Tulsa Roughnecks FC midfielder Rodrigo da Costa (left) and Head Athletic Trainer Jonathon Milwee (right) share a smile after driving from San Antonio FC's Toyota Field to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. | Photo courtesy Tulsa Roughnecks FC
From Hartford Athletic’s first league victory to Kevon Lambert showing off his gymnastics skills for Phoenix Rising FC, Week 11 of the 2019 USL Championship campaign had a little bit of everything. Here are my winners and losers from the last seven days:
Tulsa Roughnecks FC midfielder Rodrigo da Costa has made a strong start to life with the Oklahoma side this season – recording four goals and a team-high six assists while playing every minute of the campaign – but it wasn’t his on-field performance in Saturday night’s 1-1 draw against San Antonio FC that caught my eye. Instead, it was the fact that the 25-year-old Brazilian was in danger of missing his own wedding after Tulsa’s team flight home had been cancelled due to inclement weather in the area.
Enter Roughnecks Head Athletic Trainer Jonathon Milwee.
Per the team’s Twitter account, Milwee drove Da Costa nearly 300 miles to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport after the match to ensure that the midfielder made it onto the only flight bound for the wedding’s locale Miami. While I’m sure the additional stress during a wedding weekend wasn’t ideal, the result was way better than the alternative. Major props to Milwee and Tulsa’s technical staff for their great work and congratulations to the happy couple!
It’s probably harsh of me to include the LA Galaxy II forward among this week’s losers, especially since he scored his side’s equalizing goal in the 92nd minute of a 2-2 draw with Rio Grande Valley FC, but the talented 21-year-old also had name bumped from one of the top slots in the USL Championship record book on Saturday night. Once the scorer of the league’s fastest goal – clocking in at just 10 seconds with a stunning volley against Sacramento Republic FC in September 2017 – Zubak saw his mark eclipsed by a single second as former teammate Justin Dhillon etched his name into the history book for the Tacoma Defiance. Tacoma went full speed ahead from the opening kickoff and after just three passes, Dhillon was heading Azriel Gonzalez’s left-wing cross past Reno 1868 FC goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski.
Ethan, it was a good run.
From scoring quickly to scoring often, is there any forward on better form right now than the El Paso Locomotive FC star? Sure, there’s a case to be made for New Mexico United’s Kevaughn Frater – who netted his second hat trick of the season this weekend to go top of the Golden Boot race – but I’d argue the consistency of Kiesewetter’s recent performances is more impressive than Frater’s sporadic goal outbursts. The former U.S. Men’s National Team forward has notched a brace in each of Locomotive FC’s last three league outings, helping his side pick up seven points and move into the playoff positions after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Sacramento Republic FC.
Since the start of May, Kiesewetter leads the league in goals (6), shots on target (9) and boasts a 50 percent shot conversion rate. The 26-year-old will undoubtedly be one of the leading candidates for the Championship’s Player of the Month award in two weeks’ time and if he can keep this up, he’ll be battling Frater for the Golden Boot. As I wrote just days after Kiesewetter joined Locomotive FC, “It’s hard to look at this move as anything other than a win-win for both the club and player.” Sounds about right.
OKC Energy FC ends the week sitting ninth in the Western Conference standings, but you have to wonder how far up the table it could be if it stopped relinquishing leads. Head Coach Steve Cooke’s side scored first for the second straight week but after allowing Austin Bold FC to come back and claim a 2-1 victory last weekend, Energy FC conceded a 93rd-minute equalizer to Real Monarchs SLC forward Tate Schmitt in a 1-1 draw. OKC has now dropped eight points from winning positions this season, tied for second most in the league behind the Charlotte Independence (14).
I already mentioned the other late equalizer of the weekend as Ethan Zubak kept the Galaxy II above the playoff line with his late tally against RGVFC, but it wasn’t a great week for one-goal leads overall as just Hartford Athletic and Indy Eleven secured victories by the slimmest of margins. Of the weekend’s 17 games, five of them ended in 1-1 draws, the most of any week so far this season.
It’s a bit of a weird week when the top and bottom teams in the table have something to celebrate, but that’s exactly what we had in Week 11 in both conferences. The Tampa Bay Rowdies entered play Saturday trailing the New York Red Bulls II on total wins, but Neill Collins’ squad claimed top spot and opened a three-point lead with a 2-0 victory over the second-place side at Al Lang Stadium. The Rowdies have now kept clean sheets in seven of 11 matches so far this season and may be on their way to proving that defense does indeed win championships. At the bottom of the East, meanwhile, Hartford Athletic got its long-awaited first league victory over Loudoun United FC on Sunday at Audi Field. Jose Angulo marked the occasion with the 49th and 50th regular-season goals of his Championship career to give the Athletic a perfect week after securing passage to the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.
In the West, New Mexico United went three points clear of the idle Portland Timbers 2 as Kevaughn Frater’s second hat trick of the season earned his side a 3-1 victory at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. Santi Moar’s suspension proved to be nothing more than an inconvenience as Head Coach Troy Lesesne’s squad scored three or more goals for the fifth time this season, continuing an impressive start to its inaugural campaign. At the bottom of the table, we’ve already celebrated Justin Dhillon’s record-breaking goal for Tacoma, but the strike also proved to be enough for the Defiance to pick up a point to end its six-game losing streak. Just like Hartford’s win, Tacoma’s tie didn’t help its position in the table, but at least it’s a start.