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USL’s Week Ahead – May 29-June 2, 2018

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 05/29/18, 2:06PM EDT

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Important Midweek Clashes Give Way to Big Saturday Of Action


Sacramento Republic FC and Orange County SC meet for the second time this Saturday night in one of Week 12's biggest games. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

TAMPA, Fla. – The 12th week of the 2018 USL regular season gets underway with one of the biggest games of the week, as some key midweek matchups set up a big Saturday night that sees 13 games played throughout the day with teams vying for position in the Eastern and Western Conference standings. Tuesday night sees Western Conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC play host to fourth-placed Sacramento Republic FC at Zions Bank Stadium with the Monarchs in with a chance to extend their lead on the chasing pack and Republic FC having the opportunity to create an even tighter race for the lead. Wednesday night sees three strong undefeated streaks on the line, as Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (10 games), the Charleston Battery (8 games) and Ottawa Fury FC (5 games) are all in action, and then Saturday brings some fascinating matches in either conference, as the New York Red Bulls II play host to FC Cincinnati, San Antonio FC welcomes the surging Portland Timbers 2, and Sacramento Republic FC squares off with Orange County SC.

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

11 THINGS TO KNOW

In the USL’s 11 Things to Know, Nicholas Murray looks at a major victory for Louisville City FC in the second River Cities Cup clash of the season against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium, the continuing rise of the Portland Timbers 2 – who enter the week in second place in the Western Conference – and an impressive run of form that has carried Ottawa Fury FC back into the playoff conversation after a slow start to the season.

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Louisville City FC took its second win on the road against rival FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, winning the River Cites Cup clash to move top of the Eastern Conference. | Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati

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Nashville SC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC clash on Wednesday night as the Hounds put their undefeated start to the season on the line. | Photo courtesy John Wilkinson III / Nashville SC

Tuesday, May 29
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Sacramento Republic FC

Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah | 9 p.m. ET
Real Monarchs SLC (8-2-1, 25pts) and Sacramento Republic FC (6-2-3, 21pts) meet in a top-four clash at the top of the Western Conference with the Monarchs looking to rebound from their second loss of the season this past Saturday. Real suffered a 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers 2 at Providence Park, which saw T2 move within two points of the Monarchs at the top of the conference standings, and that gap would become only one point should Sacramento pick up victory on the road, with Republic FC also firmly engaged in the race for the top. A Monarchs victory, however, would restore a comfortable cushion for Head Coach Mark Briggs’ side and continue a streak that has seen Real win each of the past three meetings between the clubs.

Wednesday, May 30
Indy Eleven vs. Charleston Battery

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana | 7 p.m. ET
Indy Eleven (4-4-2, 14pts) will try to rebound from its first away defeat of the season as it hosts the Charleston Battery (5-2-4, 19pts), who enter on an eight-game undefeated streak in league play as the two sides meet for the first time. The Battery played to a 1-1 draw with Nashville SC on Saturday night, as Ataulla Guerra scored his sixth goal of the regular season to end their five-game homestand with a 3-0-2 record. The Battery would move level on points with Louisville at the top of the Eastern Conference should they take a win against Indy, which has already fallen three times at home this season and suffered a 4-1 defeat against the New York Red Bulls II this past Sunday. Sitting in ninth place to start the week, the Eleven will be aiming to get their home form on track against a solid visiting foe.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Toronto FC II
TD Place, Ottawa, Ontario | 7 p.m. ET
The first meeting between the two Ontario clubs this season sees Ottawa Fury FC (3-4-3, 12pts) within range of reaching the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference as it welcomes Toronto FC II (0-9-2, 2pts) to Canada’s capital. Fury FC is undefeated in its last five games and hasn’t conceded a goal in that span. Kevin Oliveira struck after just 41 seconds in Friday night’s 1-0 win against Bethlehem Steel FC at TD Place, the fastest league goal in the club’s professional history. Toronto is still searching for its first win of the season but showed some tenacity in battling back level from a two-goal deficit on Saturday before falling 4-2 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With the sides having split the regular-season series a year ago at 1-1-1, TFC II will be thinking upset as it visits Canada’s capital.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Nashville SC
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
Still the lone remaining undefeated side in the USL this season, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (4-0-6, 18pts) welcomes Nashville SC (3-2-4, 13pts) in a rematch from Nashville’s inaugural home opener at Nissan Stadium back in March. On that occasion neither side found the net in a 0-0 draw, which was part of a 10-game undefeated streak that has moved the Hounds into fourth place in the USL’s Eastern Conference. Both teams enter after playing to a draw in their last outings this past Saturday, with Nashville having earned a point after a 1-1 result against the Charleston Battery and the Hounds ending scoreless for the second time this season against Keystone Derby Cup rivals Penn FC.

Saint Louis FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, Fenton, Missouri | 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Two teams looking to rebound meet in the USL Game of the Week, as Saint Louis FC (3-3-5, 14pts) and Phoenix Rising FC (6-3-3, 21pts) square off in the completion of Rising FC’s two-game trip to the Midwest. Phoenix conceded an early goal on Saturday afternoon, as it lost 1-0 to fellow playoff contenders the Swope Park Rangers at Children’s Mercy Park, a second consecutive defeat for the side after it had lost only once in its first 10 games this season. Saint Louis, meanwhile, suffered a 3-0 defeat against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday in its second loss in the past three games. STLFC is looking for its first win in more than a month, with its most recent victory coming on April 21 against OKC Energy FC.

Saturday, June 2
New York Red Bulls II vs. FC Cincinnati

Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey | 1 p.m. ET
The New York Red Bulls II (4-2-5, 17pts) will try to build on a big victory this past Sunday as it looks to gain ground on FC Cincinnati (6-3-2, 20pts) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Red Bulls II claimed their fourth home win in five outings this season with a 4-1 victory against Indy Eleven saw four different players find the net in the second half. Among the scorers was 2017 PDL Most Valuable Player Brian White, who notched his team-leading fifth goal of the season. Cincinnati is looking to rebound from a 2-0 defeat to Louisville City FC this past Saturday that saw the club’s hold on top spot in the Eastern Conference slip. Both teams claimed victory on home turf a season ago, but New York has a 3-1-0 edge all-time in the series.

North Carolina FC vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
North Carolina FC (3-4-2, 11pts) will try to close the gap on the playoff positions when it plays host to Bethlehem Steel FC (4-5-2, 14pts) in the first meeting between the clubs. North Carolina took a 4-0 victory against ATL UTD 2 this past Friday night, as Daniel Rios had a goal and an assist, and the Chivas de Guadalajara loanee has now scored a team-leading five goals this season. Bethlehem suffered a 1-0 defeat last time out, as it was unable to break through against Ottawa Fury FC’s currently-airtight defense at TD Place but will be hopeful of ending its road trip on a positive note after having claimed back-to-back victories prior to its recent setback.

Ottawa Fury FC vs. Charlotte Independence
TD Place, Ottawa, Ontario | 7 p.m. ET
Ottawa Fury FC returns to action for its second game of the week in what could be one of the must-see games of Week 12, as the Charlotte Independence (5-3-2, 17pts) look to continue their three-game undefeated streak with a trip north of the border. The Independence claimed their first road victory of the season this past Saturday night as Cordell Cato (two goals, one assist) and Yann Ekra (one goal, two assists) led the way in a 3-1 victory against the Richmond Kickers. Charlotte is now firmly back into the Eastern Conference’s playoff positions and has scored nine goals in its past three games which could pose a test for Ottawa’s solid defensive unit.

Richmond Kickers vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 7 p.m. ET
The Richmond Kickers (3-5-1, 10pts) will try to rebound from a tough home loss when they welcome Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which will enter its second round of action in Week 12 after a midweek clash against Nashville SC. Richmond fell to a 3-1 defeat against the Charlotte Independence this past Saturday, as a late goal by Brian Shriver served only as a consolation. Now sitting four points out of the top eight going into this week’s action, Richmond needs to start putting together wins consistently to get back into the mix for the playoff places.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. ATL UTD 2
Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Florida | 7:30 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Rowdies (5-5-1, 16pts) will try to build off their first victory under new Head Coach Neill Collins when they host ATL UTD 2 (2-6-3, 9pts), which is looking to break a two-game losing streak as it visits Al Lang Stadium for the first time. The Rowdies earned their second road win of the season this past Saturday, as Junior Flemmings had two goals and Marcel Schäfer recorded two assists in a 4-2 victory against Toronto FC II at BMO Field and now get to defend their undefeated home record in the opener of a three-game homestand the side will be wanting to get the most out of. Atlanta has struggled, meanwhile, having lost four of its last five after a 4-0 defeat to North Carolina FC last Friday night. Now in 16th place in the Eastern Conference, the visitors are in need of pulling a major road upset.

Nashville SC vs. Penn FC
First Tennessee Park, Nashville, Tennessee | 8:30 p.m. ET
Nashville SC returns home from its midweek clash with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to take on Penn FC (2-3-5, 11pts), which is trying to kick into gear and mount a challenge to the playoff positions. Penn played to a 0-0 draw in the second Keystone Derby Cup clash of the season against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC this past Saturday at Highmark Stadium, as goalkeeper Romuald Peiser recorded a five-save shutout. With two wins in its past four games, Penn will be hoping it can be the first side to defeat Nashville on its home turf this season.

OKC Energy FC vs. Reno 1868 FC
Taft Stadium, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma | 8:30 p.m. ET
Reno 1868 FC (4-3-5, 17pts) will put its eight-game undefeated streak on the line as it visits OKC Energy FC (2-8-1, 7pts), which is undefeated in its last two outings as it tries to make headway up the Western Conference. Energy FC played to a 1-1 draw with Black Gold Derby rival Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field this past Saturday but is still 10 points back of the playoff positions one-third of the way through the regular season. Reno, on the other hand, has used a 4-0-4 run to move into the top eight after a 2-1 victory against San Antonio FC this past Saturday. Forward Mo Thiaw is in form for 1868 FC, with two goals and two assists in his past three games.

Saint Louis FC vs. Swope Park Rangers
Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, Fenton, Missouri | 8:30 p.m. ET
Saint Louis FC returns to action for the second time on home turf this week as it hosts the Swope Park Rangers in the second meeting between the clubs this season. Saint Louis grabbed a late equalizer through Kyle Greig on April 21 when the teams met for the first time this season at Children’s Mercy Park. Swope Park will be hoping to build on a 1-0 victory against Phoenix Rising FC this past Saturday that moved the side firmly back into the Western Conference’s playoff positions. A second consecutive victory could have a big impact for both teams with a small three-point divide sitting between eighth and ninth place going into this week’s action.

San Antonio FC vs. Portland Timbers 2
Toyota Field, San Antonio, Texas | 8:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio FC (3-3-5, 14pts) will play host to one of the hottest teams in the USL in the Portland Timbers 2 (7-3-2, 23pts), as SAFC looks to reestablish its playoff credentials back on home turf. San Antonio is on a three-game winless streak after falling 2-1 to Reno 1868 FC this past Saturday night at Greater Nevada Field, a result that left the side three points behind both Reno at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the final two playoff positions in the Western Conference. Portland is sitting well above that section of the standings, with its 1-0 win against Real Monarchs SLC the third in a row for the club. After suffering a pair of defeats to San Antonio a season ago, T2 will be eager to turn the tables this time around.

Fresno FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, Calif. | 10 p.m. ET
Two teams in need of a victory will square off when Fresno FC (2-4-6, 12pts) and Seattle Sounders FC (2-6-2, 8pts) meet for the second time this season. The Foxes saw their winless streak reach four games this past Saturday as they fell 3-0 to Orange County SC but will be hoping to draw from a 1-0 victory in Tacoma, Washington, that saw Jemal Johnson score a second-half winner in the first meeting between the two clubs. S2 is also winless in its last four games, having played to a 1-1 draw with Reno 1868 FC in its last outing on May 19. With both sides currently off the pace in the Western Conference playoff race, three points is going to be essential.

LA Galaxy II vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium, Carson, Calif. | 10:30 p.m. ET
The LA Galaxy II (2-6-4, 10pts) will try to maintain their attacking pace when they play host to Tulsa Roughnecks FC (0-4-7, 7pts) after notching a club record in their last outing. Los Dos took its second win of the season in emphatic style, defeating Las Vegas Lights FC 7-2 as Ethan Zubak recorded the first four-goal game of the season for the hosts. The Galaxy II have now won two of their last three outings, while Tulsa is yet to find the win column after recording its seventh draw of 2018 in a 1-1 result against OKC Energy FC this past Saturday in the Black Gold Derby. One bright spot for Tulsa, however, has been forward Joaquin Rivas, whose sixth goal of the season served as the equalizer for the Roughnecks against their biggest rival.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET
Las Vegas Lights FC (2-4-4, 10pts) will try to break a three-game losing streak when it hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (5-6-2, 17pts) in the second meeting between the clubs this season. The Switchbacks took a 1-0 victory on May 11 when the teams met at Weidner Field and are coming off a 3-0 victory against Saint Louis FC that gave their playoff prospects a major boost. Colorado Springs will be hoping to continue that form when it heads to Las Vegas, which is on a seven-game winless streak overall after it 7-2 defeat against the LA Galaxy II this past Saturday. Lights FC will be looking for its first league win since a 2-1 victory against the Swope Park Rangers on March 31.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Orange County SC
Papa Murphy’s Park, Sacramento, Calif. | 11 p.m. ET
Sacramento Republic FC returns to action for the second time in the week when it hosts Orange County SC (6-3-2, 20pts), which will be looking to reverse the result from the first meeting between the clubs this season. Sacramento recorded a 1-0 win behind a goal from Cameron Iwasa at Champions Soccer Stadium on March 24 that helped it to a top-four berth to start this week, but Orange County is coming off a 3-0 victory against Fresno FC that saw Thomas Enevoldsen record a goal and assist. With Orange County currently 0-2-1 against the four teams above it in the Western Conference, a victory on the road would make a major impact on the club’s end-of-season aspirations.

Monday, June 4
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC

Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah | 9 p.m. ET
Real Monarchs SLC returns to action to kick off Week 13 of the season when it plays host to Rio Grande Valley FC (1-3-7, 10pts) as the Toros look to snap a streak of five consecutive draws. RGVFC hasn’t lost since a 3-2 defeat to the Portland Timbers 2 on April 18 but has gone 1-0-5 since then to remain outside the playoff positions in the Western Conference. The Toros almost claimed victory last time out, but conceded a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw against the LA Galax II at H-E-B Park last Wednesday night.

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