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Gameday Report: October 16, Week 33

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 10/16/19, 9:15PM EDT

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Birmingham, Charleston improve Eastern Conference playoff standing; Austin becomes second expansion side to clinch playoff place

The Indy Eleven closed out its 2019 regular season slate with a 2-1 win over Swope Park Rangers at Lucas Oil Stadium thanks to a brace from the Championship's all-time leading goalscorer Dane Kelly. The win guarantees Indy at least one home game in the Championship Playoffs. Elsewhere, the Charleston Battery produced a solid performance in a 2-0 win at home over Memphis 901 FC, both eliminating the visitors from playoff contention and lifting the Battery over the playoff line with one regular season game remaining. A first half goal from captain Taylor Mueller off a Zeiko Lewis corner was added to by Lewis just after the hour mark, when he finished off a move by twisting through two defenders a poking a shot home from close range to seal the result. Then, Birmingham Legion FC picked up a crucial three points to keep their place in the Eastern Conference playoff race when they defeated the New York Red Bulls II, 2-1, at BBVA Field thanks to goals from Brian Wright and Prosper Kasim.

In the Western Conference, Austin Bold FC became the second expansion side to clinch a place in the USL Championship Playoffs after a comeback 2-2 draw against Real Monarchs SLC at Zions Bank Stadium helped seal their fate. Then, the Tacoma Defiance produced an incredible defensive performance to hold New Mexico United to a 1-1 draw, with goalkeeper Trey Muse keeping the hosts out on multiple occasions. With the draw, United no longer control their fate in the race for the playoffs with one game remaining in the regular season.

NEW MEXICO UNITED (1) V TACOMA DEFIANCE (1)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico United and the Tacoma Defiance split the points in a 1-1 draw that nearly saw the hosts come away with all three points in a wild ending at Isotopes Park on Wednesday night. An action-packed opening saw Tacoma strike first after just seven minutes when midfielder Azriel Gonzalez produced some nifty footwork before cutting toward the byline and firing a low effort past New Mexico goalkeeper Cody Mizell to the far post and in. However, the hosts needed just one minute to level the scoring when forward Kevaughn Frater broke past multiple defenders to the byline where he centered a pass for midfielder Chris Wehan, who tapped in from a few yards out beating Defiance goalkeeper Trey Muse. The visitors posed another threat in the 26th minute when forward Alec Diaz tried to beat Mizell from distance, but the shotstopper got both palms on the effort and parried it away to safety. Locked through the halftime break, New Mexico’s next quality opportunity came in the 55th minute when Frater again attempted to slip in a teammate, this time finding forward Devon Sandoval whose point-blank effort was well saved by Muse. The hosts continued to pile pressure on the Defiance goal late on and a frantic finish saw Tacoma somehow keep out multiple efforts on goal, thanks to Muse and a pair of goal line clearances. In the end, the sides kept a point and despite registering a Championship season-high 36 shots on the night, the draw mean New Mexico United no longer controls their destiny in the playoff picture with one game remaining in the regular season.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Kevaughn Frater, New Mexico United – Frater was United’s catalyst in attack, providing the assist on their opening goal and creating nine chances in total while completing over 83 percent of his passes, including over 83 percent in the opposition half, in 90 minutes of action.

REAL MONARCHS SLC (2) V AUSTIN BOLD FC (2)

Herriman, Utah – Austin Bold FC punched their ticket to the USL Championship Playoffs on Wednesday night after a 1-1 draw with Real Monarchs SLC at Zions Bank Stadium. The hosts jumped out in front after just five minutes when midfielder Julian Vázquez latched onto a through ball and whipped a powerful low effort to the far post which beat Bold FC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo for an early boost. However, Austin found an equalizer in the 18th minute when midfielder Ema Twumasi went on a run that saw him dash past multiple Monarchs defenders on his way to goal, where he pushed an effort past goalkeeper Andrew Putna from a few yards out. Halftime substitute Kyle Coffee seemed to have a near instant, though, putting his team back in front in the 55th minute when he settled Steve Jasso’s pass before beating Restrepo with a well-struck shot to the right of goal. But Austin’s instant response made things interesting again as forward André Lima headed home defender Sean McFarlane’s cross just two minutes later. The hosts came close to sending Austin home without a point with one last effort on goal, but Sam Brown’s powerful drive on goal from just outside the 18-yard box rifled off the crossbar and away from goal as both sides earned a point.

USL Championship Man of the Match

André Lima, Austin Bold FC – Lima scored Austin’s second goal and created two chances while winning 9 of 11 aerial duels in 90 minutes of play.

BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC (2) V NEW YORK RED BULLS II (1)

BIRMINGHAM Ala. – Birmingham Legion FC helped their inaugural season playoff cause in a great way with a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls II at BBVA Field despite playing down a man for the final 48 minutes of the game. Legion FC started off with a bang after just 10 minutes when midfielder Daniel Johnson played in forward Brian Wright, who rounded New York goalkeeper Evan Louro before tapping in from a few yards out to open the scoring. Birmingham saw off the Red Bulls II attack for the remainder of the first half, but their tone changed slightly when defender Kyle Culbertson was shown a straight red card after being judged to have taken down an attacker as the last man on a scoring opportunity. Holding the lead into the second half, the hosts wasted next to no time finding a second goal when midfielder Anderson Asiedu whipped a ball across the center for Prosper Kasim, who found the bottom far corner after just 31 seconds to provide a cushion. However, New York would not be kept at bay forever and, after 67 minutes, they were able to pull one back when midfielder Sebastian Elney flicked an effort toward goal that took a deflection of Birmingham’s Kyle Fisher before angling into the back of the net. Both teams upped the energy in the remaining 23 minutes as Birmingham created a pair of chances for separation that went array and the Red Bulls II were denied a few times by Legion FC goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel and his defense, and in the end, Legion FC kept their place in the playoff race with an all-important victory.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Prosper Kasim Birmingham Legion FC – Kasim’s winner early in the second half lifted Legion FC over New York, and the midfielder chipped in an additional chance created while also winning 10 of 16 duels including 2 of 2 aerial duels.  

CHARLESTON BATTERY (2) V MEMPHIS 901 FC (0)

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery lifted themselves over the playoff line with a huge 2-0 win over Memphis 901 FC in their second-to-last regular season game of the year. Memphis, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, were closest to strike first when midfielder Cameron Lindley forced a good save out of Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky off a loose ball following a corner kick in the 11th minute. However, the Battery grew more into the game as the half wore on and, after Arthur Bosua put Memphis goalkeeper Scott Leven into action minutes earlier, they would break through when midfielder Zeiko Lewis picked out the head of defender Taylor Mueller off a corner kick at the other end where Mueller nodded them in front after 30 minutes. The Battery held that lead through the halftime break and eventually doubled their advantage just after the hour mark when Lewis scored one of his own after twisting around a pair of Memphis defenders a few yards in front of goal before poking a low effort past Levene and in. The Battery nearly added a third when midfielder Nico Rittmeyer broke in on goal in the 75th minute, and though he could not direct his effort on frame, Charleston’s two goals were enough to carry them over the playoff line with one game remaining.

USL Championship Man of the Match

Zeiko Lewis, Charleston Battery – Lewis tallied the assist on Charleston’s first goal and scored their second while creating four chances and completing over 93 percent of his passes, including over 83 percent in the opposition half, to help the Battery to a needed win. 

INDY ELEVEN (2) V SWOPE PARK RANGERS (1)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indy Eleven guaranteed itself at least one home game in the playoffs with a 2-1 win over Swope Park Rangers in the regular season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium. An exciting first few minutes saw the “Boys In Blue” create a decent opportunity through forward Tyler Pasher, who collected a one-two pass and forced a good save out of Swope Park goalkeeper Eric Dick. Later efforts in the first half by fellow forwards Dane Kelly and Cristian Novia also threated the Rangers goal but neither were able to convert as the pair went scoreless into halftime. Looking to capitalize on first half momentum, Indy would eventually break through a well-organized Rangers defense after 56 minutes when Ayoze found Kelly with a cross near the top of the six-yard box, and the league’s all-time leading goalscorer did what he does best as he headed a close-range effort past Dick. However, Swope Park maintained their resilience and produced a goal of their own just one minute later when midfielder Ethan Vanacore-Decker lifted a cross near the byline to the center for forward Wilson Harris, whose deft header looped over Indy shotstopper Jordan Farr to level the score. Both teams continued to pressure the other’s goal, but Indy would restore their lead when midfielder Kenney Walker connected with Kelly, who flicked a shot past Dick for his second and his team’s second of the night. Pasher would have a pair of chances in the 71st and 86th minute to add an insurance goal for the Eleven, but the result would hold firm as Indy earned three points to round out their regular season run. 

USL Championship Man of the Match

Dane Kelly, Indy Eleven – Kelly remained a constant threat in his 83 minutes of action, and his brace on three total shots helped the Eleven earn what they needed to secure at least one playoff game in Indianapolis this season.

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