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ANALYSIS: Indy, Phoenix, Pittsburgh On Fire at Home

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/13/19, 9:00AM EDT

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Will Championship trio complete undefeated regular seasons on home turf?


Indy Eleven, Phoenix Rising FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC are all undefeated on their home turf this season with three games left in the regular season.

Phoenix Rising FC is aiming for history in numerous categories in the 2019 USL Championship regular season, but the current Western Conference leader has been joined in the pursuit of one notable achievement by both Indy Eleven and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

All three clubs are currently undefeated at their home venues this season and have a chance to join the five previous teams in the Championship’s history to go through a complete regular season without suffering defeat. If all three accomplish it, it will be a first in the Championship’s history, and mark the first time since 2015 that the feat has been achieved.

Before we look ahead to the final stretch for each team this season, let’s take a quick look back at those who came before.


 Orlando City SC (8-0-4, 2012; 13-0-1, 2014)

Unsurprisingly, the Lions were the first to post an undefeated home record in the Championship’s history when they won eight times at the Citrus Bowl in the league’s second season. The 2014 season stands out in the five previous time a side has gone undefeated for both good and bad reasons.

The good? Orlando was practically invincible at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in its final season before joining Major League Soccer. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC earned a draw in the Lions’ home opener, but then Orlando reeled off 13 consecutive home wins and a +31-goal differential the rest of the way. Kevin Molino led the way, earning his second Championship MVP award as he became the first player to lead the league in both goals (20) and assists (9).


Kevin Molino was a key figure in both of Orlando City SC's undefeated home campaigns in 2012 and 2014, winning the league's MVP honor both years. | Photo courtesy Mark Thorenson / Orlando City SC

The bad? Orlando’s home cooking went sour in the playoffs. A 1-0 defeat to No. 8-seed the Harrisburg City Islanders brought the Lions’ season to an end in the opening round, mirroring the club’s fate in 2012 when Wilmington Hammerheads FC recorded an upset in the semifinals after Orlando had ended the regular season undefeated at the Citrus Bowl.


 Richmond Kickers (8-0-6, 2013)

The Kickers weren’t just unbeatable at home, they were almost unbeatable throughout the entire season. A 22-game undefeated streak to start the year was only broken by the Charleston Battery with four games to go in the campaign as the Kickers took the regular season title with a game to spare.

As with Orlando, though, the undefeated regular-season home record didn’t translate to the playoffs, and the Kickers were eliminated 3-2 by a Charlotte Eagles side that featured current Houston Dynamo forward Christian Ramirez as well as longtime Championship standout Jorge Herrera.


 Charleston Battery (8-0-6, 2015)

The Battery made MUSC Health Stadium a fortress throughout the 2015 season, but what is more notable is the bigger picture this streak was part of. While the Battery went undefeated at home throughout 2015, the side went 29 regular season games without defeat – and 30 if you include its 2015 USL Championship Playoffs victory against Richmond – in a streak that spanned from May 10, 2014 to May 28, 2016. That mark currently stands the longest home undefeated streak in the Championship’s history.

During the two-year span, the Battery were outstanding at both ends of the field. Led in 2014 and 2015 by the Championship’s all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly, who scored 18 goals individually at home over the streak, the Battery recorded 49 goals, an average of 1.69 per game. At the other end of the field, Charleston conceded only 18 times, a goals-against average of 0.65, while putting up 14 clean sheets.


The Charleston Battery went undefeated at home through the 2015 regular season, part of a 29-game regular-season streak that spanned more than two years overall. | Photo courtesy Charleston Battery


 Rochester Rhinos (12-0-2, 2015)

The Rhinos set numerous defensive records in claiming the Championship’s regular season crown in 2015 including the current record for shutouts in a regular season with 17, but the most insurmountable of those paved the way for the undefeated home record the club posted. In 14 games, Head Coach Bob Lilley’s Rhinos only allowed five goals, a goals-against average of 0.36.

The other notable fact about the Rhinos? Unlike the others who posted undefeated home records in the regular season, their success translated to the playoffs. A comeback 2-1 victory against the LA Galaxy II after extra time at Sahlen’s Stadium saw Rochester earn the postseason silverware and cement their place among the league’s greatest teams.

2019’S CANDIDATES

So, what about this year’s candidates to join this exclusive group?


 Indy Eleven (10-0-4, +15 goal differential)

Remaining Home Games: Bethlehem Steel FC (Saturday), Memphis 901 FC (Oct. 5), Swope Park Rangers (Oct. 16)

In terms of remaining schedule, Indy looks well set to end the regular season without suffering a defeat, and that could mean good things for the side as it looks to enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and continue its club record of 22 league games undefeated at home. If they see out the rest of the schedule, that would move Indy within range of passing the Charleston Battery’s 29-game regular season streak.


 Phoenix Rising FC (11-0-3, +31 goal differential)

Remaining Home Games: LA Galaxy II (Saturday), Real Monarchs SLC (Oct. 12), OKC Energy FC (Oct. 18)

I mean, would you go against Phoenix in this situation? While all three sides set to visit Casino Arizona Field have pedigree – Los Dos gave Rising FC a scare in its trip to Dignity Health Sports Park before falling to a 3-2 loss – it’s going to take a monumental effort to earn all three points, especially for Energy FC, which gets the privilege of being the guest for the final $1 Beer Night of the regular season. The one thing OKC could take inspiration from? The last team to visit Phoenix in the 2018 regular season – Portland Timbers 2 – was the last visiting team to take victory there.


 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (8-0-6, +16 goal differential)


On a long home undefeated streak of its own, Indy Eleven could pose the biggest challenge to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC's current 22-game home undefeated run when it visits Highmark Stadium on September 28. | Photo courtesy Trevor Ruszkowski / Indy Eleven

Remaining Home Games: Charleston Battery (Saturday), Indy Eleven (September 28), ATL UTD 2 (October 5)

The Hounds’ remaining slate includes the two most interesting games of the three. First, on Saturday, the Charleston Battery arrive at Highmark Stadium looking to bring the Hounds’ current 22-game home undefeated streak to an end. Then two weeks later, Indy Eleven – which has a 22-game home undefeated streak of its own – will head to the banks of the Monongahela River in what is set to be a crucial game in the playoff race, let alone Pittsburgh’s potential pursuit of the Battery’s record.

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