While the league hit a major landmark for the regular season on Saturday night, individual landmarks were also front and center in one of the most entertaining weekends of action so far in the 2018 USL regular season. Here are 11 numbers to take away from the past three days.
10 – Emmanuel Ledesma became the first player in the league this season to reach 10 goals and 10 assists after his late game-winner against Penn FC on Sunday evening gave FC Cincinnati a 1-0 victory before 24,249 fans at Nippert Stadium and a one-point lead over Real Monarchs SLC in the race for the 2018 USL Regular Season Championship. Ledesma is only the second person in the league’s modern era to complete a double-double for the season with Irvin Parra the first in 2017 as he recorded 10 goals and 11 assists over a split season with Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Orange County SC. That wasn’t enough to get Parra much attention in the end-of-year-awards voting, but it’s hard to see Ledesma getting overlooked in the same way come October, especially since those numbers are only likely to rise.
3 – FC Cincinnati took a one-point lead in the race for the first silverware of the season thank in part to OKC Energy FC’s Jose Barril, who became the third player this season to record three assists in a game as his side defeated Real Monarchs SLC 3-2 in a thrilling back-and-forth contest at Taft Stadium that also helped Energy FC keep its slim USL Cup Playoffs hopes alive. Barril joined Ledesma and the LA Galaxy II’s Julian Buescher in the feat, with his final assist setting up a chance for a dream debut for New Zealand international Monty Patterson, whose goal proved the winner with seven minutes to go after the Monarchs had rallied back from a two-goal halftime deficit to level things up.
199 – The Charleston Battery celebrated Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser’s 25th season at the club as either a player, assistant coach and Head Coach on Saturday in some style, earning Anhaeuser the 199th victory of his career with a solid 1-0 victory against ATL UTD 2 that saw the hosts at MUSC Health Stadium not have to overly extend themselves to pick up all three points. Maybe the most notable thing about the night was the Battery’s bench, which included the likes of midfielder Tah Anunga and forwards Ataulla Guerra and Gordon Wild. With the Battery set to head to FC Cincinnati this Saturday for one of the marquee games of Week 23, that extra rest after a busy week could come in handy as Charleston looks to close the gap on the Eastern Conference leaders on the road.
40 – While Anhaueser was at the center of Saturday’s celebrations, it was also a historic night for one of the club’s stalwarts as goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper became the first goalkeeper in the USL’s modern era to reach 40 regular-season shutouts with a two-save performance that was helped in part by another fine display the Battery’s backline. Now in his sixth season with the club, Cooper is the lone Cuban remaining of the standout trio that arrived at the club after defecting before a Concacaf World Cup Qualifying game in Canada the previous year, with Maikel Chang now featuring for Real Monarchs SLC and Heviel Cordoves the Richmond Kickers. While he’s taken second-billing for much of this season to Joe Kuzminsky, the USL history book shows what a safe pair of hands the Battery still have at their disposal.
65 – Tucker Hume didn’t officially appear on the scoresheet in Nashville SC’s 2-0 victory on Friday night against Ottawa Fury FC, but the forward did plenty of work to help ensure the hosts took victory in front of a sellout crowd of 8,694 at First Tennessee Park. Getting his second consecutive start after a stellar display against FC Cincinnati the previous week, Hume won 65 percent of his duels and aerial duels – 13 of 20 – to provide a central pivot to the Nashville attack that help provide structure in a victory that bolstered NSC’s playoff credentials against one of the Eastern Conference’s other challengers. The talk following the club’s seventh home win of the season was that NSC’s players believe they have the capability of a top-four team in the Eastern standings. They’ll get a chance to prove that this Saturday when they visit one of the sides currently in those positions, Louisville City FC.
12 – Louisville City FC ensured it remained in the top four in the East on Friday night in a wild 6-4 victory against the New York Red Bulls II that equaled the most goals in a game in the 2018 regular season and saw Cameron Lancaster fire home a hat trick that showed off his versatility as a forward. With Phoenix Rising FC’s Solomon Asante following suit on Saturday night in Rising FC’s magnificent comeback effort that came up just short against Orange County SC there have now been 12 hat tricks in the league this season, a total that has now surpassed last season’s 11 and stands as the most in a single season in the league’s modern era.
13 – Lancaster’s hat trick moved the Louisville forward onto 13 goals for the season, a number that he was joined on subsequently over the course of the weekend by Orange County SC’s Thomas Enevoldsen and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Neco Brett as both helped their clubs to important victories in the race for position near the top of their respective conferences. Brett in particular has caught fire for the Hounds over the past two weeks, with the reigning USL Player of the Week having scored five goals in his past three games after his two-goal performance in Pittsburgh's 2-1 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC on Sunday evening to send the side into its upcoming two-game home stand with plenty of momentum.
1,000 – Brett, Lancaster and Enevoldsen each account individually for 1.3 percent of the 1,031 goals that have now been scored in the 2018 USL regular season. The player that notched goal No. 1,000 on Saturday night hasn’t had that level of prolificacy, but Marcel Kandziora’s goal for North Carolina FC was one of the most important of the past weekend in addition to its landmark status in the season overall. Serving as the game-winner in North Carolina’s 2-0 road victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night, Kandziora’s goal helped his side claim its third victory in the past four games and extend its overall undefeated streak to six games. North Carolina now sits above the playoff line in terms of available points and looks well-placed to do the same in the real-life standings if it continues its current trajectory.
27 – Through a quirk of the schedule, Cameron Iwasa had to wait a little while to write his name into the Sacramento Republic FC record book after scoring on July 21st against OKC Energy FC, but his 27th goal for the club – which broke a tie with Rodrigo Lopez for the most goals in Republic FC history – both epitomized what the Sacramento native has brought to the team since he first signed prior to the 2015 season and gave Republic FC a necessary boost on its way to a 2-1 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday night. Iwasa now has 11 goals this season, putting him into the running for the USL Golden Boot and potentially a second All-League honor at the end of the season, as his well-rounded game continues to be key for his hometown club.
4 – Through the first half of the 2018 season, Saint Louis FC hadn’t quite caught fire in attack with only 19 goals through its first 18 games of the regular season. After this past Saturday’s display against Las Vegas Lights FC that saw four different players find the net in a 4-1 victory at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, those days seem firmly in the past. STLFC has now scored 10 goals in its last four games, going 3-0-1 in that span including victories in each of its past three outings. That in turn means the numbers now project Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ side as a playoff team with the side sitting seventh in the points available standings. With Sacramento Republic FC coming to town on Wednesday night, Saint Louis will get another big test in the USL Game of the Week but one that it will likely be eager to take on.
2 – It’s been a tough year for Tulsa Roughnecks FC after the glory of the club’s run to the postseason in 2017 but the club took its second win of the season on Saturday night and may have played a major role in which teams make up the postseason field in the Western Conference in the process. The Roughnecks’ 2-1 comeback victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at ONEOK Field produced another hammer blow for the visitors, who had hoped to build on their victory the previous week against the last-place side in the conference. Instead it was goals by Michael Gamble and Joaquin Rivas – who continues to have a stellar season with nine goals – that pushed Tulsa to a comeback victory that saw the Switchbacks record with only three shots total after they went behind with 19 minutes to go.