Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati
TAMPA, Fla. – Some of the biggest rivalries in the USL will take center stage this week in both the Third Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night and in this weekend’s slate of league action, as the 2018 USL regular season advances into the middle third of its season in a packed seven days of action. Louisville City FC will be in the middle of it all as it hosts Kings’ Cup rival Saint Louis FC in the Open Cup on Wednesday night before making the trip to visit FC Cincinnati in the second edition of the River Cities Cup this season on Saturday night at Nippert Stadium. Another rivalry clash set for the Open Cup is out west, where Reno 1868 FC and Sacramento Republic FC square off for a place in the Fourth Round, while Saturday night sees the Keystone Derby Cup’s second edition of the 2018 season, as Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – still the last remaining undefeated side in the league – plays host to Penn FC at Highmark Stadium.
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 looks at a big week for Bethlehem Steel FC that saw the side make a surge up the Eastern Conference standings, two important victories for FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC ahead of this weekend’s league showdown and an impressive win on the road for Real Monarchs SLC that created separation from the rest of the league in the race for the USL Regular Season Championship.
Was a lot of fun to play against my former team @NorthCarolinaFC last night. As always, what an amazing atmosphere... Thanks to all the fans from both teams for the kind words, and the @fccincinnati fans for making our home games so special. Now on to the Open cup on Wednesday!— Nazmi Albadawi (@NazmiAlbadawi) May 20, 2018
Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
One of the leading rivalries in the USL will be renewed in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, as Louisville City FC plays host to Saint Louis FC in the tournament’s Third Round, one of a handful of all-USL matchups that feature in the final round before the entry of clubs from Major League Soccer to the tournament.
Both Louisville and Saint Louis had little difficulty in navigating their way through the Second Round on Wednesday night to be among the 15 USL clubs remaining in the tournament in the Third Round. Louisville swept to a 5-0 victory against the Premier Development League’s Long Island Rough Riders to earn the opportunity to host next Wednesday night’s game at Lynn Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville, while Saint Louis went on the road to earn a 2-0 win against FC Duluth in Minnesota.
Another matchup that will be worth watching features two teams currently sitting in the top four in the USL’s Eastern Conference, with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC set to play host to FC Cincinnati at Highmark Stadium. The teams have played already in the league this season in a 2-2 draw at Nippert Stadium on April 21 that saw Riverhounds SC take the lead twice on the road before FCC salvaged a point.
Regional rivals Reno 1868 FC and Sacramento Republic FC will also renew acquaintances in the Open Cup at Reno’s Greater Nevada Field, with 1868 FC having claimed a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sacramento on May 12 in the first league meeting between the clubs this season. Other all-USL matchups include the Richmond Kickers playing host to Penn FC at City Stadium after both sides claimed road victories in the Second Round and San Antonio FC playing host to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Toyota Field.
Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
Wednesday, May 23
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. LA Galaxy II
H-E-B Park, Edinburg, Texas | 8 p.m. ET
Rio Grande Valley FC (1-3-6, 9pts) and the LA Galaxy II (1-6-3, 6pts) are both in search of their second win of the season when they meet at H-E-B Park, with the Toros having drawn their last four outings to gradually claw their way up the Western Conference. RGVFC is undefeated in more than a month, with its last loss coming to the Portland Timbers 2 on April 18, putting the team on a five-game undefeated streak overall, but needs to take victory to push closer to the playoff positions. For the Galaxy II, 15-year-old Efrain Alvarez has scored six goals in Los Dos’ last three games, including a brace against T2 last Friday afternoon, but the Galaxy II have gone 1-2-0 in that span to remain one place out of last in the Western Conference.
Friday, May 25
North Carolina FC vs. ATL UTD 2
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
North Carolina FC (2-4-2, 8pts) and ATL UTD 2 (2-5-3, 9pts) will both try to rebound from defeats against two of the top sides in the Eastern Conference when they meet for the first time in their histories. North Carolina saw its four-game undefeated streak end in a 4-1 loss to FC Cincinnati last Saturday night that saw former player Nazmi Albadawi score twice for FCC. Atlanta, meanwhile, just missed out on earning a point against Louisville City FC, only for a stoppage-time penalty kick to give the hosts a 2-1 win at Slugger Field. Separated by a point in the standings, three points would go a long way toward boosting either club’s playoff chances.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
TD Place, Ottawa, Ontario | 7 p.m. ET
Ottawa Fury FC (2-4-3, 9pts) will try to extend its four-game undefeated streak as it returns to home turf but will likely get a solid challenge from Bethlehem Steel FC (4-4-2, 14pts), which vaulted into the playoff positions with a pair of impressive victories over the past week. Steel FC first took a 3-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls II last Wednesday evening as Cory Burke recorded two assists before winning 2-1 on the road against Indy Eleven to vault into fifth place in the Eastern Conference going into this weekend. Fury FC, meanwhile, hasn’t conceded a goal in 377 minutes as it enters Friday’s game with Maxime Crepeau recording the club’s fourth consecutive shutout on Saturday in a 0-0 draw with the Charleston Battery.
Saturday, May 26
Toronto FC II vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario | 2 p.m. ET
Toronto FC II (0-8-2, 2pts) is still in search of its first win of the season as it welcomes the Tampa Bay Rowdies (4-5-1, 13pts), who enter on a five-game losing streak on the road as they look for a first victory for new Head Coach Neill Collins. The Rowdies announced late last week the appointment of Collins to his first head coaching position after former Head Coach Stuart Campbell stepped down. Collins’ side earned a 2-2 draw against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in his first outing this past Saturday and will be hoping to break their road hex against a TFC II side that has lost four consecutive games after this past Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to the Charlotte Independence.
Portland Timbers 2 vs. Real Monarchs SLC
Providence Park, Portland, Oregon | 5 p.m. ET
Two of the hottest teams in the USL square off at Providence Park as the Portland Timbers 2 (6-3-2, 20pts) host Real Monarchs SLC (8-1-1, 25pts) in one of the weekend’s marquee games. The Monarchs built a four-point lead at the top of the Western Conference on Saturday night after claiming a fourth consecutive victory that saw Josh Heard record a goal and assist in a 2-0 win against Las Vegas Lights FC at Cashman Field. Portland has won three of its last four games to move into the top four in the West after last Friday’s 7-3 victory against the LA Galaxy II that included a hat trick by Foster Langsdorf, the first in T2’s history. The Monarchs are 4-2-2 all-time against T2 after a 4-2 victory earlier in the season, but the talent on both sides make this a must-see matchup.
Swope Park Rangers vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Children’s Mercy Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan. | 5 p.m. ET
The Swope Park Rangers (4-2-4, 16pts) and Phoenix Rising FC (6-2-3, 21pts) meet for a second time this season after engaging in a remarkable contest when they first met earlier this season. A pair of goals in the final 20 minutes by USL leading scorer Kharlton Belmar had put Swope Park ahead at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in the 88th minute, but Rising FC hit back in the final minute through Solomon Asante to claim a 2-2 draw on April 21. Both sides are coming off disappointing outings this time around, with the Rangers being held to a 0-0 draw by Rio Grande Valley FC and Rising FC falling 3-1 to Sacramento Republic FC this past Saturday night, and with Swope Park having won only one in its last six games, getting a victory on home turf would provide a nice boost in the club’s pursuit of the playoffs.
Charleston Battery vs. Nashville SC
MUSC Health Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
The Charleston Battery (5-2-3, 18pts) wrap up a five-game home stand as they welcome Nashville SC (3-2-3, 12pts) for the first meeting between the two clubs. The Battery have gone 3-0-1 on their homestand so far after being held to a 0-0 draw by Ottawa Fury FC last Saturday night, but that run, overall, has moved the side into third place in the Eastern Conference. Nashville, meanwhile, is looking to take advantage of its games in hand on the East’s frontrunners as it enters on a three-game undefeated streak. NSC claimed a 2-0 victory against Louisville City FC in its last contest on May 13, and having played only eight games has a chance to make a major move up the standings with a good run of form in the next few weeks.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Penn FC
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (4-0-5, 17pts) will look to take its undefeated streak to start the season to double digits when it hosts the second Keystone Derby Cup of the season as Penn FC (2-3-4, 10pts) visits Highmark Stadium. The Hounds played to a 2-2 draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium this past Saturday, becoming the first side to take points home from Al Lang Stadium this season, and now sit three points back of Eastern Conference leader FC Cincinnati going into this weekend’s games. Penn has won two of its last three outings after defeating Toronto FC II last time out and will be hoping for more than the 0-0 draw that arrived on March 31 when the sides played for the first time this season.
Richmond Kickers vs. Charlotte Independence
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 7 p.m. ET
The Richmond Kickers (3-4-1, 10pts) and Charlotte Independence (4-3-2, 14pts) will both try to build on home victories in their last outings when they meet for the first time this season. The Kickers edged out the Tampa Bay Rowdies in their last outing as Dane Kelly scored the only goal of a 1-0 victory at City Stadium that gave Richmond two wins in its last three outings. The Independence are coming off back-to-back victories that sent the side back into the Eastern Conference playoff positions, including a 2-1 victory this past Saturday that saw Jorge Herrera and Eamon Zayed both find the net against Toronto FC II. The Independence have fallen in each of their two road games this season, however, while the Kickers have a 3-1-1 home record that Charlotte will be looking to put a dent into.
FC Cincinnati vs. Louisville City FC
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio | 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville City FC (6-2-1, 19pts) will try to claim the River Cities Cup for a second consecutive season when it visits Eastern Conference-leader FC Cincinnati (6-2-2, 20pts) for the second meeting between the teams this season. An early goal by Cameron Lancaster gave Louisville victory in the first meeting of the season between the clubs – also at Nippert Stadium on April 7 – as Louisville gained the upper hand as it sought to defend its possession of the rivalry trophy. Both teams are coming off home wins in their last outings to sit 1-2 in the Eastern Conference going into Saturday’s game with FCC having taken a 4-1 victory against North Carolina FC last Saturday night behind two goals from Nazmi Albadawi and a goal and three assists by Emmanuel Ledesma. Louisville took a 2-1 win against ATL UTD 2 on Saturday as Ilija Ilic’s stoppage-time penalty kick lifted the hosts to victory at Slugger Field, breaking a two-game league losing streak in the process.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Saint Louis FC
Weidner Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado | 8 p.m. ET
Saint Louis FC (3-2-5, 14pts) and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (4-6-2, 14pts) will both try to burnish their playoff credentials when they meet for the second time this season. Saint Louis claimed victory when the teams met on March 31 at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis as Kyle Greig’s early goal lifted the hosts to a 1-0 victory. The teams enter Saturday’s game even on points, but victory would appear more critical for the Switchbacks, who have played two more games than STLFC already this season after a 1-0 loss to OKC Energy FC last Saturday night. For STLFC, Greig has become the focal point of the club’s attack since his winner in the first meeting between the teams, leading the club with five goals this season, tied for third in the league.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. OKC Energy FC
ONEOK Field, Tulsa, Oklahoma | 8 p.m. ET
Tulsa Roughnecks FC (0-4-6, 6pts) and OKC Energy FC (2-8-0, 6pts) face one of the most important editions of the Black Gold Derby on Saturday night, with both teams needing a major boost to get into playoff contention in the Western Conference. OKC claimed victory in the first meeting between the teams this season, as it took a 1-0 victory behind Francis Atuahene’s early goal, but the side claimed just its second win of the season last Saturday night, as Callum Ross’ late tally sent Energy FC to a 1-0 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to break an eight-game losing streak. Tulsa, meanwhile, has yet to claim victory this season after a sixth draw last Saturday night against San Antonio FC that saw Joaquin Rivas find the net at Toyota Field. Rivas has been a bright spot for the Roughnecks this season with five goals, while Paris Gee has recorded four assists on the year.
Orange County SC vs. Fresno FC
Champions Soccer Stadium, Irvine, Calif. | 10 p.m. ET
Orange County SC (5-3-2, 17pts) and Fresno FC (2-3-6, 12pts) will both try to get back in the win column when the California clubs meet for the first time in their histories. Orange County played to a 1-1 draw with Saint Louis FC in its last outing to remain firmly in the playoff positions in the Western Conference and will be looking for its third home win of the season to try and create some separation from the chasing pack. The Foxes are currently in that group, sitting two points out of the postseason berths, and are looking to break a six-game winless streak that has seen the side lose two of its last three outings. With both sides coming off bye weeks, Fresno will be aiming to assert itself early against a solid Orange County midfield that includes Aodhan Quinn, who sits second in the USL with 719 passes this season.
LA Galaxy II vs. Las Vegas Lights FC
StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium, Carson, Calif. | 10:30 p.m. ET
Las Vegas Lights FC (2-3-4, 10pts) will look to boost its hopes of a place in the top eight as it visits the LA Galaxy II, who will be in action for the second time this week as it returns home from a midweek clash in Texas. Lights FC is coming off a 2-0 defeat to Western Conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC that saw the hosts fail to capitalize on its chances at Cashman Field. Arguably the biggest storyline for the game, however, will be the potential matchup between Las Vegas’ Carlos Alvarez and younger brother Efrain Alvarez of the Galaxy II, with 15-year-old Efrain sitting second in the USL in goals entering the week with six.
Reno 1868 FC vs. San Antonio FC
Greater Nevada Field, Reno, Nevada | 10:30 p.m. ET
Both Reno 1868 FC (3-3-5, 14pts) and San Antonio FC (3-2-5, 14pts) will try to gain the upper hand in the race for the USL Cup Playoffs when they meet for the first time this season in Northern Nevada. Both teams are coming off draws in their most recent outings, with 1868 FC playing to a 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC 2 last Saturday night and San Antonio FC being held 1-1 by Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Toyota Field. With four teams entering the weekend level on 14 points, and all four squaring off as Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC hosts Saint Louis FC, a victory for either Reno or San Antonio could provide a major boost in the pursuit of a playoff spot.
Sunday, May 26
New York Red Bulls II vs. Indy Eleven
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey | 1 p.m. ET
The New York Red Bulls II (3-2-5, 14pts) and Indy Eleven (4-3-2, 14pts) will both be looking to rebound from defeats to Bethlehem Steel FC over the past week when they square off for the first time. The Red Bulls II suffered a 3-0 loss to Steel FC last Wednesday night to continue the club’s recent winless streak, but New York has been outstanding at home this season with a 3-0-1 record that has seen the side score 13 goals across four games. Indy fell 2-1 to Bethlehem this past Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, but has been stellar on the road where it is undefeated (2-0-2) and has yet to concede a goal.