. ATL UTD 2
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (2-0-3, 9pts) will look for a third consecutive home victory when it plays host to ATL UTD 2, which will make its second outing of the week when it visits Highmark Stadium for the first time. Riverhounds SC continued its undefeated start to the season in a 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati this past Saturday at Nippert Stadium, a game in which the visitors twice took the lead through Jordan Dover and Thomas Vancaeyezeele, only for FCC to answer each time. The Hounds took a 1-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC in their last home contest, however, and with nine points from their first five games, they are off to the club’s best start in the USL’s modern era.

Louisville City FC vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky | 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville City FC (4-0-1, 13pts) and Bethlehem Steel FC (1-2-2, 5pts) meet for the first time since they squared off in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs with Louisville looking to continue its undefeated start to the season. Louisville was denied a fifth consecutive win to open 2018 this past Saturday night, when a late penalty kick saw ATL UTD 2 earn a 1-1 draw at Coolray Field. Louisville has taken victory in each of its first three home games this season, however, and will be aiming to repeat its comprehensive 4-0 victory when Steel FC visited Slugger Field last fall. Bethlehem is on a four-game winless streak coming into Saturday’s game, but it showed signs of being on the right path after taking back-to-back 1-1 draws against the Charleston Battery and FC Cincinnati before a bye in the past week.

Swope Park Rangers vs. Saint Louis FC
Children's Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas | 8:30 p.m. ET
The Swope Park Rangers (3-1-2, 11pts) and Saint Louis FC (3-1-2, 11pts) renew their rivalry with both teams entering Saturday night’s contest in good form. The Rangers are undefeated in their last three games (1-0-2) and came close to taking a second win in that span this past Saturday, only to be denied by a late Phoenix Rising FC equalizer in a 2-2 draw at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. Kharlton Belmar scored both goals for Swope Park in the contest and now leads the USL with seven goals this season. Saint Louis, meanwhile, is undefeated in its last four games which has included three 1-0 victories for the side. The most recent came this past Saturday night, when Christian Volesky’s first-half goal led the side past OKC Energy FC at a rainy and windy Taft Stadium.

Orange County SC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Champions Soccer Stadium, Irvine, California | 10 p.m. ET
Orange County SC returns home from its midweek game in Texas to host Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (3-4-1, 10pts), which will look to pick up its second road win of the season as it visits California for the second time in April. The Switchbacks were held to a 0-0 draw by Seattle Sounders FC 2 this past Saturday night at Weidner Field to remain in the top eight in the Western Conference but are 1-3-0 on the road this season after falling 2-1 to Sacramento Republic FC in its last away game on April 18.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Fresno FC
Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Phoenix, Arizona | 10 p.m. ET
Phoenix Rising FC (3-1-2, 11pts) and Fresno FC (2-1-4, 10pts) will both look to continue their undefeated streaks when they meet for the first time. Rising FC salvaged a 2-2 draw with the Swope Park Rangers this past Saturday on home turf, as Billy Forbes and Solomon Asante both notched a goal and assist, with Asante’s strike in the 89th minute grabbing a point after Swope Park had taken a late lead. Fresno is undefeated in six games but has had difficulty turning performances into victories of late with three consecutive draws. The Foxes were held to a 0-0 draw this past Sunday by San Antonio FC in their most recent outing.

Reno 1868 FC vs. OKC Energy FC
Greater Nevada Field, Reno, Nevada | 10 p.m. ET
Reno 1868 FC (1-3-1, 4pts) will try to build on its first win of the season when it hosts OKC Energy FC (1-5-0, 3pts) in the first meeting between the sides since the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. Energy FC took a 1-0 victory in that contest but enters Saturday’s game on a five-game losing streak after a 1-0 loss to Saint Louis FC this past Saturday. While OKC has been held to only two goals in its past five games, the side could receive a boost from the return of the club’s leading scorer a season ago, Jose Angulo, who came on as a second-half substitute against STLFC. Reno got a big 2-1 comeback win against the Portland this past Saturday to break into the win column, as Danny Musovski scored both goals and Antoine Hoppenot had two assists in the win. 1868 FC will hope that serves as a springboard to greater success after being held scoreless at home in each of its past two games at Greater Nevada Field.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Papa Murphy’s Park, Sacramento, California | 10:30 p.m. ET
Sacramento Republic FC (4-0-2, 14pts) will look to continue its best start to a season in club history when it hosts Tulsa Roughnecks FC (0-3-2, 2pts) in the first meeting between the teams this season. Sacramento remained perfect at Papa Murphy’s Park this season with a 2-1 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Wednesday night, as goals by Cameron Iwasa and Villyan Bijev earned the side its first win all-time against the Switchbacks. The Roughnecks are still looking for their first win this season but have picked up points in their last two games. Tulsa rallied behind Chicago Fire loanee Jon Bakero against Fresno FC in its last outing, with the former PDL Top Prospect scoring his first professional goal to grab a 2-2 draw at Chukchansi Park last Wednesday night.

Monday, April 30
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah | 9 p.m. ET
Real Monarchs SLC (4-1-0, 12pts) will make its debut at the club’s new soccer-specific stadium as Las Vegas Lights FC serves as the visitor for the official opening of Zions Bank Stadium in a special Monday night clash. The 5,000-seat stadium, part of a $78-million soccer complex built by the Real Salt Lake organization, will serve as the home for the defending USL Regular Season champions, and provide a tremendous atmosphere for one of the Western Conference’s top clubs. The Monarchs will be looking to get off to a good start at their new home after suffering their first loss of the season this past Saturday in a 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With Las Vegas looking to enter the game undefeated after its Friday night contest with San Antonio, the game should be a must-see.

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