High-scoring performances were the order of the day in the Play-In Round Quarterfinals of the USL eCup on Thursday evening as the players for OKC Energy FC, Hartford Athletic, Rio Grande Valley FC and Austin Bold FC all notched at least four tallies on their way to Friday’s Semifinals.
1. For the past two years, Frankie Lopez has knocked in goals consistently in the Championship. So far this week he’s done the same with Portugal, and that got OKC Energy FC into the Semifinals of the Play-In Bracket on Friday. Lopez has notched four goals in all three games of the bracket so far, but needed all of them in a 4-3 victory in the Quarterfinals against a solid Union Omaha side captained by Damia Viader with Norway, who rallied from a two-goal deficit to level inside the final 10 minutes against OKC. Lopez might have found a late winner this time thanks to Bernardo Silva, but I’m figuring everyone would welcome a rematch in Division A at some point next week.
2. You know you’re pretty good at a game when the fans in the comments are asking if you can tutor them on the game you’re playing. That’s the reaction that Hartford Athletic’s Tyreke Johnson produced – along with numerous renditions of Brass Bonanza – as his Scotland side ended Greenville Triumph SC’s run in the opening week. Johnson scored all four goals in a 4-0 victory in the first half, the last coming in stoppage time. If he’s half as effective on the field, the Athletic’s fans will be extremely happy when he takes the field at Dillon Stadium.
3. We’ve learned plenty about all of the players this week, but Rio Grande Valley FC’s Kembo Kibato has been one of the big revelations. Now, the Toros did draw Brazil, which is a very nice pull, but facing a higher seed for the first time this tournament nothing slowed down Neymar Jr. and company in a 4-0 victory against Saint Louis FC’s Phanuel Kavita and France. Les Bleus only recorded one shot on goal as Kibato ran away with the game with some great finishing after a scoreless first half. RGVFC has scored 14 goals in three games so far, the most of any side through three games.
- What was up with the four-goal halves on Thursday? First Hartford Athletic put up a four-spot in the first half against Greenville Triumph SC, then Rio Grande Valley FC did the same against Saint Louis FC, and to wrap up the night Austin Bold FC knocked in four against the New York Red Bulls II before the halftime whistle.
- After what felt like a slightly subpar performance in the Round of 16, Austin’s Valeri Saramutin was back to the blazing form he showed in the opening round on Tuesday with Italy. A 6-0 win against the Red Bulls II’s Omar Sowe and Chile was the biggest margin of victory in the tournament so far.
- As great as Hartford Athletic’s Tyreke Johnson was, it did feel a little like the regression to the mean that should have been expected for Greenville Triumph SC and Jake Keegan in their elimination from this week’s action. But with a place in Division A secure, next week is still full of promise.
- With four teams left in this week’s action, we know the four teams that will be on the leaderboard at the end of the opening week of the USL eCup points race. Now it’s time for the money rounds.
Round of 16
OKC Energy FC (Portugal) 4, Sacramento Republic FC (Mexico) 1
Hartford Athletic (Scotland) 4, Greenville Triumph SC (Poland) 0
OKC Energy FC (Portugal) 4, Union Omaha (Norway) 3
Rio Grande Valley FC (Brazil) 4, Saint Louis FC (France) 0
Austin Bold FC (Italy) 6, New York Red Bulls II (Chile) 0