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Gameday Report: September 20, Week 29

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 09/20/19, 10:15PM EDT

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Reno clinches playoff berth after edging New Mexico; Legion FC, T2 score big wins for postseason hopes

A brace from Corey Hertzog led Reno 1868 FC to a 3-1 comeback victory over New Mexico United on Friday night at Isotopes Park to move back into second place in the Western Conference standings and clinch its spot in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs thanks to additional help from a draw between San Antonio FC and the LA Galaxy II. Elsewhere in the West, the Portland Timbers 2 scored a season-high six goals to power past Tacoma Defiance 6-3 at Providence Park.

In the Eastern Conference, Birmingham Legion FC ended its two-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Indy Eleven at BBVA Field to give its playoff chances a massive boost and prevent the visitors from going top of the standings above the New York Red Bulls II. 

la galaxy ii (1) v san antonio fc (1)

CARSON, Calif. – The Galaxy II settled for a point with 10-man San Antonio at Dignity Health Sports Park. The hosts took the lead in stunning style inside eight minutes as Jorge Hernández intercepted a loose pass on the right wing, cut inside on his left foot and fired an unstoppable curling strike into the top-left corner that gave San Antonio goalkeeper Matt Cardone no chance. The visitors needed just two minutes to find their equalizer as Rafa Castillo headed Brian Gómez’s right-wing delivery into the path of Frank López, who made his parent club pay with a first-time finish past Los Dos goalkeeper Eric López. The San Antonio forward, who is on loan from the Galaxy II, nearly grabbed a second goal in the 34th minute as he pounced on a heavy touch by the LA goalkeeper but saw his shot from a tight angle saved off the line by Tomas Hilliard-Arce. The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 52nd minute after Pecka was shown a second yellow card in a four-minute span by referee Michael Radchuk. Buoyed by the man advantage, the hosts got on the front foot and nearly took the lead in the 67th minute when Kai Koreniuk beat his defender on the right wing but saw his shot saved well by Cardone. Cardone’s opposite number did well to keep the game level as San Antonio searched for an equalizer, making impressive diving stops on long-range efforts from Gómez, Moises Hernandez and Jack Barmby in quick succession. LA made one last push in stoppage time to find a winner as Cardone pushed Iván Gutiérrez’s left-footed shot from the edge of the box back into traffic, but the SAFC defense was able to clear and hold on for a point.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Jorge Hernández, LA Galaxy II – Hernández scored a stunning goal, completed 2 of 2 dribbles and made seven recoveries to help the Galaxy II earn a point against San Antonio on Friday night.

portland timbers 2 (6) v tacoma defiance (3)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland scored a season-high six goals to power past the Defiance at Providence Park. The hosts wasted no time getting out in front as Brayan Hurtado headed Dairon Asprilla’s right-wing cross past Tacoma goalkeeper Trey Muse in the third minute to give Portland the lead. Asprilla turned from provider to finisher on an eerily similar goal in the 22nd minute, finding some space in the middle of the box to head Foster Langsdorf’s right-wing delivery past a helpless Muse into the top-right corner. Portland made the most of its play down the right wing again in the 40th minute as Harold Hanson whipped in a cross to the back post, where Ryan Sierakowski rose up to nod home to give T2 a three-goal advantage. Alex Roldan produced a response two minutes later for Tacoma, popping up at the back post to slide home Handwalla Bwana’s cutback from the byline, but the Defiance couldn’t keep the momentum going until halftime as Eryk Williamson curled a venomous free kick into the top-right corner from the edge of the penalty area in the 45th minute to restore the home side’s three-goal cushion. Portland made it 5-1 three minutes after halftime as Asprilla converted from the penalty spot for his second goal of the night after Tacoma midfielder Josh Atencio had fouled Langsdorf in the box. The Defiance got a goal back in the 53rd minute when forward Justin Dhillon got behind the Portland defense and slotted his shot past T2 goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic at the second attempt. Portland grabbed its sixth goal of the night with seven minutes remaining as Langsdorf returned Jose Anguiano’s pass for the midfielder to finesse into the bottom-left corner from the center of the box. The Defiance rounded out the high-scoring affair in the first minute of stoppage time as Herbert Robinson won the ball in the attacking third and slid a pass to Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, who did really well to lose his defender and find the bottom-left corner with a sliding finish to give his side another consolation tally.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Dairon Asprilla, Portland Timbers 2 – Asprilla scored a pair of goals, assisted on another, registered four key passes and completed 88 percent of his passes overall to fuel T2’s highest-scoring game of the season.

New mexico united (1) v reno 1868 fc (3)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – 1868 FC came back from a goal down to defeat New Mexico at Isotopes Park for its third straight win. The hosts took the lead in the seventh minute of play when Devon Sandoval’s right-wing cross took a deflection on its way to Santi Moar at the backpost and the forward cut inside a pair of defenders before shooting against the grain and beating Reno goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski at his near post. 1868 FC nearly found a response 12 minutes later when Eric Calvillo split the New Mexico defense with an incisive pass to Lindo Mfeka, who saw his right-footed shot from close range saved spectacularly by the right palm of NMU goalkeeper Cody Mizell. The visitors did get their equalizer just before the end of the first half though, as Brent Richards’ right-wing cross fell kindly for Corey Hertzog to power home past Mizell from 12 yards out. New Mexico had the ball in the back of the net five minutes after the restart as Moar slid Chris Wehan in behind the Reno defense to finish from close range, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Hertzog failed to convert a glorious one-on-one opportunity three minutes later, but 1868 FC grabbed the lead from the resulting corner kick as Richards rose highest at the near post and headed beyond Mizell with Hertzog providing a screen in front. The Reno forward then bagged his brace 58 seconds later, running onto Mfeka’s through ball and slotting a right-footed shot into the bottom-left corner of the net. The visitors gave New Mexico an opening with 10 minutes to go when Kevin Partida was sent off for his second yellow card of the evening, but Marcinkowski made one more strong save on Manny Padilla to see off any potential comeback and seal an impressive away win for Reno.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Corey Hertzog, Reno 1868 FC – Hertzog scored a pair of goals on three shots, completed 8 of 10 passes and 1 of 2 dribbles to lead a clinical offensive performance from Reno 1868 FC at Isotopes Park.

birmingham legion fc (1) v indy eleven (0)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Legion FC ended its two-game losing streak and gave its playoff hopes a massive boost by beating 10-man Indy at BBVA Field. The hosts nearly took advantage of an Indy turnover in the fifth minute as Prosper Kasim picked off a pass in the attacking third and fed the ball to Brian Wright, who forced a diving save out of Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton with a left-footed shot from the top of the box. Legion FC did make the visitors pay for their sloppy play with six minutes remaining in the first half as Indy midfielder Drew Conner presented Akeem Ward with a second chance to cross from the right wing and the right back placed the ball on the forehead of Wright to nod home from six yards out. The Eleven showed their attacking intent straight out of the break as Tyler Pasher tried his luck with a tight-angle shot that Birmingham goalkeeper Matt Van Oeklel parried behind to safety just two minutes into the second half. Indy’s task got much harder in the 53rd minute as Conner was shown a straight red card for a sliding challenge on Wright, but the 10-men Eleven nearly equalized six minutes later when Ilija Ilic met Ayoze’s corner kick but saw his effort come back into play off the base of the post. Kasim could’ve given Birmingham some breathing room on five separate occasions over the final 10 minutes with some better finishing, but Legion FC wouldn’t need an insurance goal as it held on for a massive three points.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Akeem Ward, Birmingham Legion FC – Ward assisted on Birmingham’s lone goal, completed 80 percent of his passes, won 5 of 7 duels and 2 of 3 tackles while also making six recoveries in Legion FC’s 1-0 victory.

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