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THE MORNING TEA – Response Key in King’s Cup Clash for LouCity, STLFC

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 07/18/20, 7:30AM EDT

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Get previews for all of this weekend’s action; Reno excited for return against Sacramento

Ten games are on the slate between Saturday afternoon and Monday night, including three on national television via ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Here’s your Morning Tea to get ready for the weekend.

 

THE BIG STORY

The previous editions of the Kings’ Cup between Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC have proven consequential in their own ways over the years.

This year, though? There might be a playoff berth hanging in the balance between the two rivals.

Together in Group E, both LouCity and STLFC are having to fight Indy Eleven for the two places in the playoffs at the end of the 2020 USL Championship campaign. With both sides losing ground to the Eleven last weekend after STLFC fell at Indy and LouCity was defeated by Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, this Saturday’s clash at Lynn Family Stadium is an important opportunity for both to bounce back.

For Louisville, that’s certainly the plan.

“We’re very anxious about setting this right and showing our fans that we are much better team than what we showed this past Sunday,” said Head Coach John Hackworth to reporters this week. “This is a group that’s always had a good response when we do have a setback, and that’s the expectation for us.”

LouCity certainly has tended to bounce back well from setbacks in the past. A year ago, the side only suffered back-to-back defeats twice all campaign, while in 2018 it only happened once.

STLFC, on the other hand, hasn’t always been as fortunate, with its four-game losing streak to end the 2019 season – and three other instances of back-to-back defeats – a key factor in the side missing out on a playoff berth a year ago. How new Head Coach Steve Trittschuh’s side responds in its first trip to Lynn Family Stadium to its defeat by Indy might give us an early indication of which direction Group E is headed.

The rivalry aside, both teams will be all-out for victory on Saturday night.

"These games, because of the aspect of only the top two advances (to the playoffs), are like six-point games,” said Hackworth. “Especially coming off of Sunday, where we don’t have the kind of result that we want…both teams, having lost on the weekend, are coming into a position playing their first divisional opponent. This game has added importance because of that.” 

 

THIS WEEKEND'S ACTION

SATURDAY, JULY 18


Real Monarchs SLC v Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

(0-2-0)
Group C

4:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: SLC Wins 52% | Draw 25% | COS Wins 23%
(1-1-0)
Group C
The Gist: The Rocky Mountain rivals meet for the first time this season with both in need of a win for differing reasons. For the Monarchs, victory would be a solid first step to getting the defense of their Championship title on track after defeats to San Antonio FC and San Diego Loyal SC in their first two outings of the season. For the Switchbacks, the opportunity is at hand to move on top of Group C after El Paso Locomotive FC and New Mexico United’s draw on Wednesday night. After the Monarchs swept the home-and-home series a season ago, there might be added motivation for the Switchbacks to turn the tables, too.

Indy Eleven vs. Sporting Kansas City II

(2-0-0)
Group E

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: IND Wins 79%| Draw 15% | SKC Wins 6%
(0-1-0)
Group E
The Gist: The Eleven looked just like the title contenders they are in a victory against Saint Louis FC last Saturday night, and they’ll look to put in a third consecutive win to start the season when facing Sporting Kansas City II. The visitors are making their return to action on Saturday having suffered a defeat in their opening game in March against the Charlotte Independence. Now SKC II will need to find a way to contain former player Tyler Pasher, who has a streak of goals in four consecutive games going.

Atlanta United 2 vs. Memphis 901 FC

(0-2-0)
Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: ATL Wins 31% | Draw 26% | MEM Wins 43%
(0-2-0)
Group G
The Gist: Memphis 901 FC will be looking for a far sharper performance than in its defeat to Birmingham Legion FC on Wednesday night when it visits Atlanta United 2. Memphis conceded three times in the opening half on the road against Birmingham and is looking for its first points of the season after also falling to Indy Eleven back in March. Atlanta almost came away with a stellar result on the road last Saturday but was unable to hold on in a 2-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The resolve the side showed could be a positive sign for Head Coach Stephen Glass moving forward, however, as it too looks for its first points of 2020.
Discipline: Atlanta - Suspended: Amir Bashti

Philadelphia Union II vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

(0-0-1)
Group F

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Subaru Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: PHI Wins 16% | Draw 22% | PIT Wins 63%
(1-0-0)
Group F
The Gist: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will try to build on an impressive road display in its season opener and start to build a lead in Group F when it visits in-state foe the Union II. The Hounds rallied from an early deficit to claim a 3-1 victory against Louisville City FC last Sunday afternoon, burnishing their credentials as the likely team to beat in the five-team Northeastern-based group. Now they visit a Union II side that almost came away with victory in its opening game in March, but was forced to settle for a 0-0 draw with Loudoun United FC.

Louisville City FC vs. Saint Louis FC

(1-1-0)
Group E

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: LOU Wins 44% | Draw 27% | STL Wins 29%
(1-1-0)
Group E
The Gist:The four scheduled meetings for the Kings’ Cup this season were already going to be high-profile contests, but with both Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC coming off defeats in their last outings, this meeting at Lynn Family Stadium could allow one side to gain the upper hand in Group E’s playoff race. Louisville started brightly against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC as Speedy Williams scored the first goal in Lynn Family Stadium history, but then struggled to withstand the Hounds’ pressure as it fell 3-1. STLFC, meanwhile, suffered a 2-0 setback on the road at Indy Eleven, and goes straight from the pressure of Lucas Oil Stadium to facing its biggest rival at its new home.

Tacoma Defiance vs. Portland Timbers 2

(0-2-1)
Group A

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Cheney Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: TAC Wins 29% | Draw 22% | POR Wins 48%
(0-1-0)
Group A
The Gist: Tacoma Defiance pulled off one of the best results of the resumption on Monday night as it rallied to take a 3-3 draw on the road against Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park. The Defiance will look to carry the momentum of that contest – which saw Jesse Daley and Ray Serrano score second-half goals to pull their side level – into a first meeting this season with T2, which returns to action after suffering a 6-1 drubbing by Phoenix Rising FC in its first game of the season. There should be plenty of good young talent on display, which could make for an entertaining clash between the rivals.

SUNDAY, JULY 19


Charleston Battery vs. Birmingham Legion FC

(1-0-0)
Group H

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Patriot’s Point Soccer Complex

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: CHS Wins 39% | Draw 29% | BHM Wins 33%
(1-0-0)
Group G
The Gist: The Charleston Battery kick off a new era at their new home at Patriot’s Point with a visit from Legion FC, and will hope to build on victory in its opening game of the season in March against Atlanta that saw Zeiko Lewis score the only goal of the game. That could be a challenge against Birmingham, which hit the ground running in its return to action on Wednesday night in the form of a 3-0 win against Memphis 901 FC that saw first-year pro Bruno Lapa record two goals and an assist. The defensive strength of the Battery should get a good test in this one.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. San Antonio FC

(0-2-0)
Group D

9:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: H-E-B Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: RGV Wins 17% | Draw 21% | SA Wins 62%
(1-0-0)
Group D
The Gist: After postponement from Friday night, the Toros and SAFC will kick off the 2020 edition of the South Texas Derby in the Rio Grande Valley with the hosts looking to rebound from consecutive setbacks to start the season. RGVFC conceded a late goal to fall 1-0 to El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday night as it returned to action, and while that marked an improvement on their opening weekend display against the LA Galaxy II, there is still progress needed for Head Coach Gerson Echeverry’s side. Going up against a rival in San Antonio FC that took victory in its opening game against Real Monarchs SLC could provide that added energy for the hosts, and SAFC will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the 3-1 defeat the Toros handed them on their last trip to H-E-B Park.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Reno 1868 FC

(0-0-2)
Group A

9:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Papa Murphy’s Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: SAC Wins 40% | Draw 25% | RNO Wins 35%
(1-0-0)
Group A
The Gist: The first Donner Pass Derby of the season brings together the two favorites to advance out of Group A, but also finds Sacramento Republic FC looking to put a disappointing result in the rearview mirror against its rival. Sacramento held a two-goal halftime lead against Tacoma Defiance on Monday night at Papa Murphy’s Park, but let the lead slip to end in a 3-3 draw. That left Reno a point ahead of Republic FC – which has recorded back-to-back draws to start the season – and with 1868 FC having dominated the rivalry’s regular-season history to the tune of a 5-1-1 record, another win would open up a nice gap at the top of the standings early for Head Coach Ian Russell’s side.

San Diego Loyal SC vs. LA Galaxy II

(2-0-1)
Group B

10:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Torero Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: SD Wins 48% | Draw 25% | LA Wins 26%
(1-1-0)
Group B
The Gist: San Diego Loyal SC Head Coach Landon Donovan will welcome the organization with which he won four MLS Cups to Torero Stadium as SD Loyal looks to continue its fine start to its inaugural campaign. San Diego took a big road victory against Real Monarchs SLC last Saturday, and after the draw between Phoenix Rising FC and Orange County SC on Thursday night sits level on points with Phoenix at the top of Group B. Another win against a Los Dos side that struggled without the key attackers from its season-opening win against Rio Grande Valley FC last week, and SD Loyal will be a quarter of the way through its season on a direct line toward the playoffs.

MONDAY, JULY 20


Hartford Athletic vs. Loudoun United FC

(1-0-0)
Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Dillon Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: HFD Wins 41% | Draw 24% | LDN Wins 35%
(0-0-1)
Group F
The Gist: Hartford Athletic will welcome a limited number of fans to Dillon Stadium as the club hosts its first official home opener at the historic venue with Loudoun United FC the visitor. The game will be Hartford’s second in four nights after claiming a 1-0 victory in its Friday night clash with the New York Red Bulls II, and with the national spotlight upon them the Athletic will be aiming to put on a good show with its re-tooled roster under Head Coach Radhi Jaïdi. Loudoun, meanwhile, will be aiming to make its own statement in Group F as it returns to action after a scoreless draw with the Philadelphia Union II in its opening game in March.
 

THE SOCIAL CIRCLE

 

THE USL LOWDOWN

- Like many of its USL Championship counterparts, Louisville City FC is building out a full academy system, and working in collaboration with other local clubs to bring the best talent into their professional environment. My colleague Cameron Koubek took a closer look at what Academy Director Mario Sanchez is building for LouCity.

- It was a happy 33rd birthday for OKC Energy FC's Jaime Chavez on Friday night as he notched a goal and assist to lead his side in a 3-1 victory against Austin Bold FC. The victory was also new Energy FC Head Coach John Pascarella's first at the helm, and gave OKC a nice boost in the Group D standings.

- North Carolina FC produced an impressive comeback in their return to action against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium. The visitors were down two goals at the break, but Dre Fortune and Robbie Kristo each struck in the second half to give North Carolina FC its first point of the new season.

- Parfait Mandanda became the first goalkeeper to record an assist in a Championship game since Tomas Gomez for Saint Louis FC on July 27, 2019, and the combination of that and a three-save shutout proved key as Hartford Athletic earned a 1-0 victory on the road against the New York Red Bulls II at Red Bull Arena.

- The South Texas Derby that was originally scheduled for Friday night will now be played on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, with Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio FC announcing in conjunction with the Championship the rescheduling of their postponed contest.

- An underrated rivalry will also be in action on Saturday, with Real Monarchs SLC hosting Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in an afternoon kickoff at Rio Tinto Stadium. Switchbacks Head Coach Alan Koch is looking forward to his players having the chance to rise to the occasion on a bigger stage.

- There was a learning experience for what will be the new normal when travelling on the road this season for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC as they went to Louisville. The Hounds hit the road again this weekend, wiser for the experience before their game with the Philadelphia Union II.

- After the wait to find out whether the 2020 season would resume or not, Reno 1868 FC Head Coach Ian Russell is looking forward to getting back underway on Sunday against rival Sacramento Republic FC, and thinks his side is ready to go for the nationally televised clash on ESPN2 after three weeks of full-team preparation.

- The 2020 League One season gets underway tonight, but on Friday afternoon the final pieces of content to get you up to speed with everything you need to know about the league’s second season dropped. Starting off, how about a complete schedule for the next three-and-a-half months?

- Then, I got the chance to put together the first set of Power Rankings of the season, and also the 10 games you should have circled on your calendar as the season progresses.

- Want to make your picks on how the League One season will play out? Play our League One Table Predictor and keep your standings in a safe place to claim bragging rights on the rest of the country when October 24 rolls around.

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