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Gameday Report: August 24, Week 25

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 08/24/19, 9:38PM EDT

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Parano powers SAFC past New Mexico; LouCity downs NCFC for fourth straight win

San Antonio FC got a big night from Cristian Parano as it swept to victory against a 10-man New Mexico United, while Orange County SC, OKC Energy FC and Las Vegas Lights FC took important wins around the playoff line in the Western Conference. Both Fresno FC and Nashville SC got last-gasp winners to maintain their pursuit of a high finish in their respective conferences, and in the East, Louisville City FC ran its winning streak to four games with victory against North Carolina FC, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies romped to victory against Memphis 901 FC in Saturday night's USL Championship action.

 

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC (1), PORTLAND TIMBERS 2 (0)

LAS VEGAS – A goal late in the first half lifted Lights FC to victory against T2 at Cashman Field. Portland went close to taking the lead in the sixth minute when Dairon Asprilla’s header off a corner by Eryk Williamson was just clawed away by Las Vegas goalkeeper Tommy Olsen. The Lights FC shot-stopper had to be alert again three minutes later as he was tested on a long drive by T2’s Todd Wharton. Las Vegas’ first good look on goal came in the 36th minute as a long ball forward by Gabe Robinson created a chance for Irvin Parra, but T2 goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic came off his line to keep out the opportunity before Olsen was called back into action less than a minute later as Christian Ojeda’s shot from the left side was kept out by the Las Vegas native. A minute before halftime, however, Lights FC took the lead as Parra cushioned a header from the left side of the penalty area back across goal from Preston Tabort Etaka’s angled cross to allow Jose Villarreal to finish at close range. Portland almost pulled level with 16 minutes to go when Gio Calixtro redirected a shot at close range than came back off the crossbar, and less than a minute later Ryan Sierakowski also hit the woodwork as his low shot from the edge of the penalty area came back off the left post. Asprilla also had a long-range effort for the visitors go just wide of the left post two minutes later, but T2 was unable to find an equalizer as Las Vegas remained in the race for the playoffs with a key home victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Tommy Olsen, Las Vegas Lights FC – Olsen produced a handful of clutch saves to keep Las Vegas in the game as he posted a five-save shutout with the TKO legend on his jersey for Supporters Week.

 

FRESNO FC (2), COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC (1)

FRESNO, Calif. – A 90th-minute winner by Ramon Martin del Campo moved Fresno into sole possession of second place with a comeback victory against the Switchbacks at Chukchansi Park. The Foxes had a pair of chances inside the opening 15 minutes that both fell to Jaime Chavez, but each time the forward was unable to find a clean finish which allowed Switchbacks goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez to save comfortably. Qudus Lawal had a good chance five minutes before halftime as he got on the end of a cross from the left by Jemal Johnson but was unable to direct his stooping header from the center of the penalty area on target as it slid wide of the right post. The Switchbacks went close to taking the lead in the 57th minute when Jordan Burt was denied by Foxes goalkeeper CJ Cochran, but six minutes later Saeed Robinson struck for the hosts with a long-range shot that caromed off the right post and in. Fresno immediately got back on the front foot, and Juan Pablo Caffa hit the crossbar with a free kick in the 66th minute before Abraham Rodriguez made a save on the rebound to deny Elijah Martin. From the ensuing corner, though, the ball caromed to Hiroki Kurimoto at the top of the penalty area and he fired home a low shot that found the right corner to equalize. The Switchbacks tried to regain the lead with 10 minutes to go as Ish Jome’s low finish to the right corner was kept out by Cochran, while Cole Bassett sent a shot high from 16 yards on another chance soon after for the visitors. The Foxes claimed all three points in the final minute, however, as Del Campo put home a close-range headed finish after Caffa’s inswinging corner from the right to the back post was headed back across goal by Mickey Daly to allow his center back partner to give his side victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Ramon Martin Del Campo, Fresno FC – Del Campo scored the decisive late winner after putting in a solid defensive display, winning 7 of 9 duels, 6 of 7 aerials and recording three clearances.

 

ORANGE COUNTY SC (3), REAL MONARCHS SLC (1)

IRVINE, Calif. – Orange County continued its push for the playoffs with a solid home victory against the Monarchs at Championship Soccer Stadium. The Monarchs twice went close to opening the scoring in the first 10 minutes, but Maikel Chang’s efforts – the first from a narrow angle on the left and the second a volleyed finish from the top of the penalty area – were both well saves by U.S. U-17 National Team goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes. Jack Blake also went close with a low shot for the Monarchs that went just wide of the left post, but in the 28th minute former United States international Michael Orozco put Orange County ahead as he headed home a deep corner kick from the right side by Aodhan Quinn. OCSC doubled its lead 10 minutes later when Harry Forrester played Darwin Jones into the right channel, and Jones lifted his finish past the advancing goalkeeper to make it a two-goal game at the break, and Quinn then added a goal to his earlier assist as he curled home a free kick from 30 yards into the bottom-left corner of the net. The Monarchs had a chance to get back into the game as Blake set up Kyle Coffee on a give-and-go that saw the right back break forward only to shoot over the crossbar, but in the 62nd minute the visitors struck as Kalen Ryden headed home a corner kick by Noah Powder from the left. Powder then went close himself with 13 minutes to go, only for his free kick from just right of center to curl just high and wide of the top-right corner, while Jones almost bagged his second of the night for the hosts in the 84th minute only for his finish to be too close to Monarchs goalkeeper Andrew Putna, who saved well. Orange County saw out the remaining minutes, however, to take a second consecutive victory.  

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Aodhan Quinn, Orange County SC – Quinn had one goal, one assist and recorded two created chances to lead his side to a good home victory against its fellow playoff contenders.

 

OKC ENERGY FC (4), AUSTIN BOLD FC (2)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Energy FC put up four goals for a second consecutive outing to move level on points in the Western Conference with visiting Bold FC at Taft Stadium. Austin had the first good look at goal as Kris Tyrpak found space on the left side but fired into the side-netting as he missed at the near post, and Energy FC then took the lead in the 24th minute as Bold FC’s Andre Lima inadvertently headed a free kick by OKC’s Rafael Garcia from the left into his own net as he tried to flick it to safety. Garcia found the net himself three minutes later off another set piece as he disguised his delivery and curled a finish into the top-left corner of the net, but that opened the floodgates for the hosts as Christian Eissele found a third in the 31st minute as he arrived late to get on the end of a low cross by Je-Vaughn Watson from the right and buried a finish into the left corner. OKC’s fourth then arrived three minutes before halftime as Atiba Harris strode forward from defense and sent a pass through to Deshorn Brown, whose first-time finish lifted past the advancing goalkeeper and into the net. Bold FC had the chance to pull a goal back from the penalty spot in the 61st minute after Tyrpak was fouled in the area, but OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi made a spectacular save to deny Lima’s shot to the right corner. Austin began to mount a comeback with 13 minutes to go as Tyrpak got on the end of a deep cross from the right by Sean McFarlane to score just inside the six-yard area, and McFarlante played provider again with two minutes to go as Faris Abdi rifled a finish into the top-left corner from 30 yards to make it a two-goal game, but the hill was too steep to climb for the visitors as Energy FC claimed its second consecutive victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Rafael Garcia, OKC Energy FC – Garcia produced an excellent free kick, had a key role in OKC’s opening goal of the night and completed 29 of 34 passes while winning 6 of 8 duels in Energy FC’s big victory.

 

SAN ANTONIO FC (5), NEW MEXICO UNITED (0)

SAN ANTONIO – Cristian Parano had two goals and two assists to lead SAFC to victory against a New Mexico side that was reduced to 10 men for much of the contest at Toyota Field. New Mexico had the first good look at goal in the ninth minute as Santi Moar drifted in from the left to the top of the penalty area and fired a low shot to the right corner that forced a big save by SAFC’s Matt Cardone. The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 21st minute, however, as Saalih Muhammed was sent off and SAFC quickly took advantage seven minutes later as Parano continued his recent hot streak when he cut past his defender on the right side of the penalty area and fired low into the left corner of the net. Parano added his first assist with a beautiful backheel pass that found Brian Gomez in space on the right side of the penalty area that Gomez buried low in the left corner before SAFC’s Frank Lopez almost added a third four minutes before halftime with a low shot that slid just wide of the left post. The Cuban forward found the net 11 minutes into the second half as Parano added his second assist with Lopez’s low shot just sliding through into the net from the right side of the penalty area, and while Devon Sandoval tried to pull a goal back for New Mexico on a long-range shot that was turned aside by Cardone, San Antonio added a fourth in the 66th minute when Walter Restrepo got on the end of a slipped pass by Jack Barmby and finished to the right corner. New Mexico goalkeeper Cody Mizell made a pair of good late saves to keep out chances for Moises Hernandez and Parano in the final 20 minutes, but Parano closed out the game in the 90th minute with his second goal of the night with a fine individual effort that saw him fire to the right corner from the top of the penalty area.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Cristian Parano, San Antonio FC – Parano continued his strong recent form with his fourth and fifth goal in the past three games, while also recording two assists and seven chances created to lead SAFC past its short-handed visitors.

 

RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (1), EL PASO LOCOMOTIVE FC (0)

EDINBURG, Texas – The Toros scored early in the second half to take victory against Copa Tejas rival El Paso Locomotive FC at H-E-B Park. RGVFC had a massive chance to take the lead in the fifth minute as Carlos Small went in one-on-one after a mistimed attempt at an interception by the last defender, but the Panamanian international shot just wide of the right post. Locomotive FC’s first good chance arrived in the 34th minute as Sebastian Velasquez created space on the left side of the penalty area but was unable to control his finish as it went over the crossbar. Velasquez had another chance four minutes before halftime that was parried away by Toros goalkeeper Nico Corti, while a minute later RGVFC’s Michael Salazar had his shot tipped over the crossbar by El Paso goalkeeper Logan Ketterer. The Toros threatened again in first-half stoppage time as Small’s low free kick to the right corner was smothered by Ketterer, but 58 seconds into the second half Eric Bird put the hosts ahead with a powerful finish to the top-left corner off a pass by Jesus Enriquez that found him arriving late in the penalty area. El Paso’s Andrew Fox sliced a finish wide of the left post midway through the second half, but the visitors were unable to threaten seriously to find an equalizer, and Richie Ryan’s red card for his second cautionable offense in second-half stoppage time brought the curtain down on a tough night on the road for Locomotive FC.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Eric Bird, Rio Grande Valley FC – Bird scored the lone goal of the game, had two key passes, completed 32 of 37 passes and won 5 of 7 tackles to lead the Toros to a big victory for their postseason chances.

 

NASHVILLE SC (2), CHARLESTON BATTERY (1)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville scored deep in stoppage time to rebound from a halftime deficit against the Battery before a crowd of 6,662 at First Tennessee Park. NSC’s Ropapa Mensah had a big chance to put the hosts ahead as he got in behind the Charleston defense, only to be denied one-on-one by Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky in the 28th minute, and a minute later Cameron Lancaster was also denied by Kuzminsky on a low shot from just inside the penalty area. Charleston’s first good chance came in the 35th minute when Romario Piggott found space just outside the top-left corner of the penalty area, but his shot went just over the crossbar. The Battery found the breakthrough two minutes before halftime, however, as Kotaro Higashi split two defenders before sliding a finish past NSC goalkeeper Matt Pickens from the left side of the penalty area. Nashville got back on level terms 11 minutes into the second half as a good cross by Darnell King found Mensah for a header that just squeaked into the right corner of the net. The Battery almost regained the lead in the 62nd minute when Zeiko Lewis got in behind the Nashville defense and rode one challenge before shooting past Pickens, but midfielder Matt LaGrassa made a crucial last-gasp clearance before the ball found the net. Nashville turned up the pressure late, and Lebo Moloto had a low first-time shot to the left corner just turned aside by Kuzminsky before he provided a free kick delivery that Mensah headed just wide of the left post three minutes later. Charleston immediately had a chance of its own as Dante Marini forced a big diving save from Pickens before Nashville was denied a late winner by the offside flag as Moloto’s finish was ruled out after Kharlton Belmar poked a ball into the penalty area. Victory arrived for the hosts deep in stoppage time, however, as Bolu Akinyode controlled possession 16 yards from goal before shooting a turning effort that deflected off a defender, wrong-footing Kuzminsky as it nestled in the right corner of the net.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Bolu Akinyode, Nashville SC – Akinyode came up clutch for Nashville with his stoppage-time goal, but it added to a solid all-around display that saw him complete 35 of 39 passes and make 10 recoveries.

 

SWOPE PARK RANGERS (1), NEW YORK RED BULLS II (5)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Red Bulls II maintained their lead in the Eastern Conference with a big road victory against the Rangers at Children’s Mercy Park. The Red Bulls II took the lead in the seventh minute when a corner kick by Chris Lema deflected in the penalty area to Sean McSherry, who tucked home his first professional goal from four yards out, but the Rangers responded six minutes later when Wilson Harris clipped home a low finish to the right corner from the left side of the penalty area.  Swope Park’s Gianluca Busio then flashed a shot just wide of the left post from 25 yards in the 22nd minute, while New York’s Jared Stroud fired a rising shot that was well-handled by Rangers goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas nine minutes later. McSherry added his second of the night in the 40th minute, however, as he headed home a good cross from the left by Janos Loebe at the near post, and five minutes later Edgardo Rito added a third for the visitors after Chris Lema made a good interception in the Rangers’ half that sent the ball to the right back, who dribbled into the penalty area and roofed a finish from eight yards. Stroud added a fourth for the Red Bulls II six minutes into the second half as a low cross by Rito deflected off a defender to allow him to finish from eight yards out. New York threatened to add to its lead as Omar Sowe was initially denied by Zendejas before Kyle Zajec shot over on the rebound with 19 minutes to go, while the Rangers’ Jimmy Medranda curled a free kick just over the top-right corner in the 76th minute. Amarildo put away a fifth for the Red Bulls II in stoppage time, however, as he fired high into the net to wrap up a six-point week for the side.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Janos Loebe, New York Red Bulls II – Loebe notched a pair of assists, had six chances created and completed 31 of 36 passes in addition to recording three interceptions in a comprehensive road victory.

 

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (5), MEMPHIS 901 FC (0)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rowdies romped to victory behind two goals by Kwadwo Poku against 901 FC at Al Lang Stadium. Tampa Bay got on the front foot quickly and Tarek Morad had a low shot in the fifth minute from the edge of the penalty area parried away by Memphis goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell. Six minutes later, Tampa Bay took the lead as Poku sent home a volleyed finish from the top of the penalty area after a headed clearance off a cross from the left sailed high in the air before coming down to give the Ghanaian a chance to strike. Tampa Bay’s Andrew Tinari went close to doubling the lead in the 21st minute when his shot from 20 yards was deflected just high of the crossbar,  but deep in first-half stoppage time the attacking midfielder finished beautifully into the bottom-left corner after Poku played in Malik Johnson down the right flank to deliver a low cross to the center of the penalty area. Tinari and Johnson almost combined again eight minutes into the second half as the young Canadian set up Tinari for a snap-shot from just inside the penalty area that just went high, while Caldwell came bravely off his line to snuff out a chance for Juan Tejada as he tried to break in behind the 901 FC defense. The Rowdies added their third in the 62nd minute, however, as after Caldwell had palmed away a shot by Dominic Oduro from the left side of the penalty area, Johnson gathered possession on the right and laid back a pass to Poku, who produced a beautiful bending finish to the top-left corner as he stepped into space at the top of the penalty area. Tinari had another chance at his second goal of the night in the 69th minute as he rounded Caldwell but hit the outside of the left post from a tight angle, but the Rowdies added a fourth as Leo Fernandes’ notched his fourth goal of the season with a low shot from the left side of the penalty area that picked out the right corner. Johnson then capped his individual performance with the final goal of the night with three minutes to go to send Tampa Bay back into second place in the Eastern Conference.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Kwadwo Poku, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Poku produced two fine long-range finishes to highlight a performance that saw him connect the Rowdies’ midfield beautifully as he completed 37 of 40 passes overall. 

 

HARTFORD ATHLETIC (3), ATL UTD 2 (2)

HARTFORD, Conn. – Wojciech Wojcik scored twice after coming on in the second half as the Athletic rallied to victory against Atlanta at Dillon Stadium. Atlanta’s George Bello produced the first serious look on goal in the 16th minute with a fierce shot that flew just wide of the left post from 25 yards, and Hartford’s Sebastian Dalgaard reciprocated with a long-range effort of his own five minutes later that went just over the crossbar. Dalgaard also threatened in the 25th minute on a low shot from inside the penalty area that Atlanta goalkeeper Brendan Moore got down to keep out, but shortly after Hartford took the lead. A free kick by Mads Jorgensen from 30 yards was parried by Moore, who in trying to gather the rebound fouled Alex Dixon as he pursued the rebound. Ryan Williams stepped up and slotted home the penalty kick to the top-left corner past Moore’s dive in the 27th minute. Both Atlanta’s Brandon Vasquez and Andrew Carleton forced sharp saves from Hartford goalkeeper Cody Cropper before the halftime break, and Jack Metcalf hit the left post with a half-volleyed finish that rebounded to safety in first-half stoppage time. Carleton then had a golden chance to level three minutes into the second half as Luiz Fernando’s low cross picked out the attacking midfielder’s run only for him to sky his finish, and Carleton then set up Fernando two minutes later only for Cropper to deny the chance. Atlanta’s persistence finally paid off with two goals in three minutes as Carleton first leveled with a roofed finish from the right side of the penalty area, and then Vasquez headed home a cross by Metcalf just before the hour-mark. Hartford hit back with 13 minutes to go, however, as substitutes Jose Angulo and Wojcik combined with Angulo’s floated cross from the right finding Wojcik for a simple header at the back post. Atlanta was then reduced to 10 men with five minutes remaining as Carleton was sent off after a hard foul, and with a minute to go Wojcik put home his second of the game with a flicked header off Elliot Hord’s cross from the left that found the right corner to complete the comeback.  

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Wojciech Wojcik, Hartford Athletic – Wojcik helped turn the game around for the Athletic, scoring twice, recording one key pass and completing 10 of 11 passes overall to lead the comeback victory.

 

LOUISVILLE CITY FC (1), NORTH CAROLINA FC (0)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – LouCity took a modicum of revenge for its opening-weekend loss to North Carolina as a second-half goal by Magnus Rasmussen proved the difference at Slugger Field 9,168 fans at Slugger Field. North Carolina provided the first serious threat on goal in the 10th minute when Nazmi Albadawi tried an ambitious chip from 30 yards that floated just over the top-right corner. Five minutes later, Abdou Mbacke Thiam almost had a chance to open the scoring for Louisville as he reacted fasted to Oscar Jimenez’s ball into the penalty area, but he was forced wide and then went down as NCFC goalkeeper Darrin McLeod challenged him as the penalty kick appeal was waved away by the referee. LouCity’s Niall McCabe went close with a curling shot from the top of the penalty area that went just wide of the top-right corner in the 27th minute, while North Carolina had a goal ruled out for offside four minutes later when Donovan Ewolo’s first-time finish off a flicked header was chalked off. Thiam had a good effort fly just high of the top-right corner from the left side of the penalty area shortly after, but 10 minutes into the second half LouCity took the lead when Rasmussen’s header at the top of the six-yard area just crossed the goal line for his 10th goal of the season. Louisville almost added to its lead in the 67th minute when Antoine Hoppenot fired just wide of the left post from 20 yards, while NCFC’s Steven Miller sent a turning shot high from inside the penalty area two minutes later. Each side hit the woodwork inside the final 10 minutes, with Hoppenot ringing the left upright after good work by Luke Spencer to release him into the left side of the penalty area and North Carolina’s Justin Rennick arrowing a shot from the top-left corner of the penalty area through traffic only for it to come back off the right post. Louisville was able to see out the victory, however, as it took its fourth consecutive victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Sean Totsch, Louisville City FC – Totsch put in an impressive display as LouCity’s back line cooled off NCFC’s attack, recording five interceptions and six recoveries while winning a combined 12 of 18 duels.

 

OTTAWA FURY FC (2), SAINT LOUIS FC (1)

OTTAWA – Fury FC struck twice in the first half and had to hold off a determined rally by Saint Louis despite the visitors playing down a man for most of the second half in front of 5,507 fans at TD Place. Ottawa took the lead in the 10th minute when captain Carl Haworth delivered a free kick from 25 yards into the top-right corner of the net for his eighth goal of the season. Lewis Hilton tried to answer for STLFC two minutes later from a set piece of his own, but the shot from a wider angle on the left to the near post was comfortably saved by Ottawa goalkeeper Callum Irving. The hosts threatened again on the half-hour mark when Christiano Francois sped onto a through-ball by Haworth but ran out of space as STLFC goalkeeper Tomas Gomez forced him wide coming off his line to challenge, but Fury FC notched its second goal four minutes later as an unlucky deflection in the penalty area on an attempted clearance for the visitors saw the ball land at the feet of Hadji Barry, who roofed his finish for his first goal for the club. Saint Louis almost hit back a minute after the restart only for Russell Cicerone to shoot wide of the near post from the left side of the penalty area, but the visitors were then reduced to 10 men in the 47th minute as Oscar Umar was sent off for his second yellow card of the contest. Ottawa almost took immediate advantage as Kevin Oliveira slipped into space centrally for a clear shooting chance that was cleared off the line by STLFC defender Matt Bahner, but then things began to swing the way of the visitors. Bahner had a big chance blocked by Haworth in the 62nd minute as the 10-man visitors looked for a way back into the game before Sam Fink looped a header over the crossbar in the 69th minute after a free kick went high in the air in the penalty area, but a minute later the captain converted his fifth penalty kick of the season to halve the deficit after Kyle Greig was fouled at a corner kick. Haworth tried to restore Ottawa’s two-goal lead with a powerful shot in the 74th minute that went just wide of the right post from 20 yards, but while Saint Louis pressed for an equalizer in the final stages an insurance goal wouldn’t be needed for the hosts as they held on for victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Carl Haworth, Ottawa Fury FC – On a day when the club celebrated him passing 150 appearances in Fury FC colors, Haworth scored a beautiful goal and completed 47 of 59 passes in another strong display.

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