Louisville City FC will look to get revenge on Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday after falling to the expansion side 3-2 at Slugger Field on March 31. | Photo courtesy EM Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
After Sacramento Republic FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up victories on Wednesday night, USL Championship action returns on Friday to kick off a jam-packed weekend of 15 games.
Three contests will take place on Friday night with Hartford Athletic getting things underway when it hosts Memphis 901 FC at Rentschler Field (7 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+) in a battle of expansion sides. Saturday’s seven-game slate will kick off at Sportsplex at Matthews where the Charlotte Independence will host Loudoun United FC (7 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+), before the weekend wraps up on Sunday night with a California clash between Fresno FC and the LA Galaxy II at Dignity Health Sports Park (10 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+).
With plenty of storylines to keep track of across the Championship this weekend, here are a few games and players that I’ll be paying close attention to over the course of Week 10:
After battling back to earn a 2-2 draw with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last weekend, the Charleston Battery face another tough test when Saint Louis FC visits MUSC Health Stadium on Saturday night. The two teams enter the weekend in top-five positions in the Eastern Conference standings and boast two of the better defenses in the Championship. Saint Louis has allowed just six goals in eight games so far this season, while Charleston has conceded nine times in the same number of contests. It might be early in the season, but this game could have a playoff-type atmosphere in what figures to be a tightly-contested affair.
In one of the Championship’s early-season rematches, Birmingham Legion FC will look to complete a season sweep of Louisville City FC after taking a 3-2 victory at Slugger Field on March 31. Brian Wright’s 87th-minute winner silenced the Louisville crowd and gave Legion FC its first victory in club history after a 14-hour weather delay pushed Saturday’s scheduled kickoff to Sunday morning. Louisville will look to get some revenge and right the ship a little bit after a disappointing defeat to the Swope Park Rangers on Monday by the same 3-2 scoreline. With both teams hovering around the playoff line, this could be an important result down the line.
Based on recent form, you would likely expect Orange County to be favored coming into this clash of two entertaining yet inconsistent Western Conference sides. OCSC avenged its 2018 Western Conference Final defeat to Phoenix Rising FC last time out with a 2-1 victory at Championship Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park, while San Antonio FC suffered a 3-0 setback at the hands of conference leader New Mexico United. However, underlying trends tell a different story as San Antonio has produced its best performances this season at Toyota Field. Head Coach Darren Powell’s side is 3-1-1 on its home turf, while its opponent on Saturday night has failed to win on the road this season (0-2-2). Given the way these two have started the season, anything could happen in this one.
Two Western Conference expansion sides meet for the first time on Saturday night, with New Mexico United and what could be a good contingent of fans making the nearly 275-mile trip to Southwest University Park to take on El Paso Locomotive FC. The hosts enter the contest on the back of back-to-back shutout victories and have not conceded in 283 minutes of action. That will be tested by a high-flying New Mexico attack that has scored a league-best 22 goals over its opening 10 games. Something’s going to have to give as the two regional rivals battle for bragging rights.
If we’ve learned anything so far this season, it’s that OKC Energy FC will go as far as Deshorn Brown can carry them. Brown returned from injury last weekend and showed no signs of rust as he scored both goals in Energy FC’s 2-1 victory over the Tacoma Defiance. The 28-year-old Jamaican now has five goals in five appearances this season and is a threat to score every time he’s on the field. Brown is clearly the key to OKC’s success and will look to help his side to a third victory in four games when it travels to Austin to face a well-organized Bold FC.
The Independence have yet to hit the heights so far this season, but Oduro has certainly been a bright spot. The pizza-loving forward picked up an assist on Kenny Mansally’s third-minute goal last weekend against Hartford Athletic to add to his team-leading three goals. Charlotte needs to start picking up victories if it wants to stay in contention for a playoff spot in the East, which means Oduro needs to keep making the most of his opportunities up top. Finding the back of the net against Loudoun United FC this weekend would be another step in the right direction.
Las Vegas Lights FC scored a massive 4-2 victory over Sacramento Republic FC last weekend and Parra seemed to be in the middle of everything. The 25-year-old forward scored a goal and added two assists in the win, which put Lights FC within touching distance of the Western Conference playoff places. Parra has been an instrumental figure for Head Coach Eric Wynalda’s side all season long, leading the team with five goals, three assists and 34 shots (20 more than any of his teammates). Look for him to get involved early and often against a struggling Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
After joining Fury FC this offseason from Saint Louis FC, Fall finally opened his goalscoring account for his new club on Wednesday in a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls II. The goal was Fall’s 19th of his Championship career, which has now spanned 84 games. The midfielder, who isn’t necessarily known for his offensive production, has been a constant presence in the center of the park for Ottawa and leads the team with 50 duels won. Head Coach Nikola Popovic’s side will need that work rate to shine through when North Carolina FC visits TD Place on Sunday afternoon.
- Hartford Athletic faces a fellow 2019 Eastern Conference expansion side for the first time on Friday night when it hosts Memphis 901 FC. Meanwhile, Memphis has already played to a 1-1 draw against Loudoun United FC and a 2-2 tie with Birmingham Legion FC.
- Austin Bold FC has kept a shutout in three of its four home games so far this season and conceded just two goals overall at Bold Stadium, both coming in a 3-2 win over Real Monarchs SLC in its last outing on home turf.
- "I mean we just keep believing. We got a good group. I feel like we have a bunch of guys that can score on this team and make a difference. We are all contributing from top to bottom and it is good, it is going to be a hard game coming up and we just have to go out there and believe we are one of the best teams in this conference.” – Rio Grande Valley FC Forward Michael Salazar
- "We have to do a better job of bringing the intensity right out of the gate. We can’t allow the opponent to be the ones who set the tone. It has to be us.” – Hartford Athletic Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen
- "You've got to give a lot of credit to the way they play. They’re tough to play against. Three center backs do a terrific job, and they’ve got some nice continuity now. Their field players put on really good screens. They recover quickly. If you don’t make things happen brightly and in transition, then there’s a different game in front of you. You’ve got to break that down.” – Nashville SC Head Coach Gary Smith on the Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tag(s): Game Previews Weekend Previews San Antonio FC OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Louisville City FC Ottawa Fury FC Saint Louis FC Wal Fall Irvin Parra Deshorn Brown Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Dominic Oduro