Bold FC forward Kris Tyrpak is mobbed by his teammates after scoring one of his three second-half goals in Austin's 3-2 comeback victory over Tulsa Roughnecks FC. | Photo courtesy Lori Scholl / Tulsa Roughnecks FC
From Harry Swartz’s strike after 17 seconds for Hartford Athletic to another shutout for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Week 13 of the 2019 USL Championship campaign had a little bit of everything. Here are my winners and losers from the last seven days:
As we’ve seen with other 2019 Championship expansion sides, it’s easy to cheer on hometown heroes. From Birmingham Legion FC’s Chandler Hoffman to New Mexico United’s Devon Sandoval, players with a connection to the community that also make an impact on the field quickly become fan favorites. There’s no doubt that Austin native Kris Tyrpak burnished his position on Saturday night as his second-half hat trick led Bold FC to a 3-2 comeback victory over Tulsa Roughnecks FC. The 27-year-old, who had failed to find the back of the net in any of his first eight appearances this season, was introduced in the 53rd minute with Austin trailing 2-0. He got a little bit of luck to cut the deficit in half in the 61st minute as Tulsa goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar probably should have done better, but Tyrpak showed off his quality with a side-foot finish eight minutes later to tie the contest. With the game still tied in the second minute of stoppage time, Tyrpak produced his best effort of the night, firing Calum Mallace’s layoff into the bottom-left corner with a first-time shot to secure the first hat trick in Bold FC history and the club’s first win away from home. Add in the fact that Austin now sits above the playoff line in the Western Conference and you can’t ask for much more.
It wasn’t the greatest of weekends for Championship clubs from the Keystone state. After eliminating Indy Eleven from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC dropped Saturday’s rematch by a 2-1 scoreline at Lucas Oil Stadium. While it’s harsh to consider the result a bad one on its face, I have a feeling the Hounds will be disappointed to have come home with nothing after taking an early lead. Robbie Mertz’s 15th-minute strike was the first goal Indy had conceded at home this season, so the opportunity was there to take at least a point from the proceedings. However, Head Coach Martin Rennie’s side battled back to equalize through a stunning Kenney Walker volley in the 71st minute and Tyler Pasher’s tight-angled drive 10 minutes later beat Hounds goalkeeper Austin Pack to give the home side all three points. Pittsburgh has now conceded multiple goals six times in its first 10 games after doing so just nine times in 34 matches last season. Head Coach Bob Lilley has some work to do to get his side not only above the playoff line, but into the form needed to compete with the East’s elite.
One of the teams that has scored two or more goals against the Hounds already this season is in-state rival Bethlehem Steel FC, which earned a 2-2 home draw against Pittsburgh back on March 30. While Bethlehem has produced marginally more in front of goal than Pittsburgh so far this season, Steel FC has shown even less resolve on the defensive end. That was again the case on Friday night as the New York Red Bulls II cruised to a 4-0 victory over Head Coach Brendan Burke’s side at MSU Soccer Park. The defeat extended Bethlehem’s winless streak to seven games (0-4-3) during which the side has been outscored 12-1 in its four losses. Steel FC has now conceded an even two goals per game over its first 13 matches – tied for fourth-worst in the league – and that will need to change if it wants to return to the USL Cup Playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Last week, I documented the struggles that Trittschuh and the Switchbacks had endured over the past two months as the club entered Saturday’s contest with Fresno FC on a nine-game winless run. And while Trittschuh acknowledged that his side wasn’t getting results in a results-based business, he did feel like his side was still fighting for each other and starting to turn the corner. Just listen to defender Kris Reaves after the Switchbacks’ 1-0 victory at Weidner Field.
“It was a good match. We bounced back well from the last few results and we came together. I'm proud of this group. It's incredible, the feel before the games is that we still have belief and we go out there and lay it all on the line. We never stop and it feels good.”
If that doesn’t prove Trittschuh’s point, I’m not sure what does.
In that very same piece on Colorado Springs, I mentioned that San Antonio Head Coach Darren Powell could also be starting to feel some pressure after his side’s slow start to the campaign. Well, things didn’t get a whole lot better for SAFC on Saturday night as it suffered its sixth straight road defeat in a 2-1 loss to Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park. The visitors managed just three shots on goal over the 90 minutes and two of them came after the side found itself trailing by a pair of goals. Michael Lahoud’s stellar strike from a short corner was certainly a positive, but in the end it served as mere consolation after giving SAFC a glimmer hope early in second-half stoppage time. San Antonio is now winless in its last five league games and with Reno 1868 FC coming to Toyota Field next weekend, things don’t get easier from here.
Speaking of Reno, things couldn’t have gone any better for 1868 FC in the first Silver State Cup clash of 2019. Head Coach Ian Russell’s side took full advantage of a weary Las Vegas Lights FC – which was playing its third game in eight days – to earn a 4-0 victory on Saturday at Greater Nevada Field. Brian Brown was again instrumental in attack for the hosts, scoring a goal and adding an assist, while Corey Hertzog found the net for the fifth time in his last four league outings. To add insult to injury, former Lights FC midfielder Raul Mendiola, who swapped sides of the Nevada rivalry this offseason, scored Reno’s third with 11 minutes remaining as the home side produced the most one-sided result in the rivalry’s history.
The other three teams that produced four-goal outbursts this week came in the East, as the New York Red Bulls II, Louisville City FC and Ottawa Fury FC rolled to easy victories. The most impressive performance of the bunch was Ottawa’s dominance over the Charlotte Independence in a 4-1 victory, which saw Mour Samb continue his impressive run of form with two goals and two assists. With the result, Fury FC extended its unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2) and jumped into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Louisville enters the week level with Ottawa on 21 points after an impressive, yet interesting, 4-1 win over the Charleston Battery. George Davis IV’s goal in the third minute got the home side up and running and Magnus Rasmussen’s penalty kick 18 minutes later – which also saw Battery midfielder Kierron Mason sent off – looked to have effectively killed the game as a contest. That wasn’t the exactly the case, but Niall McCabe’s perfectly-placed free kick three minutes from time provided the exclamation point on Louisville’s best attacking performance of the season, even if it was sandwiched between a pair of red cards for the home side.
Thanks to Nashville SC’s bye, the Red Bulls II finish the week in second place in the East after romping past Bethlehem Steel FC. New York defensive midfielder Kyle Zajec scored his first two professional goals in a five-minute span of the first half and in the process produced a statistical oddity you won’t see very often. As my colleague Nicholas Murray points out in this week’s 18, Zajec’s goals came in just his 10th appearance for the Red Bulls II, but four years after making his club debut against the Rochester Rhinos. That’s because the 22-year-old New York native, who joined the New York as an Academy signing back in 2015, spent the past four years at Georgetown University playing for the Hoyas. It seems safe to say the transition to the pros is going pretty well so far.