Both FC Cincinnati and the Charleston Battery are on double-digit undefeated streaks going into Saturday's game at Nippert Stadium. | Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati
TAMPA, Fla. – The 2018 USL regular season enters its final two months with a pair of important Eastern Conference contests on Saturday night that highlight an 18-game slate of action that makes up Week 23 of the season. Eastern Conference-leader FC Cincinnati and the Charleston Battery, holders of the two longest current undefeated streaks in the league, meet at Nippert Stadium for a top-three meeting, while 90 minutes south Louisville City FC plays host to Nashville SC in the third and final regular-season meeting between the regional rivals and Eastern Conference playoff contenders. Other crucial contests can be found elsewhere throughout the week, with Wednesday night seeing Indy Eleven host North Carolina FC at Lucas Oil Stadium in a key game in the race for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and Saint Louis FC welcome Sacramento Republic FC to Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis for the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3. Saint Louis will also feature prominently on Saturday night as it heads to face Fresno FC in a vital contest for both in the Western Conference as they look to reach the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time.
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 goes behind the numbers on a week that was dotted with historic moments for players and teams alike as the league saw a new landmark hit for modern-era regular-season shutouts, saw the second player in its history to record double-digit goals and assists in a single season, while the league as a whole surpassed 1,000 goals in the regular season for the third consecutive year.
Charleston Battery fans honor Head Coach Mike Anhaueser, whose 25 years at the club were honored this past Saturday. | Photo courtesy Pattie Anderson / Charleston Battery
Orange County SC's Thomas Enevoldsen is tied for the league-lead on 13 goals, but also leads the USL with 11 right-footed goal this season. | Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
Marcel Kandziora’s game-winning goal for North Carolina FC on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Rowdies helped lift the visitors at Al Lang Stadium to a big road victory in its pursuit of a place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs, but it also gained a bigger significance league-wide as the 1,000th goal scored in the USL this season. Here are some key numbers as the league reached a landmark moment for the third consecutive season.
529 – Unsurprisingly, right-footed goals made up more than half of the league’s first 1,000 finishes so far this season, with Orange County SC’s Thomas Enevoldsen having recorded 11 of his 13 goals in 2018 with his right peg, the most of any player in the league so far in 2018.
292 – The league has also seen some prolific left-footers in the scoring charts this season with 292 of the first 1,000 goals this season having come off the left foot. FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma and Tulsa Roughnecks FC’s Joaquin Rivas are tied for the league-high with eight left-footed tallies.
144 – Headed goals have often been the domain of defenders, and in the 144 headed goals that made up the first 1,000 goals this season two players from the back line are among the trio tied for the league-lead. Penn FC’s Ken Tribbett, Real Monarchs SLC’s Kalen Ryden and the New York Red Bulls II’s Brian White have all notched four headed finishes this season.
156 – The league’s players scored 156 goals from outside the penalty area, of which 32 came from direct free kicks. Four players are tied for the league-lead with four tallies from outside the penalty area – Cameron Lancaster (LOU), Efrain Alvarez (LA), Emmanuel Ledesma (CIN) and Kyle Greig (STL) – while Fresno’s Juan Pablo Caffa has been the leading dead-ball marksman with three goals from free kicks in 2018.
81 – The league’s players converted 81 penalty kicks in the first 1,000 goals scored this season, and no-one has been cooler from the spot than Orange County SC’s Aodhan Quinn, who leads the league with five goals from penalty kicks and holds a 100 percent success rate from the spot this season.
8,866 – Given the range of players competing in the USL, 8,866 is the number of days that separate the date of birth of the league’s oldest goalscorer this season – Phoenix Rising FC’s Didier Drogba, born March 11, 1978 – and the league’s youngest goalscorer this season – the LA Galaxy II’s Efrain Alvarez, born June 19, 2002. In regular terms, that’s a difference of 24 years, three months and eight days, which is the precise age Drogba’s Rising FC teammate Kody Wakasa is today.
Louisville City FC and Nashville SC meet for the third and final time this regular season on Saturday with each team having taken one win in the prior two meetings. | Photo courtesy John Wilkinson III / Nashville SC
Wednesday, August 15
Indy Eleven vs. North Carolina FC
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana | 7 p.m. ET
Indy Eleven (9-7-5, 32pts) and North Carolina FC (8-8-6, 30pts) continue their pursuit of the place in the USL Cup Playoffs as they meet for the second time this season. The Eleven took a 1-0 victory in the first meeting of the season in North Carolina on April 7 as Indy goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams made a stoppage-time penalty kick save to preserve the road win. Indy is coming off a bye week that followed a 2-2 draw against Louisville City FC that also saw Fôn Williams make a key penalty save at Slugger Field, while Jack McInerney scored both goals to move to three goals in the club’s past two outings. He’ll look to continue that streak against a North Carolina side that has made a solid surge into 10th place in the East with a six-game undefeated streak (3-0-3) that included a 2-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium this past Saturday night.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Richmond Kickers
TD Place, Ottawa, Ontario | 7 p.m. ET
Ottawa Fury FC (9-10-4, 31pts) and the Richmond Kickers (5-14-3, 18pts) are both looking for bounce-back performances as they meet for the first time in 2018. Fury FC slid out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference over the past weekend as it fell 2-0 to Nashville SC at First Tennessee Park on Friday night. Fury FC is 3-1-0 in its last four outings on home turf, however, and will be aiming to maximize its points over the course of the week as it hosts a pair of games at TD Place in Week 23. The Kickers, meanwhile, complete a trip to Canada that saw the side lose 1-0 to Toronto FC II on Sunday night for the club’s fourth consecutive defeat.
Saint Louis FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, Fenton, Missouri | 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
The USL Game of the Week brings together two of the hotter teams in the Western Conference as Saint Louis FC (8-6-8, 32pts) looks to continue its winning streak as Sacramento Republic FC (12-5-7, 43pts) visits the Midwest. STLFC took its third consecutive victory on Saturday night as four different players found the night in a 4-1 win against Las Vegas Lights FC that moved the side into ninth place in the Western Conference, one point out of the playoff positions. Sacramento also took victory this past Saturday, rallying to defeat Rio Grande Valley FC 2-1 as Sacramento native Cameron Iwasa scored his club-record 27th goal for Republic FC. Sacramento is now on a six-game undefeated streak (4-0-2) as it has moved into the top three in the Western Conference.
Orange County SC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC
Champions Soccer Stadium, Irvine, California | 10 p.m. ET
Orange County SC (13-6-5, 44pts) will try to build on a big road victory this past weekend when it hosts Las Vegas Lights FC (7-10-5, 26pts). Orange County took a 4-3 victory against Phoenix Rising FC this past Saturday night as Michael Seaton had two goals and one assist in helping the visitors score the first four goals at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex before Rising FC produced a big rally in the final quarter of the game that came up just short. The victory moved Orange County into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference, and the side would move level on points with Western Conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC should it claim victory against a Lights FC side that has gone 1-8-1 in its last 10 away games. Las Vegas suffered a 4-1 defeat against Saint Louis FC this past Saturday and is in serious need of a win as it sits seven points outside the playoff positions with 12 games to go in the regular season.
Portland Timbers 2 vs. San Antonio FC
Providence Park, Portland, Oregon | 10:30 p.m. ET
The Portland Timbers 2 (11-10-3, 37pts) will try to build on an important road victory, while San Antonio FC (9-6-7, 34pts) will look to rebound from the end of a four-game winning streak as the clubs meet for the second time this season. San Antonio took a 2-1 victory at Toyota Field on June 2 when the sides last met as a late goal by Omar Gordon and a stoppage-time winner by Alex Bruce lifted the hosts to victory. SAFC is coming off a 3-2 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Saturday night, however, a game that marked only the third time this season the side conceded three goals in a game. Portland took a 2-0 victory against the Swope Park Rangers to jump past SAFC in the Western Conference standings as Jeremy Ebobisse and Jack Barmby found the net. Putting added ground between the two clubs with a win, which would also solidify T2’s bid for a first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs, should be a major motivator for the hosts to reverse the result from their prior meeting.
Thursday, August 16
Toronto FC II vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Marina Auto Stadium, Rochester, New York | 7 p.m. ET
Toronto FC II (2-16-3, 9pts) returns to Marina Auto Stadium for the final time this season as it plays host to Bethlehem Steel FC (9-10-6, 33pts) as the visitors look to rebound from defeat this past weekend as it pursues a place in the postseason. Steel FC sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings after its 2-1 defeat to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Sunday evening at Goodman Stadium, but with only nine games to go in its season needs to keep picking up wins to put pressure on the sides chasing it with games in hand. Toronto remains off the playoff pace, but took its second victory of the season on Sunday night as Jordan Hamilton scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers at BMO Field.
Saturday, August 18
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Indy Eleven
TD Place, Ottawa, Ontario | 2 p.m. ET
Ottawa Fury FC and Indy Eleven return to action for the second time in Week 23 as they meet for the second time this season. Ottawa claimed a 1-0 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 4 in the previous meeting as Fury FC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau recorded a four-save shutout to keep the hosts at bay. With the teams separated by a point going into the week’s action on Wednesday night, the Saturday matinee figures to have a major impact on the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Charlotte Independence
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (12-3-7, 43pts) returns home looking to add to its three-game winning streak against the Charlotte Independence (7-9-7, 28ts), who enter in major need of a victory to boost their playoff hopes. The Independence are on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) that has dropped the side to 11th place in the Eastern Conference, four points out of the playoff positions as the week begins, after a 3-0 loss to Bethlehem Steel FC last Wednesday night. Picking up victory on the road in Pittsburgh to break that run will be a tough proposition, however, with the Hounds coming off a 2-1 victory against the same Steel FC side this past Sunday that kept the side in second place in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh forward Neco Brett is on a hot streak over the past two weeks, during which he has scored five goals in three games to move into a tie for the league-lead with 13 goals overall this season.
Richmond Kickers vs. Penn FC
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 7 p.m. ET
The Richmond Kickers return home after their trip to Canada that concludes on Wednesday in Ottawa to play host to Penn FC (6-8-8, 26pts), which will be looking to snap out of a five-game winless streak when it heads to City Stadium. Penn suffered its fourth defeat in the past five games on Sunday evening as a late goal by Emmanuel Ledesma lifted FC Cincinnati to a 1-0 victory at Nippert Stadium. The downturn in form has pushed Penn to 13th in the Eastern Conference, six points behind eighth-place Indy Eleven as the week begins with 12 games to go in the regular season, meaning the side needs a swift turnaround if it’s to make a run at a postseason berth after showing midseason promise.
FC Cincinnati vs. Charleston Battery
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio | 7:30 p.m. ET
The teams with the two longest current undefeated streaks in the USL square off as FC Cincinnati (14-3-6, 48pts) plays host to the Charleston Battery (11-3-10, 43pts) in the second meeting between the clubs this season. Cincinnati took a 1-0 win at MUSC Health Stadium on the opening weekend of the season as Blake Smith scored the only goal of the game in FCC’s first win all-time against the Battery. Charleston has earned a pair of draws in each of its two regular-season visits to Nippert Stadium and enters on an 11-game undefeated streak after a 1-0 win against ATL UTD 2 this past Saturday that was marked by a goal from Ian Svantesson as he returned to the lineup and Odisnel Cooper’s 40th regular-season shutout in the USL. FCC’s undefeated run is at 12 games after it took a 1-0 win against Penn FC on Sunday evening thanks to Emmanuel Ledesma’s 80th-minute winner, a goal that moved the standout midfielder to 10 goals to go with 10 assists this season. Ledesma is only the second player in the USL’s modern era to accomplish that feat following Irvin Parra (SEA/OC) last season.
Louisville City FC vs. Nashville SC
Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky | 7:30 p.m. ET
The reign of John Hackworth as Head Coach of Louisville City FC (11-4-6, 39pts) begins with one of the club’s highest-profile regular-season contests of the season as Nashville SC (9-6-7, 34pts) visits in the third and final regular-season meeting between the teams in 2018. Each side has taken a 2-0 victory on home turf previously in the regular season so far, with Louisville claiming a 2-1 victory when the sides met in the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in June, which stands as the most recent meeting between the sides. Both teams are coming off victories as Louisville raced to a wild 6-4 win against the New York Red Bulls II last Friday night and Nashville earned a 2-0 win against Ottawa Fury FC. Most recently the U.S. Men’s U17 National Team Head Coach and an assistant on the U.S. Men’s National Team, Hackworth began his new duties on Monday as he became the full-time successor to James O’Connor.
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. OKC Energy FC
H-E-B Park, Edinburg, Texas | 8:30 p.m. ET
OKC Energy FC (8-12-5, 29pts) will try to continue its surge up the Western Conference standings when it heads to South Texas to face Rio Grande Valley FC (3-8-11, 20pts) and its solid home record. Energy FC took its third consecutive victory this past Saturday night as it defeated Real Monarchs SLC 3-2 at Taft Stadium behind goals from Christian Volesky, Alex Dixon and a late winner by newcomer Monty Patterson, with the New Zealand international scoring on his debut with seven minutes to go to lift the hosts to victory. The Toros set a club record in their last outing as Carlos Small scored after just 28 seconds for the fastest goal in club history, but Sacramento Republic FC rallied to take a 2-1 victory at Papa Murphy’s Park. But RGVFC has only lost once at home this season (3-1-8), making it a far different proposition at home than on the road in 2018.
Fresno FC vs. Saint Louis FC
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California | 10 p.m. ET
Fresno FC (7-9-9, 30pts) faces a crucial contest in its bid to reach the USL Cup Playoffs as it plays host to Saint Louis FC, which heads to California after its midweek contest against Sacramento. The Foxes suffered a 2-1 defeat to the LA Galaxy II last Thursday night as the club’s winless streak reached four games (0-2-2). With nine games to go in the regular season, Fresno is only three points out of the playoff positions to start the week but needs to put together a run of victories to put itself back into a solid spot in the top eight with most of its rivals for a postseason berth – including Saint Louis – holding at least one game in hand.
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah | 10 p.m. ET
Real Monarchs SLC (15-6-2, 47pts) will look to continue its nine-game home winning streak when it hosts Tulsa Roughnecks FC (2-10-10), which is coming off its second win of the season this past Saturday. The Monarchs took their ninth consecutive home victory against Reno 1868 FC last Wednesday night, but suffered a 3-2 loss to OKC Energy FC on the road this past Saturday despite rallying to level behind goals from Charlie Adams and Jack Blake in the second half before OKC scored a late winner. The Roughnecks have yet to take victory on the road this season (0-5-5) but rallied for a 2-1 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC this past Saturday as Michael Gamble and Joaquin Rivas scored second-half goals. Rivas’ was his team-leading ninth goal of the season, and he also scored twice when the sides first met on the opening weekend of the season, a game that the Monarchs’ rallied in late to take a 3-2 victory.
Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET
Las Vegas Lights FC returns home from its midweek contest against Orange County to host Phoenix Rising FC (12-6-5, 41pts), which will be looking to rebound from a loss in its last outing as it looks to maintain a top-four position in the Western Conference. Rising FC fell 4-3 to Orange County this past Saturday as it fell just short of coming all the way back from a four-goal deficit behind a hat trick from Solomon Asante. Phoenix has suffered three losses in its past five games, in all of which it has conceded four times, but in the first two of those losses Rising FC bounced back with a win and will be hoping to manage the same for a third time as it looks to steady the ship.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. LA Galaxy II
Papa Murphy’s Park, Sacramento, California | 11 p.m. ET
Sacramento Republic FC returns home from its midweek trip to face Saint Louis FC with the renewal of its rivalry with the LA Galaxy II (6-12-5, 23pts), who are coming off a victory in their most recent outing. Los Dos took a 2-1 win against Fresno FC last Thursday night as Frank Lopez scored a pair of goals for the hosts at StubHub Center. The outing continued Lopez’s recent scoring streak, with the Cuban forward having scoring five goals over the past four games to move him one off the team lead held by Ethan Zubak with nine goals.
Sunday, August 19
Portland Timbers 2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Providence Park, Portland, Oregon | 5 p.m. ET
The Portland Timbers 2 welcome Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders FC 2 (5-14-2, 17pts) to Merlo Field in T2’s second outing of the week as the sides meet for the third and final time this regular season. Each side has taken victory in the two prior meetings this season as S2 took a 2-1 win on the opening weekend of the season behind goals from Felix Chenkam and Nick Hinds, while T2 earned a 1-0 win on May 12 when Eryk Williamson struck in stoppage time to lift the visitors to victory at Cheney Stadium. Seattle is coming off a victory in its most recent outing as Henry Wingo scored twice in a 3-2 victory against San Antonio FC this past Saturday night.
Swope Park Rangers vs. Reno 1868 FC
Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas | 5 p.m. ET
The Swope Park Rangers (9-9-6, 33pts) will try to turn their season around as they play host to Reno 1868 FC (10-5-7, 37pts) in a rematch of one of the most memorable games of the 2018 season so far. The Rangers claimed a 4-3 victory at Greater Nevada Field on the opening weekend of the season in a snowstorm as Kharlton Belmar’s second goal of the game in stoppage time proved the winner. Swope Park is currently on a seven-game winless streak, however, that has seen it drop to eighth place in the Western Conference entering the week after a 2-0 loss at home to the Portland Timbers 2 this past weekend. Reno is also coming off back-to-back defeats, having fallen 2-1 to Real Monarchs SLC last Wednesday night, and will be hoping to rebound with a win that would solidify its place in the Western Conference playoff positions.