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Gameday Report: September 14, Week 28

By USLChampionship.com, 09/14/19, 5:07PM EDT

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Indy, NY book playoff places; Monarchs' Martinez bags four, NMU's Sandoval has hat trick

Indy Eleven and the New York Red Bulls II became the first Eastern Conference sides to earn a place in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs as the Eleven defeated Bethlehem Steel FC and the Charleston Battery fell to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, while Douglas Martinez scored four to lead Real Monarchs SLC to victory against the Portland Timbers 2 and Devon Sandoval a hat trick in New Mexico United's victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in Saturday’s headline USL Championship action.

 

NEW MEXICO UNITED (3), COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC (1)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Devon Sandoval scored a hat trick as New Mexico took victory against the Switchbacks at Isotopes Park. After an almost two-hour lightning delay, New Mexico didn’t take long to open the scoring as Sandoval fired home in the eighth minute after a cross from the left was deflected by a Switchbacks defender to the top of the penalty area, allowing the Albuquerque native to hit first-time. The hosts almost doubled their lead eight minutes later when Chris Wehan got in behind the defense, but Switchbacks goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez did enough to turn the finish just wide of the left post. Colorado Springs almost equalized in the 34th minute when first Saeed Robinson’s shot hit the right post before the rebound fell to Fernando Gonzalez, who hit the left post with his follow-up chance. Wehan had another chance in the 44th minute denied by Rodriguez after being slipped into the penalty area by David Estrada before Sandoval fired a follow-up chance wide from 20 yards, and New Mexico goalkeeper Cody Mizell was tested a minute later as Switchbacks forward Cesar Romero forced a low save from a narrow angle on the right. Sandoval doubled NMU’s lead two minutes into the second half, though, as Manny Padilla’s long pass upfield was misplayed by the Colorado Springs defense to allow a one-on-one chance that Sandoval deposited into the right corner of the net. Sandoval then completed his hat trick in the 66th minute with a flicked header off a cross from the right by Padilla that found the bottom-left corner of the net. The Switchbacks pulled a goal back with 12 minutes to go as Jordan Burt headed home a corner kick from the left by Ish Jome, and Jome had a shot deflected wide with a minute to go as Colorado Springs looked to make a late rally. NMU was able to withstand the Switchbacks’ late pressure, however, and picked up a second consecutive victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Devon Sandoval, New Mexico United – Sandoval bagged his first hat trick in the professional ranks to lead United to an important home win in its push for the playoffs.

 

PHOENIX RISING FC (4), LA GALAXY II (1)

PHOENIX – Rising FC took its 20th consecutive victory as it defeated the Galaxy II in a game that was abandoned in the 84th minute at Casino Arizona Field after match officials removed the teams from the field in the interest of player safety. The two sides exchanged chances early as first Solomon Asante shot wide of the left post for the hosts in the third minute and Los Dos’ Tomas Hilliard-Arce directed a turning header on frame a minute later that forced a save by Phoenix goalkeeper Zac Lubin. Rising FC took the lead in the 10th minute, however, as the Galaxy II were whistled for a foul in the penalty area off a free kick and Asante converted from the spot with a low shot to the left corner. Phoenix then doubled its lead five minutes later as a long-range shot by Junior Flemmings picked out the bottom-left corner. LA almost pulled a goal back nine minutes before halftime as Augustine Williams cut in from the left side before sending a low shot just wide of the right post, but Flemmings added his second of the night in the final minute of the first half as Asante’s angled cross from the left off a short corner was directed home by the Jamaican’s header at the top of the penalty area. LA’s Ethan Zubak had a chance blocked by Rising FC defender Corey Whelan midway through the second half, and Los Dos pulled a goal back with 14 minutes to go as Kai Koreniuk fired home a first-time finish from the left side of the penalty area, but Phoenix quickly restored its three-goal lead as Ben Spencer put home the rebound after Asante’s initial shot had been parried by LA goalkeeper Eric Lopez. Following Spencer’s goal, match officials removed both teams after objects were thrown onto the field of play, which caused the match to be officially abandoned with six minutes remaining. Under league regulations, the result was permitted to stand with Rising FC holding a three-goal lead after the 70th minute of play, which allowed the result to be declared official.

 

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC (3), FRESNO FC (1)

LAS VEGAS – Lights FC rallied from an early deficit to take victory against second-place Fresno at Cashman Field to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Foxes produced the first chance in the 11th minute when a looping cross from the left found Ramon Martin Del Campo for a header that was comfortably saved by Las Vegas goalkeeper Thomas Olsen, but the visitors took the lead six minutes later when Alex Cooper drove home a finish from 30 yards that found the top-right corner of the net. Lights FC hit back in the 21st minute, though, as Irvin Parra stole possession from Foxes goalkeeper CJ Cochran before setting up Cristian Martinez for a simple finish past a scrambling defense. Cochran made a good save to keep the teams level as Cristian Torres’ snap shot from 14 yards hit the target four minutes before halftime, but Las Vegas took the lead 13 minutes into the second half as a perfectly flighted cross from the right by Ferrety Sousa picked out Preston Tabor Etaka at the back post for a powerful header. Lights FC then added a third with 19 minutes to go when Parra converted from the penalty spot with a low shot to the left corner after Tabor Etaka was brought down in the area. Fresno’s Jemal Johnson forced a save from Olsen with 16 minutes to go, while Foxes defender Mickey Daly made a crucial intervention to keep Junior Sandoval from adding to Las Vegas’ lead two minutes later, but the hosts saw out the remainder of the contest despite some late chances for the visitors to earn a big bounce-back victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Preston Tabor Etaka, Las Vegas Lights FC – Tabor Etaka scored once, had three key passes and completed 4 of 6 dribbles, serving as a consistent attacking threat for the hosts.

 

ORANGE COUNTY SC (2), EL PASO LOCOMOTIVE FC (0)

IRVINE, Calif. – Orange County continued its strong recent run of form as Michael Seaton and Darwin Jones both struck in the club’s victory against El Paso Locomotive FC at Championship Soccer Stadium. El Paso had the first good look at goal in the sixth minute when Sebastian Velasquez sent a finish just wide of the left post, and the visitors had a goal ruled out in the 23rd minute when Omar Salgado was flagged for offside as he finished off a clever angled ball by Nick Ross. Orange County also had a goal ruled out for offside in the 29th minute when Darwin Jones was flagged as he headed home a cross into the right corner, but Michael Seaton put the hosts ahead with a fine header off a free kick by Harry Forrester nine minutes before the halftime break. Velasquez went close for the visitors less than a minute into the second half with a shot that went just high from the left side of the penalty area, while Salgado missed a chance after being played through by Velasquez in the 58th minute. Less than a minute later, Orange County doubled its lead as Jones controlled a ball over the defense by Aodhan Quinn and finished clinically into the left corner of the net. Locomotive FC went close again through Velasquez in the 64th minute when he shot high after claiming a deflected cross by Jerome Kiesewetter, but after a late chance for Yuma came back off the crossbar for the visitors, Orange County saw out the contest to take its fifth consecutive victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Aodhan Quinn, Orange County SC – Quinn recorded one assist and two chances created while completing 66 of 72 passes and winning 4 of 6 duels in an excellent midfield display.

 

SAN ANTONIO FC (3), OKC ENERGY FC (1)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio earned its first home victory against Energy FC to boost their playoff chances at Toyota Field. The hosts took the lead in the 12th minute as Cristian Parano found space on the right side and slid a low cross through the six-yard area that was tapped home by Rafa Castillo at the back post as he snuck in unmarked. Parano then picked up his second assist of the night in the 26th minute when he played Frank Lopez into the right side of the penalty area to allow the Cuban to lash home a finish at the near post. SAFC almost made it three with 10 minutes to go in the first half when Walter Restrepo hit the crossbar with a curling shot from just inside the penalty area after a half-cleared corner kick fell to him at the end of the box, but three minutes into the second half a free kick by Castillo was turned into his own net by Energy FC defender Atiba Harris as he tried to make a clearance. Energy FC almost pulled a goal back in the 57th minute when Mekeil Williams flashed a header wide of the right post off a corner kick, while Deshorn Brown was ruled offside when he headed home a cross by Omar Gordon 10 minutes later. OKC did find the net from the penalty spot with 13 minutes to go when Brown converted after he was fouled in the penalty area, and Jonathan Brown almost made it a one-goal game for the visitors in the 82nd minute when he rang a shot off the left upright with a free kick 20 yards out, but when Brown's stoppage-time effort went just over the crossbar it proved OKC's last chance as San Antonio took a crucial victory in its bid for the postseason.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Cristian Parano, San Antonio FC – Parano produced two outstanding assists, finished the game with seven chances created and completed 41 of 47 passes in a stellar attacking display.

 

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (1), ATL UTD 2 (1)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rowdies were held to a draw at home by Atlanta as the side exchanged first-half goals at Al Lang Stadium. Atlanta grabbed the lead in the 13th minute as a near-post corner from the left by Kevin Kratz was headed on frame by Amir Bashti and saved by Rowdies goalkeeper John McCarthy, only for Laurence Wyke to react quickest to the rebound and just force his header home from close range. The Rowdies responded in the 31st minute, however, as Leo Fernandes slid a through-ball into the path of Sebastian Guenzatti for a sliding finish that gave the Uruguayan his 15th goal of the season. Atlanta almost regained the lead six minutes into the second half when Mikey Ambrose shifted past his defender to open space for a shot from the top-left side of the penalty area that went just over the crossbar, and 12 minutes later Jackson Conway forced a low save by McCarthy from the right side of the area. Tampa Bay’s Malik Johnson had a low shot from the left side of the penalty area turned away by Atlanta goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira with 19 minutes to go, and the Atlanta goalkeeper was called on again two minutes later to keep out a potential own goal by Wesly Decas as the defender redirected a cross by the Rowdies’ Jordan Doherty on frame. Neither side was able to create a clear-cut chance for a winner late on, though, as they shared the points.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Leo Fernandes, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Fernandes provided the assist on the Rowdies goal and was the most likely source of a game-winner for either side with four chances created. 

 

INDY ELEVEN (2), BETHLEHEM STEEL FC (1)

INDIANAPOLIS – Dane Kelly scored the winner for the Eleven with 10 minutes to go in a highly entertaining clash against Steel FC at Lucas Oil Stadium as the hosts booked their place in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs. Tyler Pasher had an early chance for Indy as he controlled a long pass over the top from Ayoze but was unable to slide a finish past Steel FC goalkeeper Matt Freese in the seventh minute. Steel FC’s first good look arrived in the 13th minute, but Issa Rayyan’s shot from 20 yards was comfortably handled by Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton, while Indy’s Ilija Ilic curled a shot just high from just inside the penalty area after a clever backheel by Cristian Novoa. Ilic went close again in the 22nd minute with a back-post header off a cross by Pasher from the left but was brilliantly denied by Freese, who palmed the effort onto the underside of the crossbar to keep it from crossing the line. Steel FC then had back-to-back chances to take the lead as Michee Ngalina got in behind the defense, but Indy defender Karl Ouimette made a crucial interception to break up his attempted pass to Rayyan, sending the ball back toward Ngalina, who was denied at close range by Newton to keep the game scoreless at halftime. Freese made another big save in the 56th minute as he parried away a close-range effort by Indy’s Neveal Hackshaw, but a minute later Ilic put the hosts ahead from close range on a shot that Freese had little chance to deny. Bethlehem almost hit back immediately when a cross by Walter Cortes was flicked on net from close-range by Yomi Scintu but turned away beautifully by Newton to keep the hosts ahead, and Nathan Harriel then both had a header come back off the crossbar and the rebound cleared off the line by Indy defender Paddy Barrett. Bethlehem leveled with 15 minutes to go, however, as a cross by Ngalina off a short corner found Ben Ofeimu for a close-range finish. Indy almost went back ahead two minutes later when Matt Watson blazed a shot high from 20 yards, but in the 80th minute Pasher beat Freese to a ball over the top that arrived just inside the penalty area and was able to head to Kelly, who shot into the open net. Kelly almost added an insurance goal with three minutes to go as his low shot forced a kick-save by Freese, but the hosts saw out the remainder of the contest comfortably to book their place in the postseason.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Ilija Ilic, Indy Eleven – Ilic had the opening goal, was denied another by a spectacular save and had five shots overall while completing 17 of 21 passes in a tidy attacking display.

 

HARTFORD ATHLETIC (0), LOUISVILLE CITY FC (1)

HARTFORD, Conn. – LouCity ran its undefeated streak to seven games as Napo Matsoso’s goal made the difference against the Athletic at Dillon Stadium. Louisville had the first good look on goal in the 16th minute when a deflected low cross by Magnus Rasmussen fell to Antoine Hoppenot, but his shot flew just high from 15 yards. Hoppenot then almost set up Abdou Mbacke Thiam with a good cross from the left, but the headed finish went just off target, while Hartford’s Sebastian Dalgaard fired just wide of the left post nine minute before halftime. Dalgaard threatened again in the 39th minute when he found space down the left side and drove into the penalty area but fired his shot straight at Louisville goalkeeper Chris Hubbard, and two minutes later his clipped cross was headed on frame by Harry Swartz as Hubbard gathered comfortably. Hubbard had to pull off a spectacular save five minutes into the second half to keep out a header by Swartz heading to the top-right corner, and the Athletic’s Danny Barrera hit the crossbar with a curling effort in the 54th minute with Hubbard beaten. LouCity took the lead in the 59th minute, however, as a clever piece of interplay set up Matsoso for a curled finish to the top-left corner of the net and his first of the season. The visitors almost added a second a few minutes later when Brian Ownby was played in by Rasmussen and was denied by a good save from Cropper, while Hoppenot volleyed just wide of the left post after a deep cross by Thiam from the right. Hartford almost leveled with 10 minutes to go when Matsoso made a goal line clearance to deny Logan Gdula’s header off a corner kick from the left, but after Wojciech Wojcik’s header went over the net with two minutes to go the visitors were able to see out the victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Napo Matsoso, Louisville City FC – Matsoso made the difference at either end of the field, scoring a brilliant goal and making a crucial goal line clearance to ensure it stood up as the game-winner.

 

PITTBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (1), CHARLESTON BATTERY (0)

PITTSBURGH – The Hounds edged out the Battery to move level with fourth-place Indy Eleven on points in the Eastern Conference after a tight affair at Highmark Stadium. Pittsburgh had the better of the early going and almost created a clear chance in the 21st minute when Neco Brett played in Steevan Dos Santos, but Battery defender Jarad van Schaik made a key block to snuff out the opportunity. Battery goalkeeper Phil Breno needed to be alert 12 minutes later when Robbie Mertz produced a flicked deflection on a long-range shot by Kenardo Forbes, but the teams remained scoreless at the break as the Battery’s AJ Paterson couldn’t send a header past Hounds goalkeeper Kyle Morton off a free kick by Van Schaik seven minutes before the break. Pittsburgh almost broke the deadlock in the 67th minute as Neco Brett headed wide of the left post after Breno deflected a cross from the left by Robbie Mertz, but two minutes later a low cross from the right by Kenardo Forbes was met at the near post by Steevan Dos Santos for his ninth goal of the season. The Battery had difficulty in finding a way back but had two big chances to equalize in stoppage time, the first of which saw Vincenzo Candela fire a shot from the top of the penalty area just wide of the left upright. Then in their final chance of the game a missed clearance fell to Tah Anunga, whose pass found Dante Marini in space on the right side of the penalty area. Marini’s shot fizzed wide of the left post, however, allowing the Hounds to hold on for victory.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Kenardo Forbes, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Forbes provided the assist on the only goal of the contest, and the midfielder ended the night with five chances created while completing 71 of 85 passes overall.

 

SWOPE PARK RANGERS (1), NORTH CAROLINA FC (0)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Swope Park snapped an eight-game winless streak as Wilson Harris had the lone goal against North Carolina at Children’s Mercy Park. The Rangers almost took the lead in the seventh minute when Harris flashed a shot just wide of the left post from the right side of the penalty area, and Harris threatened again 10 minutes later only to be denied by NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis. North Carolina went close soon after as Donovan Ewolo fired a shot just wide of the left post, and in the 20th minute Steven Miller had a good shot to the right corner saved by SPR goalkeeper John Pulskamp. Swope Park had another pair of long distance efforts by Wan Kuzain and Felipe Hernandez in the opening half-hour, but the Rangers’ almost took the lead in the 36th minute when a good move set up Tyler Freeman for a shot from 20 yards that Tambakis had to go at full stretch to keep from picking out the bottom-right corner. Kuzain also forced a save from Tambakis with a free kick from 25 yards six minutes into the second half, and from the ensuing corner Rennico Clarke headed just over the crossbar for the hosts. The Rangers took the lead in the 58th minute, however, as Jaylin Lindsey delivered a first-time cross from the right to the top of the six-yard area that was tucked home by Harris. North Carolina had a chance to equalize with 14 minutes to go but Robbie Kristo’s finish bounced well wide of the left post, but while the Rangers almost added an insurance goal in second-half stoppage time only for Hernandez to be denied by a fine save by Tambakis they were able to comfortably see out the final minutes as NCFC ended the game with only two shots on goal.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Jaylin Lindsey, Swope Park Rangers – Lindsey teed up the only goal of the game for the hosts, completed 39 of 49 passes and made four interceptions as Swope Park broke a long winless streak.

 

REAL MONARCHS SLC (5), PORTLAND TIMBERS 2 (1)

HERRIMAN, Utah – Douglas Martinez put up a four-goal game as the Monarchs pulled away from T2 at Zions Bank Stadium. The first big chance came to the Monarchs in the 15th minute as a counterattack saw Jack Blake find Sebastian Saucedo in space on the left to deliver a low cross for an onrushing Luke Mulholland, but his low finish was smothered by T2 goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh. The hosts took the lead seven minutes later, however as Martinez sent home a first-time finish from the top of the penalty area after McIntosh had blocked Saucedo’s initial chance at the penalty spot. Portland hit back immediately as Gio Calixtro shot home after Monarchs goalkeeper Andrew Putna had palmed away an initial effort by Brayan Hurtado from a tight angle on the left side of the penalty area. Saucedo almost restored Real’s lead in the 34th minute with a shot from the left side of the penalty area that was tipped over the crossbar by McIntosh, but seven minutes before halftime Martinez notched his second as Mulholland was released down the right by a backheel from James Moberg and delivered a back-post cross that Martinez headed home. T2 came out brightly to start the second half, but the Monarchs almost added to its lead in the 56th minute when Maikel Chang curled a shot from 20 yards just wide of the top-left corner of the net. A minute later, Blake went as close with a first-time finish off a low cross from the right. T2 threatened on the hour-mark when Carlos Anguiano’s long-range finish was denied by a diving save from Putna, while Saucedo had a golden chance to put in a third for Real moments later but missed the target after getting in behind the defense. Martinez completed his hat trick in the 66th minute, however, as he tapped home from close range on the rebound after Blake’s initial shot from the top of the penalty area had been parried by McIntosh, and then notched his fourth goal of the game four minutes later on a breakaway from the halfway line he deposited in the left side of the net. Real wrapped up the scoring with seven minutes to go as Kyle Coffee nicked away possession 45 yards from goal and drove forward before firing home into the right corner,

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Douglas Martinez, Real Monarchs SLC – Martinez recorded the third four-goal game of the 2019 Championship season to lead the Monarchs to an emphatic victory.

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