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Gameday Report: September 28, Week 30

By USLChampionship.com, 09/28/19, 9:15PM EDT

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Phoenix crowned regular season title-winners; Louisville clinches playoff place

A packed Saturday night began with wins for North Carolina FC,  the Charlotte Independence, Nashville SC, and Memphis 901 FC, while Louisville City FC clinched its place in the USL Championship Playoffs despite a late comeback from the Rowdies that saw them score two goals in three minutes in the 87th and 89th minute to earn a point at Slugger Field. Then, after a lengthy weather delay, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC defeated the Indy Eleven, 3-0, at Highmark Stadium and catapulting to the top of the conference, level on points with Nashville SC. The loss for Indy also confirms Phoenix Rising FC as 2019 USL Championship Regular Season Title-winners. Wrapping up the Eastern Conference action, Saint Louis FC drew 1-1 with ATL UTD 2 at home with Tyler Blackwood continuing his scoring streak, bagging the hosts' lone goal.

Out in the Western Conference, Las Vegas Lights FC earned an important 3-1 win over Colorado Switchbacks FC to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. RGV FC halted Orange County SC's six-game winning streak with a 2-0 win at H-E-B Park thanks to goals from Kevin Rodríguez and Obregón Jr, while San Antonio FC collected a massive three points with a 2-1 win over Fresno FC at home. Elsewhere, Real Monarchs SLC edged one step closer to securing their place in the Championship Playoffs with a 2-1 win over Reno 1868 FC at Greater Nevada Field, while Phoenix Rising FC came back in dramatic fashion to earn a 2-2 draw against New Mexico United at "The Lab" in front of over 13,000 fans. LA Galaxy II's 5-1 win over OKC Energy FC boosted its playoff position while dealing a major blow to Energy FC's hopes, who are winless since August 24, and the Tacoma Defiance and Tulsa Roughnecks FC dueled to a 1-1 draw at Cheney Stadium, with the hosts capitalizing on the opposition's limited numbers and finding a late equalizer to keep a point. Ending off the night, El Paso Locomotive FC stole three points late against Sacramento Republic FC in a 2-1 win at Papa Murphy's Park, a result that helps their playoff push in a big way.

 

sacramento republic fc (1) v el paso locomotive fc (2)

 

tacoma defiance (1) v tulsa roughnecks fc (1)

TACOMA, Wa. – The Tacoma Defiance and Tulsa Roughnecks FC dueled to a 1-1 draw at Cheney Stadium, with the hosts capitalizing on limited numbers late in the second half to find an equalizer and keep a point. Scoreless through the opening hour, the visitors broke the deadlock when Roughnecks FC playmaker Cristhian Altamirano picked out forward Tobenna Uzo with a cross at the back post, and Uzo headed down and into goal past Tacoma netminder Trey Muse. However, the game took a turn in the 75th minute when Uzo was sent off for picking up a second yellow after a foul on a Defiance player. Pushing ahead for a goal, the Defiance were rewarded when defender Nicholas Hinds played a low ball in front of goal for Shandon Hopeau, and the midfielder poked a near post effort past Tulsa goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar to level the scoring in the 86th minute and secure a point. 

USL Championship Man of the Match

Nicholas Hinds, Tacoma Defiance – Hinds tallied the assist on Hopeau’s goal and created an additional chance while completing 83 percent of his passes, making two tackles, and winning 7 of 11 duels in 90 minutes. 

 

LA Galaxy II (5) v OKC Energy FC (1)

CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy II dealt a massive blow to OKC Energy FC’s playoff hopes with a 5-1 win over the visitors at Dignity Health Sports Park. OKC would take the lead after seven minutes when forward Deshorn Brown intercepted an errant pass from a Galaxy II defender before firing low to the far post past LA goalkeeper Justin vom Steeg. However, two goals from the hosts in the 23rd minute through forward Kai Koreniuk and in the 40th minute through forward Ethan Zubak helped turn the game on its head before the halftime interval. Three goals in the span of 10 minutes between the 73rd and 83rd minute truly separated the two sides, though, with Zubak bagging his brace to start the spree, substitute Augustine Williams’ tallying in the 80th minute after entering in the 76th minute, and Jose Hernández scoring in the 83rd minute after entering in the 81st minute. The win improves LA’s playoff position with four games to play, while OKC’s playoff chances plummet with just three games remaining.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Ethan Zubak, LA Galaxy II – Zubak scored LA’s second and third goal and created an additional chance while also completing 80 percent of his chances in 76 minutes of action. 

 

new mexico united (2) v phoenix rising fc (2)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Phoenix Rising FC clawed back from a two-goal deficit to earn a 2-2 draw against New Mexico United in front of over 13,000 at “The Lab” in Albuquerque. Jumping out quickly, the hosts needed just four minutes of action to open the scoring when defender Manny Padilla swung in a cross from the right flank, and the forward Sandoval produced an acrobatic finish to beat Phoenix goalkeeper Zac Lubin from a few yards out and open the scoring. The hosts held that lead through the remainder of the first half and would go on to double the advantage eight minutes after the interval. Earning a corner kick, midfielder Chris Wehan swung in his delivery to the far post, forcing Lubin to come out and attempt to deal with it but the goalkeeper could not get a touch on the ball and defender Justin Schmidt was able to direct an effort on goal for New Mexico’s second of the night. However, Phoenix would not go quietly and pulled one back after 73 minutes when defender Corey Whelan fed substitute Joey Calistri, who sliced an effort to the far post past United goalkeeper Ben Beaury and in. Then, just minutes after the visitors had twice hit the bar, a failed clearance in the 90th minute led to a perfect opportunity for Calistri at the top of the box, and the attacker settled and rifled a shot past Beaury to the far post and in to spoil the hosts’ party and help Phoenix avoid back-to-back defeats for what would have been the first time since the end of the 2018 regular season.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Joey Calistri, Phoenix Rising FC – Calistri led Phoenix’s comeback efforts with two goals in 16 minutes to help earn the point, and he chipped in an additional chance created and completed just over 81 percent of his passes in the 28-minute cameo. 

 

Reno 1868 fc (1) v Real Monarchs SLC (2)

RENO, Nev. – Real Monarchs SLC stole three points on the road against Reno 1868 FC and inched closer toward securing a playoff berth with a 2-1 win at Greater Nevada Field on Saturday night. The hosts were first to strike near the half hour mark as midfielder Seth Casiple recycled a set-piece and picked out forward Danny Musovski at the near post, who beat Monarchs goalkeeper David Ochoa from close in to score the game’s first goal. However, the visitors saw light at the end of the tunnel in the first half and leveled the scoring after 41 minutes when midfielder Maikel Chang played in defender Noah Powder, who did well to beat a pair of defenders before poking a shot past Reno goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski just before the break. Both teams looked likely to find a second goal in the second half, but seven minutes from time, it was the Monarchs who ended up taking the spoils as defender Erik Holt fired to the far post and in after a corner found him stranded at the back post, scoring the winner and helping push his side closer to the postseason.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Noah Powder, Real Monarchs SLC – Powder was everywhere for the Monarchs, scoring the winner on one end while also winning 7 of 11 duels and completing over 95 percent of his passes to help his side get three points.

 

san antonio fc (2) v fresno fc (1)

SAN ANTONIO, Tx. – San Antonio FC collected a huge three points at Toyota Field on Saturday night, defeating second place Fresno FC, 2-1, with goals from Walter Restrepo and Moisés Hernández lifting the hosts. Restrepo put the hosts in front after just 17 minutes when Hernández played him in and he pushed a finessed effort past Fresno goalkeeper C.J. Cochran to open the scoring. Holding that lead through halftime, Fresno then pulled one back in the 55th minute when midfielder Alex Cooper curled a free kick over the wall and past San Antonio goalkeeper Matt Cardone from 20 yards out to level the score. However, San Antonio would not be denied after 67 minutes when Restrepo played in Hernández this time, and the talented midfielder tiptoed his way past a pair of defenders before roofing an effort that would nearly break the top of the net on its way in. The result keeps San Antonio FC very much in the playoff conversation while Fresno suffers defeat after derailing Phoenix’s winning streak last weekend.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Moisés Hernández, San Antonio FC – Hernández provided the assist on San Antonio’s first goal before scoring the winner after the hour mark, also contributing two chances created and winning seven of eight duels in 90 minutes of play.

 

saint louis fc (1) v atlanta united 2 (1)

SAINT LOUIS, Mo. – Saint Louis FC drew 1-1 with ATL UTD 2 at West Community Stadium on Saturday, with forward Tyler Blackwood continuing his scoring streak before Amir Bashti’s beautiful strike for the visitors leveled the score for good. Scoreless through the opening 67 minutes, Saint Louis was the first to break the deadlock when defender Bradley Kamdem Fewo lifted a cross to the back post for Blackwood, who produced a deft touch with his foot to beat ATL UTD 2 goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira. However, five minutes later, the visitors scored their lone goal of the net as the substitute Bashti latched onto a bouncing ball at the top of the box and rifled an effort to the top left corner and in past STLFC goalkeeper Tomas Gómez. The hosts had one more golden chance to snatch victory late on, but substitute Mastanabal Kacher’s effort did not get past Castanheira as the sides settled for a point apiece.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Tyler Blackwood, Saint Louis FC – Blackwood scored Saint Louis FC’s lone goal and created an additional two chances while also completing over 89 percent of his passes across 90 minutes in the draw. 

 

rio grande valley fc (2) v orange county sc (0)

EDINBURG, Tx. – RGV FC ended Orange County FC’s six-game winning streak at H-E-B Park thanks to a 2-0 win featuring strikes from Kevin Rodríguez and Juan Carlos Obregón Jr. Scoreless through the first half, the second half saw both teams pick up the intensity with three yellow cards handed out in the 53rd, 54th, and 55th minutes, one to an RGV FC player and two to Orange County SC players. The Toros were the first to find a goal, though, when the midfielder Rodríguez took a pass from Isidro Martinez before producing a brilliant solo burst that spanned most of the opposition half and poking an effort past OCSC goalkeeper Frederik Due to open the scoring. Then, in the 85th minute, RGV FC took advantage of numbers on the break with substitute Carlos Small dancing around Due before laying off to Obregón Jr for an easy finish from close in. The win keeps RGV FC’s postseason hopes still in sight while preventing OCSC from taking a more commanding stance in the Western Conference playoff race.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Kevin Rodríguez, RGV FC Toros – Rodríguez was the Toros’ main attacking threat on Saturday night, bagging a goal and creating an additional chances while completing just shy of 78 percent of his passes and winning 8 of 11 duels in a nearly full outing at H-E-B Park. 

 

pittsburgh riverhounds sc (3) v indy eleven (0)

PITTSBURGH, Penn. – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC weathered the storm at Highmark Stadium against Indy Eleven, knocking off one of the conference pacesetters 3-0 thanks to a goal from Neco Brett and brace from Kenardo Forbes. The teams experienced a lengthy delay after just four minutes due to weather conditions in Pittsburgh, but upon the restart the hosts found an early spark when forward Neco Brett’s bullet of a free kick in the 15th minute flew past Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton for the game’s opening goal. In the 40th minute, it seemed as if Forbes was attempting to one-up his teammate Brett with a rocket of an effort after a pass from forward Mouhamed Dabo allowed him to unleash a distance effort the dipped down into the upper left-hand corner and in. As Pittsburgh tightened its grip on the match, Kenardo Forbes put an exclamation mark on the result as he collected a pass from Brett inside the box on the left-hand side before cutting up and whipping a low effort to the far post past Newton and in. The win is a major boost for Pittsburgh, who are now level at the top of the Eastern Conference on points with Nashville SC.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Kenardo Forbes, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – A brace from Forbes helped lock down the win as the forward contributed an additional two chances and completed 87 percent of his passes in 90 minutes of action.

 

memphis 901 fc (5) v bethlehem steel fc (0)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis 901 FC got back to winning ways thanks to an emphatic 5-0 win over Bethlehem Steel FC at AutoZone Park on Saturday, with four of the five goals coming in the opening 36 minutes. The hosts wasted little time finding the back of the net when forward Elliott Collier took a pass from midfielder Cameron Lindley and took advantage of a slip by a Steel FC defender, streaking in on goal and firing past Bethlehem goalkeeper Todd Morton to open the scoring. Eight minutes later, a beautiful ball over the top from Memphis defender Liam Doyle set in midfielder Marcus Epps, who did well to slice an effort past Morton to the far post and in. Then, after 29 minutes, Brandon Allen found the first of his two goals on the night when he collected a pass from Lindley and turned inside before curling a left-footed effort into the side netting. Seven minutes later, Allen tapped in a close-range effort after a pass across goal from midfielder Adam Najem helped ignite the Memphis attack once more. Keeping the four-goal lead through halftime, Memphis added one more five minutes into the second half when Lindley’s corner found defender Josh Morton before skipping to defender Liam Doyle, who had a tap-in header at the back post for the game’s final goal.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Cameron Lindley, Memphis 901 FC – Lindley registered assists on 901 FC’s opening two goals and created six chances in total while also completing a monstrous 93 percent of his passes, including 86 percent in the opposition half, and winning two of two duels in 70 minutes.

 

colorado springs switchbacks fc (1) v las vegas lights fc (3)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Col. – Las Vegas Lights FC kept its slim playoff hopes alive by defeating Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 3-1, at Weidner Field with all three goals coming in the second half. Though scoreless through the opening 45 minutes, Lights FC began to gain momentum early in the second half and saw persistence pay off after 55 minutes when midfielder Irvin Parra finished to the far post after a perfectly placed pass from forward Preston Tabort Etaka put the chance on a plate. Holding that lead for nearly a full half hour, Las Vegas then scored twice in three minutes to all but confirm the result, with Preston finishing off a counter attack sprung on by Parra’s pass in the 81st minute before Parra scored his second of the game, tapping in a pass from substitute Cristian Martinez, who did well to steal the ball off a Switchbacks FC defender before finding his teammate. Colorado Springs found a late consolation goal in the 92nd minute when defenders Ismaila Jome and Abdul Rwatubyaye connected, but it was too little too late to affect the result as Las Vegas carries home an important three points.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Irvin Parra, Las Vegas Lights FC – Parra bagged a brace and tallied the assist on Tabort Etaka’s goal while creating an additional chance to help carry Lights FC over the line in 90 minutes of action.

 

loudoun united fc (0) v nashville sc (2)

LEESBURG, Va. – Nashville SC pushed its way to the top of the Eastern Conference on Saturday night with a 2-0 win over Loudoun United FC at Segra Field. The visitors established a lead after 19 minutes when forwards Ropapa Mensah and Daniel Rios connected as Mensah streaked down the right side and found Rios a few yards out from goal for a tap-in past Loudoun goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. and the game’s first goal. Nashville clung onto that lead through the duration of the first half and found what proved to be an insurance goal ten minutes into the second half, this time Mensah doing it himself as he cut to the byline on the right side of the box before flashing a shot to the far post and in. The win temporarily leaves Nashville at the top of the Eastern Conference on 58 points, one ahead of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Red Bulls II, and could leave them there dependent on the Pittsburgh-Indy result.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Ropapa Mensah, Nashville SC – Mensah tallied the assist on Nashville’s first goal before scoring its second while creating two total chances and remaining a threat the whole evening for the visitors.  

 

north carolina fc (3) v ottawa fury fc (1)

CARY, N.C. – North Carolina FC boosted its playoff hopes with an important 3-1 win over Ottawa Fury FC at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday night thanks to a goal from Sam Brotherton and late winner from Nazmi Albadawi. Ottawa needed just four minutes to get on the scoresheet as defender Carl Haworth’s delivery from the corner found the head of midfielder Thiago at the near post, who headed it back to the far post and into the side netting. Holding that lead through halftime, Ottawa would make it eight minutes into the second half before the conceded at the same goal they scored on when NCFC’s Graham Smith’s corner found defender Sam Brotherton, whose powerful header beat Fury FC goalkeeper Callum Irving to tie the game. In the 82nd minute, NCFC put its stamp on the game when Manny Perez flew down the right side and picked out forward Robert Kristo, who found the top left corner with an effort that had Irving rooted to the spot. As the clocked ticked toward fulltime, North Carolina FC had one more trick up their sleeve when Perez’s run into the area saw him flick a pass across the box to Albadawi, who showed his composure by turning and rolling an effort to the far post to seal it late for the hosts.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Manny Perez, North Carolina FC – Though subbed on with just 20 minutes to play, Perez contributed two assists and created two chances while winning four of five duels and made the most of his time on the field.

 

louisville city fc (2) v tampa bay rowdies (2)

LOUISVILLE, Ken. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies completed an incredible late comeback to earn a point at Slugger Field against Louisville City FC, with former City forward Lucky Mkosana netting the equalizer in the 89th minute to seal the result. LouCity got the scoring started in the 35th minute following a set-piece routine that saw defender Oscar Jimenez, who has been amongst the league’s best in chances created over the last three seasons, whip in a free kick to the back post for defender Paco Craig to latch onto and head past Rowdies goalkeeper John McCarthy. Louisville would hold onto that lead well into the second half before going onto to double it in the 79th minute, when substitute forward Luke Spencer found midfielder Napo Matsoso, who finished in front of The Coopers section for his team’s second goal. Though the Rowdies then lost midfielder Jordan Doherty to a second yellow four minutes later, they were able to find a twist when forward Sebastian Guenzatti converted from the spot in the 87th minute to pull one back. Immediately launching an attack again, the Rowdies needed just two minutes to find a second of their own as substitutes Shawn Barry and Mkosana linked up with the later beating Louisville goalkeeper Chris Hubbard with a well-placed header to help steal the show. The draw sees the Rowdies actually move down to fourth in the Eastern Conference, while Louisville City FC clinches a place in the USL Championship Playoffs for the fifth straight season.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Paco Craig, Louisville City FC – Craig’s goal helped kick start Louisville in the first half but his defensive performance was equally as impressive, making five clearances and six interceptions, while also completing just shy of 83 percent of his passes.

 

charlotte independence (4) v hartford athletic (0)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Independence put on a show for the just over 2,300 in attendance at Sportsplex at Matthews on Saturday, defeating the Hartford Athletic, 4-0, with all four goals coming in the second half. Scoreless through the opening hour of the match, Charlotte’s Alex Martinez made the difference when he produced a brilliant volley to the back post off Abdoulie Mansally’s cross for his team’s first goal. Then, the Independence scored two in two minutes as Enzo Martinez converted from the penalty spot in the 74th minute before Ricardo Bocanegra took an Enzo Martinez pass and fired an effort past Hartford goalkeeper Cody Cropper from distance for Charlotte’s third. Finally, Enzo Martinez scored his second of the match late in stoppage time as he again found the far corner, this time off a pass from Jorge Herrera, to put the icing on the cake and cap off a four-goal performance.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence – Martinez scored twice, assisted on another, and created four chances in whole to lead Charlotte’s potent attack in one of their biggest wins of the season.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – El Paso Locomotive FC came back from a one-goal deficit to earn a late win against Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park on Saturday night, helping their playoff push in a big way. The hosts found an early lead after 14 minutes when forward Thomas Enevoldsen pounced on a loose ball at the back post following a set piece, with defender Matt Mahoney heading on the chance. Sacramento held onto that lead through the rest of the first half but conceded quickly in the second half when Locomotive FC defender Bryam Rebellón drilled a rebounded effort to the far post past Republic FC goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and in. A tense match throughout the duration of the second half, Locomotive FC ended up finding the extra edge necessary to win when substitute Josue Gómez came through with a late winner in the 91st minute, taking advantage of a botched clearance by the Republic FC defense by lashing home a close-range effort to take all three points late on.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Bryam Rebellón, El Paso Locomotive FC – Rebellón scored El Paso’s equalizer and created one additional chance on the attacking end, while also making three tackles and winning 8 of 12 duels in 90 minutes.

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