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2019 Midseason Review – Western Conference

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 06/28/19, 6:30PM EDT

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Halfway through the regular season, which player has been each club’s MVP?

This weekend marks the midway point of the USL Championship’s 33-week regular season, an ideal time to survey the landscape on who stands where in the race for the postseason and to make note of some of the standout performances that have already made this campaign a memorable one.

My colleague John Arlia has the overview for the Eastern Conference right here, but I’ll be looking at the where things stand in the Western Conference, where while there’s a clear front-runner for the conference title, the battle for the top four positions and a place in the playoffs itself is shaping up for an enthralling second half of the season.

Austin Bold FC
Austin Bold FC
Record: 6-5-5 - 23 pts
Playoff Odds: 70 percent
Austin Bold FC
As indicated by his nomination for Defender of the Year in the USL Championship Fans’ Choice Midseason Awards, Taylor has put up strong numbers for a Bold FC side that has rode a solid overall structure to a potential place in the playoffs. Taylor leads all defenders with 47 interceptions and also leads Austin with 11 blocked shots and 68 clearances, fitting in nicely alongside fellow defensive standouts Sean McFarlane and Amobi Okugo in Bold FC’s lineup.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Record: 6-5-5 - 23 pts
Playoff Odds: 70 percent
Colorado Springs Switchbakcs FC
MVP - Ish Jome
There have been more downs than ups unfortunately for the Switchbacks again this season, but offseason arrival Jome has put together a solid campaign that has featured some highlight moments. Jome leads the Switchbacks with 23 key passes and has notched two goals and two assists offensively in addition to winning 71 percent of both duels (110 of 155) and aerial duels (22 of 31) and 14 of 18 tackles. It’s going to be an uphill drive for Colorado Springs to return to the playoffs this year, but Jome is going to keep the Switchbacks pushing their opposition throughout the second half of the year.
El Paso Locomotive FC
El Paso Locomotive FC
Record: 7-3-6 - 27 pts
Playoff Odds: 88 percent
El Paso Locomotive FC
There have been numerous standout performances in Locomotive FC’s drive to third place in the standings, but the early-season acquisition of Jerome Kiesewetter is looking like the best new arrival to the league and a remarkable bit of business by El Paso’s leadership. The former United States international is tied for second in the Championship with 10 goals at a rate of a goal every 107.3 minutes per tally, putting him in the frame for both All-League honors and the Championship’s Most Valuable Player award.
Fresno FC
Fresno FC
Record: 6-2-7 - 25 pts
Playoff Odds: 88 percent
Fresno FC
A major honorable mention here goes to Jackson, who has provided a fine boost to the Foxes’ attack, but Johnson has continued to be a key influence as Fresno has gone from the fringe of playoff contention in its inaugural season to a contender for a top-four finish in its second year. Johnson leads Fresno with six goals this season on a team-best 24 percent conversion rate and is giving the Foxes the attacking impetus it needs to go with a stellar defensive record.
LA Galaxy II
LA Galaxy II
Record: 4-6-7 - 19 pts
Playoff Odds: 5 percent
LA Galaxy II
In his return to California from a season in Europe, the former UCLA standout has been consistently good for Los Dos this season, even as the side has seen its form fluctuate to leave it below the playoff line at the midway point of the season. Iloski has a team-high 33 key passes while recording two goals and three assists. Teamed with some of the other young talent on the club including Kai Koreniuk and Ernesto Walker, the odds might not say it, but Los Dos could have a chance at squeaking back into the postseason with a strong second half.
Las Vegas Lights FC
Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 6-6-4 - 22 pts
Playoff Odds: 52 percent
Las Vegas Lights FC
Olsen has had to deal with the ups and downs that have come between Lights FC’s home and road form this season, but he’s a major reason why Las Vegas is in playoff contention in its second season with 42 saves and seven shutouts this campaign. The former United States U-20 international has also recorded 13 catches and three punches and only one drop and sits as the lone Lights FC player to have appeared in every minute of the season so far.
New Mexico United
New Mexico United
Record: 6-3-8 - 26 pts
Playoff Odds: 80 percent
New Mexico United
After a frustrating year with Phoenix Rising FC, Frater has reached even greater heights than two seasons ago when he notched a dozen goals for Colorado Springs Swichbacks FC, helping create a remarkable story in expansion side NMU alongside fellow attacking teammates Santi Moar, Devon Sandoval and Chris Wehan. The forward leads the Championship with 11 goals this campaign and has notched three more in the club’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals, to start chatter of a return to the Jamaica National Team in the future.
OKC Energy FC
OKC Energy FC
Record: 5-5-7 - 22 pts
Playoff Odds: 54 percent
OKC Energy FC
With four goals and a team-high six assists, Gordon has in some ways epitomized the opening half of the Energy FC campaign, which has had some standout moments, but has also faltered at times with the club settling for draws frequently enough that it sits just above the playoff line. Gordon has played a role in 10 of OKC’s 23 goals on the season, more than anyone else on the team, but he and his teammates will need a more consistent second half of 2019 to ensure first a playoff place and then a top-six position to avoid the opening play-in round.
Orange County SC
Orange County SC
Record: 7-5-7 - 19 pts
Playoff Odds: 55 percent
Orange County SC
For a second consecutive year, Quinn has led the way on the field for Orange County with five goals and three assists, but for both player and club it’s a long way short of the 2018 campaign than brought plenty of hope for more in 2019. OCSC is still a legitimate playoff contender, and the recent addition of former United States international Michael Orozco will bolster that status, but with the side winless on the road in eight games so far this season there’s plenty of work to be done to make sure of a second consecutive postseason berth.
Phoenix Rising FC
Phoenix Rising FC
Record: 9-2-5 - 32 pts
Playoff Odds: >99 percent
Phoenix Rising FC
With the club on course to claim the regular-season title and potentially set Championship records in the process, there have been numerous key figures to Phoenix’s successful first half but its diminutive maestro is still the main man when it comes to Rising FC’s front line. Asante is the only player in the league in the top two for both goals (10) and assists (league-high 8) and while his surrounding cast of Adam Jahn and Junior Flemmings have also had their turns in the spotlight, Asante’s ability to see the game steps ahead of opponents has kept him on the top level – and arguably in a class of his own – among the league’s playmakers.
Portlant Timbers 2
Portland Timbers 2
Record: 7-3-6 - 27 pts
Playoff Odds: 87 percent
Portland Timbers 2
Tied for second in the Championship with seven assists, Williamson has put himself forward as one of the leading contenders for the Championship’s Young Player of the Year award while helping T2 push toward its second consecutive place in the postseason. The United States U-23 international’s ability to link play into the attacking third has made him one of the best players to watch in the league as he teams with newcomer Todd Wharton and fellow returnee Renzo Zambrano to make a fine midfield unit.
Real Monarchs SLC
Real Monarchs SLC
Record: 5-6-3 - 18 pts
Playoff Odds: 72 percent
Real Monarchs SLC
The Monarchs are below the playoff line going into this weekend, but the fact that they still have the most games left to play of the teams sitting around the playoff line could play in their favor. That will especially be the case if Martinez continues a breakout season that has seen him record five goals and five assists as he and Maikel Chang have led the Real attack this season. The 22-year-old Honduran has found his feet in the Championship this year after a disappointing loan stint with the New York Red Bulls II two seasons ago, and that should help the Monarchs get the finishing they need to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Reno 1868 FC
Reno 1868 FC
Record: 7-4-5 - 26 pts
Playoff Odds: 94 percent
Reno 1868 FC
Before his call-up to international duty, Brown had been the leader that Reno needed to remain a strong playoff contender with eight goals while already having surpassed his assists total of a season ago with five on the campaign to maintain his position as one of the most lethal finishers in the league. Since the start of 2018, only Cameron Lancaster, Daniel Rios and Cameron Iwasa have scored more goals than Brown, with the Jamaican international’s scoring rate of a goal every 127.2 minutes also among the best in the Championship.
Rio Grande Valley FC
Rio Grande Valley FC
Record: 5-7-4 - 19 pts
Playoff Odds: 30 percent
Rio Grande Valley FC
Salazar’s eight goals lead the team and have come at a rate of a tally every 93.7 minutes for the Toros this season, but the year overall has been marked by the kinds of ups and downs that a side sitting just below the playoff line might expect. For each boom – including a 5-2 home win against playoff contender Las Vegas Lights FC – there has been a bust – such as a 5-3 road loss to Real Monarchs SLC. Salazar’s play earned him an MLS contract with to the Houston Dynamo earlier this month, which means more could fall on Carlos Small and Maalique Foster when he returns from Jamaica’s Gold Cup run, but more consistency overall is going to be the key to RGVFC earning a playoff place.
Sacramento Republic
Sacramento Republic FC
Record: 7-5-2 - 23 pts
Playoff Odds: 95 percent
Sacramento Republic FC
With nine goals and three assists, the Sacramento native continues to be the figurehead for Republic FC as it pushes for another top-four finish this season. Iwasa has produced to the tune of a goal every 106.9 minutes this season for Sacramento, helping it pull out of some of the downturns that have already seen the side suffer five losses this campaign – only two fewer than in the 2018 regular season overall. If he can get some support from the likes of Stefano Bonomo, there could be a very bright ending to this season for Republic FC fans, but Iwasa’s play will surely continue to delight throughout the second half of this campaign whatever happens.
San Antonio FC
San Antonio FC
Record: 4-8-5 - 17 pts
Playoff Odds: 24 percent
San Antonio FC
This season has not really gone to plan for San Antonio, but Barmby has been a consistent bright spot with his work in midfield and the attacking third. The 24-year-old leads SAFC with 33 chances created, recording four goals and two assists on the season as well as a 76.9 percent accuracy rate on 54.2 passes per 90 minutes. San Antonio is going to have to dig its way back into the playoff race with its defensive issues causing problems the club’s attack has been unable to cover for so far, but there is still hope that a turnaround could come in time.
Tacoma Defiance
Tacoma Defiance
Record: 2-11-4 - 10 pts
Playoff Odds: 1 percent
Tacoma Defiance
The Defiance’s youngsters have struggled to keep up with their more experienced opponents this season, but in Justin Dhillon the side has seen one of its offseason moves to bring in an experienced head to the side pay off handsomely. Dhillon has scored six goals this campaign, including setting a record for the fastest goal in league history with his tally after nine seconds against Reno 1868 FC, a level of play that has put him in the picture as a potential addition to Seattle Sounders FC’s attacking corps.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Record: 4-7-5 - 17 pts
Playoff Odds: 4 percent
Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Da Costa has been at the center of the Roughnecks’ season, for better and worse. As the club went 4-3-1 to start the season, da Costa put up three goals and five assists in the eight games for the club. Since then the side is 0-4-4 and da Costa has had one goal and two assists, which has led to a precipitous slide down the standings and long playoff odds. If da Costa and his teammates can regain their early-season form, a postseason berth isn’t out of reach yet but the early-season surprise package isn’t taking people by surprise anymore, and that’s a problem.

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