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Gameday Report: September 21, Week 29

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 09/21/19, 11:45PM EDT

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Fresno ends Phoenix's 20-game win streak, clinches playoff berth; LouCity, OCSC climb standings after important wins

Fresno FC clinched its place in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs in dramatic fashion on Saturday night as goalkeeper CJ Cochran saved a late Solomon Asante penalty and saw another hit the woodwork to preserve a 2-1 victory over Phoenix Rising FC at Chukchansi Park and end the visitors' record 20-game winning streak. Elsewhere in the Western Conference, Orange County SC claimed a 94th-minute victory over Tulsa Roughnecks FC to extend its winning streak to six games and move into fourth place in the standings, while its top-four rival Real Monarchs SLC fell to a 3-1 defeat against Rio Grande Valley FC at H-E-B Park.

In the Eastern Conference, Louisville City FC extended its unbeaten run to eight games with a wild 5-3 win over the New York Red Bulls II at Slugger Field, while Memphis 901 FC extended its winning streak to four games after ending Saint Louis FC's five-game winning streak with a 1-0 victory at AutoZone Park. Elsewhere in the East, the Tampa Bay Rowdies scored a season-high six goals in a 6-1 rout of Bethlehem Steel FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC kept its fifth consecutive shutout in a scoreless draw with Nashville SC.

 

fresno fc (2) v phoenix rising fc (1)

FRESNO, Calif. – The Foxes clinched their spot in the postseason and ended Rising FC’s 20-game winning streak in dramatic fashion at Chukchansi Park. A tightly contested first half didn’t see either side record an official shot on target as Zac Lubin’s fantastic diving stop to keep out Jaime Chávez’s header in stoppage time wasn’t actually required since the Fresno forward was in an offside position. The Rising FC goalkeeper did provide a vital block just after the break though, as Chávez again showed his aerial prowess by rising to meet Zachary Ellis-Hayden’s cross on the left side of the six-yard box. Phoenix finally registered a shot on target in the 67th minute as Junior Flemmings tested Fresno goalkeeper CJ Cochran with a shot from just outside the box, but the Foxes went the other way and opened the scoring moments later as substitute Qudus Lawal created some space for himself at the top of the box and fired a left-footed shot past Lubin into the bottom-left corner. The lead would last just 10 minutes though, as Ellis-Hayden misjudged the arc of James Musa’s free kick from near the center circle, allowing Flemmings to settle the ball at the back post before slotting his right-footed shot through the legs of Cochran to set up a grandstand finish that didn’t disappoint. The Foxes were awarded a penalty kick in the 81st minute after Mustapha Dumbuya fouled Devann Yao in the box and Chávez coolly converted from 12 yards to restore the home side’s advantage with seven minutes to play. Phoenix was awarded the opportunity to respond from the penalty spot in the 85th minute when Solomon Asante’s shot struck the arm of Elijah Martin, but Rising FC’s captain saw his right-footed effort from 12 yards saved low by Cochran. The Fresno goalkeeper denied Adam Jahn from close range in the 90th minute and then had to face Asante from the penalty spot again after another of the forward’s shots was blocked by the arm of Michael Daly. Again, Asante failed to make the most of the opportunity, this time striking Cochran’s left-hand post as Phoenix’s magical run came to an end.  

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

CJ Cochran, Fresno FC – Cochran made three saves, including a late penalty stop on Solomon Asante, to help Fresno clinch its place in the USL Championship Playoffs and end Rising FC’s 20-game winning streak.

 

el paso locomotive fc (2) v colorado springs switchbacks fc (0)

EL PASO, Texas – Locomotive FC moved back into the playoff places by beating the Switchbacks at Southwest University Park. The hosts turned up the pressure from the opening kickoff and nearly took the lead inside two minutes when Sebastian Velasquez played Jerome Kiesewetter in on goal, but Colorado Springs goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez did well to come out and make a sliding stop before gathering the loose rebound. El Paso came close again seven minutes later as Josué Gómez found Nick Ross in some space at the top of the box and the midfielder rifled a rising shot past Rodriguez but back off the crossbar. The visitors had their first good look at goal from a 12th-minute corner kick as Jordan Burt headed Ish Jome’s in-swinging delivery towards the bottom-left corner, but Locomotive FC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer produced a spectacular diving save to keep the game scoreless. It stayed that way for just 10 more minutes before Bryam Rebellón arrived at the back post to settle James Kiffe’s overhit cross and blast the ball past an onrushing Rodriguez from close range to give El Paso the lead. Velasquez nearly doubled that advantage seven minutes after halftime when he created some space for himself on the left wing and rifled a left-footed shot off the frame of the goal. The Switchbacks pushed for an equalizer as Matt Hundley forced Ketterer into a tough save with a dipping effort from distance in the 57th minute and the El Paso ‘keeper dove across his goal to keep out Jordan Schweitzer’s right-footed effort 17 minutes later. However, it was the hosts that got the vital next goal as Kiesewetter played Omar Salgado in down the left wing and he delivered an inch-perfect cross for Alexy Bosetti to fire home a first-time finish for his first goal for the club and to cap of a much-needed win for Locomotive FC.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Bryam Rebellón, El Paso Locomotive FC – Rebellón scored the game-winning goal, won 5 of 9 duels and recorded five clearances as well as six recoveries in defense to help Locomotive FC earn a shutout victory.

 

rio grande valley fc (3) v real monarchs slc (1)

EDINBURG, Texas – Rio Grande Valley ended its four-game losing streak with a comprehensive victory over the Monarchs at H-E-B Park. The hosts opened the scoring just after the half-hour from the penalty spot as Jesús Enríquez slid his right-footed effort under Real goalkeeper Evan Finney after Nico Lemoine had been brought down in the box. Luis Palma came close to finding an equalizer for the Monarchs on two separate occasions before the halftime whistle, first striking a volley from nearly 30 yards that forced a diving save out of Michael Nelson before seeing a curling shot from the edge of the area pushed onto the post by the RGVFC goalkeeper. The home side doubled its advantage 11 minutes after the break as Michael Salazar wiggled his way through two defenders before setting up Eric Bird for an easy right-footed finish from the center of the box. Things almost got even better for RGVFC in the 64th minute when Isidro Martinez attempted a spectacular bicycle kick from the right side of the box that beat Finney but struck the post. Salazar eventually put the game out of reach, running onto Jesús Enríquez’s through ball and slotting a right-footed finish into the bottom-right corner with 15 minutes remaining to put RGVFC up three. The Monarchs pulled a goal back from a free kick in the 81st minute as Kalen Ryden won the initial header at the back post and Damian German provided a sliding first-time finish past Nelson, but the home side was able to see out the final nine minutes for all three points.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Michael Salazar, Rio Grande Valley FC – Salazar recorded a goal and an assist, completed 81 percent of his passes and won 9 of 14 duels to help RGVFC claim its first win since August 24.

 

memphis 901 fc (1) v saint louis fc (0)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis 901 FC extended its winning streak to four games with an impressive victory over red-hot Saint Louis. A defensive-minded first half gave way to some offensive opportunities after the break as the visitors created the first clear cut chance of the game in the 52nd minute when Russell Cicerone picked out Tyler Blackwood with an inch-perfect right-wing cross, but the forward guided his header over the crossbar. That miss would prove to be vital as Memphis took the lead just two minutes later from a corner kick as Marcus Epps expertly nodded Cam Lindley’s near-post delivery past STLFC goalkeeper Jake Fenlason. Fenlason’s opposite number Jeff Caldwell ensured that goal would be enough for 901 FC, sprawling across his goal to keep out Lewis Hilton’s 66th-minute free kick as Memphis shut the door from there.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Cam Lindley, Memphis 901 FC – Lindley assisted on the game’s only goal while making six key passes and seven recoveries to help Memphis end Saint Louis’ five-game winning streak.

 

nashville sc (0) v pittsburgh riverhounds sc (0)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 10-man Hounds kept their fifth consecutive clean sheet in a scoreless draw with Nashville at First Tennessee Park.The two sides traded quality chances inside the first 15 minutes as Pittsburgh forward Steevan Dos Santos just fired wide of the target after an impressive attacking move from the Hounds, before Nashville leading scorer Daniel Ríos did well to settle Matt LaGrassa’s headed pass inside the box but saw his right-footed shot saved by goalkeeper Kyle Morton. The Hounds were reduced to 10 men in the 40th minute when defender Tobi Adewole was shown a straight red card and Nashville nearly took advantage just before the half as Ríos pulled the ball back for Lebo Moloto, who directed his shot wide from the center of the box with the goal at his mercy. Moloto came close to making amends in the 68th minute as he flashed a left-footed shot from the top of the box past an outstretched Morton but just wide of the post. The Pittsburgh goalkeeper made his best save of the night to deny Jimmy Ockford’s header from a corner kick with five minutes remaining and Nashville winger Alan Winn did some great defensive work moments later to keep Christian Volesky from a clean run on goal as the two sides settled for a point apiece.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Kyle Morton, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – The goalkeeper made four saves, including a vital reaction stop on Jimmy Ockford with five minutes remaining, to help the Hounds record their fifth straight shutout.

 

tulsa roughnecks fc (0) v orange county sc (1)

TULSA, Okla. – Orange County extended its winning streak to six games with a dramatic late victory over the Roughnecks at ONEOK Field. The hosts looked to apply the pressure early on as Tulsa midfielder Brayan Reyes played Cristian Altamirano in down the left flank, but the winger saw his close-range shot crucially blocked at the vital moment by Orange County captain Michael Orozco. The visitors nearly unlocked a resolute Roughnecks defense in the 71st minute when Harry Forrester released Darwin Jones down the right, but the forward saw his low shot saved by the legs of Tulsa goalkeeper Sean Lewis. The Roughnecks had a good look at goal with 12 minutes remaining as Manny Gonzalez lined up a free kick from 22 yards out, but the midfielder just sent his effort high of Frederik Due’s crossbar. Orange County dramatically grabbed a winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time as it cleared its lines from a Tulsa free kick for which the Roughnecks had sent everybody up and it resulted in a 2-on-0 breakaway, which Orozco played perfectly by taking Lewis out of the equation and squaring for Kevin Coleman to sweep into the empty net for a vital win.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Michael Orozco, Orange County SC – Orozco set up the game-winning goal, completed 87 percent of his passes and made four recoveries to help Orange County continue its chase for a top-four finish.

 

tampa bay rowdies (6) v bethlehem steel fc (1)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rowdies scored a season-high six goals to rout Steel FC at Al Lang Stadium. The hosts created a bit of good fortune to open the scoring in the 20th minute as Leo Fernandes whipped in a left-footed cross from the right wing and Juan Tejada won the initial header, flicking it on to the back post where Bethlehem defender Ben Ofeimu diverted it past his own goalkeeper Todd Morton. Tampa Bay doubled its lead just four minutes later as Malik Johnson danced through a pair of defenders on the right wing and provided a low cross to Sebastián Guenzatti, who took a poor first touch at the top of the six-yard box but recovered well by expertly chipping the ball over a sliding Morton. Kwadwo Poku added a third goal for the Rowdies in the 40th minute, taking Fernandes’ pass just outside the box and picking out the bottom-left corner with a finessed effort from 20 yards out. Tejada struck the post five minutes later, but Tampa Bay grabbed a fourth on the brink of halftime as Andrew Tinari provided a first-time finish to Johnson’s layoff that evaded Morton on its way to the top-left corner. Faris got Steel FC on the board from the penalty spot in the 69th minute, beating Rowdies goalkeeper John McCarthy after defender Caleb Richards had handled the ball in the area but Lucky Mkosana powered home from close range two minutes later after Johnson used his speed to get to the byline and once again deliver a fantastic pass across goal. The Rowdies rounded out the rout with a six goal in stoppage time as Afrim Taku beat Morton at his near post for his first goal with the club.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Malik Johnson, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Johnson was a constant threat down the right, providing three assists, completing 13 of 15 dribbles and winning 16 of 22 duels as the Rowdies romped to their highest-scoring outing of the season.

 

louisville city fc (5) v new york red bulls ii (3)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville outlasted the Red Bulls II in a high-flying contest at Slugger Field. The hosts came inches away from taking the lead in the ninth minute when midfielder Napo Matsoso played Magnus Rasmussen in on goal but LouCity’s leading scorer saw his low left-footed shot bounce back off the post. After getting a little bit of luck, New York went on to open the scoring in the 20th minute when Jared Stroud worked his way down the left wing and tried a cutback that fell perfectly to Vincent Bezecourt, who made no mistake with a left-footed finish past LouCity goalkeeper Chris Hubbard from about 15 yards out. Louisville responded with three unanswered goals over a 10-minute span to take control of the game, with Oscar Jimenez blasting a left-footed shot past Red Bulls II goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu from the left side of the box to tie the game in the 24th minute. Matsoso then blew the game open with two goals in three minutes, getting a bit of luck as a deflected effort found its way past Nuhu in the 31st minute, before following up on a long throw-in routine and providing a well-slotted finish to the bottom-right corner after Jordan Scarlett slid in to deny Rasmussen’s initial effort. New York cut the deficit in half from the penalty spot in the 37th minute as Stroud stepped up and sent Hubbard the wrong way after LouCity defender Sean Totsch was judged to have handled the ball in the area. Louisville added a fourth in first-half stoppage time on a clinical counterattack that saw Brian Ownby play a lovely through ball to Antoine Hoppenot, who hesitated to let his defender run past him before firing a low shot past Nuhu. Niall McCabe produced the best strike of the evening 14 minutes into the second half, cutting in field from the left wing and curling an outrageous strike past Nuhu and into the top-right corner from 25 yards out. New York didn’t call it quits though as the visitors reduced the deficit to 5-3 with 19 minutes remaining through Omar Sowe, who powered home Bezecourt’s cutback from the center of the box. Bezecourt had another great chance two minutes later as Hubbard parried Sowe’s shot from outside of the box into the midfielder’s path, but he screwed his shot off target and LouCity held on for all three points.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Napo Matsoso, Louisville City FC – Matsoso scored twice in three minutes to give Louisville the lead for good while also completing all 24 of his passes and making five recoveries in a strong all-around performance.

 

charlotte independence (0) v swope park rangers (3)

MATTHEWS, N.C. – Two goals from Wilson Harris helped the Rangers earn their first road win of the season over the Independence. The hosts nearly got off to the perfect start inside of two minutes when Enzo Martínez stood over a left-wing free kick and decided to go for goal from a difficult angle, curling a right-footed effort beyond Swope Park goalkeeper John Pulskamp but back into play off the crossbar. The Rangers took the lead against the run of play just shy of the half-hour mark when Harris nicked the ball off Kevan George just inside his own half and launched a one-man counterattack, dribbling all the way into the Charlotte box and firing a shot between the legs of his defender and into the bottom-left corner. Swope Park doubled its advantage 12 minutes after the second-half restart as Felipe Hernandez weaved his way through the Charlotte defense and slid a perfect pass to Harris, who beat Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller with a high right-footed finish for his second goal of the night. Martínez had a glorious chance to cut the deficit in half in the 65th minute as Zyen Jones raced down the left wing and crossed for the forward but he scuffed his shot with Pulskamp at his mercy. Harris had a chance to complete his hat trick with three minutes remaining as he got behind the Charlotte defense, but Miller made a sprawling stop only for Wan Kuzain to beat his marker to the rebound and slide the ball home into the empty net. The Independence won a penalty kick late in stoppage time as Harris was ruled to have handled the ball in the area, but Jorge Herrera skied the subsequent effort over the crossbar to sum up a tough night for the home side.

USLChampionship.com Man of the Match

Felipe Hernandez, Swope Park Rangers – Hernandez recorded an assist, eight key passes and completed 86 percent of his passes overall to help the Rangers record back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

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