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THE MORNING TEA – With Rubin’s Arrival, SD Loyal Channels Locomotive FC

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/02/20, 7:30AM EDT


Hartford’s Dixon adapting to new role; Memphis’ Howard joins NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage

After Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC took care of business on Tuesday night, we’ve got an eight-game slate today that includes some notable storylines in both conferences. But the biggest storyline today might be the recent U.S. Men’s National Team player looking to take a path previously taken, only this time the venue is San Diego, California.



Picture this player.

He’s a talented forward with U.S. Men’s National Team pedigree who’s got experience in Europe but is in need of a fresh start for his career. So, he lands at a USL Championship squad in need of an attacking boost in a move that could be mutually beneficial for both.

Who are we talking about?

If you’re an El Paso Locomotive FC fan, you’re getting flashbacks to a year ago when Jerome Kiesewetter arrived at Southwest University Park and provided the goals that helped lead the club to the Western Conference Final of the USL Championship Playoffs last fall.

If you’re a San Diego Loyal SC fan, we’re now talking about Rubio Rubin, who on Tuesday became one of the club’s newest additions as Head Coach Landon Donovan gears up his squad for the final stretch of the club’s inaugural season.

Rubin has a strong pedigree. He scored two goals at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup for a U.S. side that reached the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Serbia in a penalty shootout. That came a year after he made his full international debut for his country against Colombia, the first of seven appearances that date to as recently as June 2018 against Ireland.

Among his teammates in the starting lineup at the Aviva Stadium in Ireland selected by current North Carolina FC Head Coach Dave Sarachan? There was a Championship alumnus in Tyler Adams, now at RB Leipzig, while recent Juventus arrival Weston McKennie and Lille OSC’s Tim Weah were alongside him as well. Current Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent was among the second-half substitutes.

For Rubin, the road to San Diego has been paved with stops at to Liga MX’s Xolos de Tijuana, as well as a loan spell at Liga Ascenso club Dorados de Sinaloa. But making the short trip across the U.S.-Mexico border to SD Loyal could be exactly what his career needs in the same way that Kiesewetter’s profile was raised in bagging 12 goals for Locomotive FC last year.

Securing a similar opportunity to that Kiesewetter earned this year with Inter Miami CF as it arrived in Major League Soccer is a big carrot for Rubin, who at 24 years old still has plenty of soccer in front of him. If Rubin can be as productive over SD Loyal’s final six games of the regular season, it could also be exactly what the first-year Championship side is looking for as it looks to pass both Orange County SC and the LA Galaxy II for a place in the postseason.

It’s a roll of the dice for both parties, but it could provide exactly what both are looking for as they look to get something positive out of 2020. 



Portland Timbers 2 vs. Sacramento Republic FC

Group A

3:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Providence Park Predictor: POR Wins 24% | Draw 23% | SAC Wins 53%
Group A
The Gist: Sacramento Republic FC returns to action looking for its fifth consecutive victory as it visits the Portland Timbers 2 for a matinee at Providence Park. Republic FC took victory against Portland when it was last in action on August 22 as second-half goals by Drew Skundrich and Cameron Iwasa rallies the hosts to a 2-1 win at Papa Murphy’s Park. Since then, Reno 1868 FC has moved three points ahead of Sacramento in the Group A standings with both sides having seven games to play in the regular season. With the two teams next set to square off again on September 12 at Papa Murphy’s Park, pulling level with its leading rival must be the goal for Head Coach Mark Briggs’ side against a T2 team that remained winless this season after a 3-2 loss to the LA Galaxy II last Wednesday night.
Discipline: None

Philadelphia Union II vs. Atlanta United 2

Group F

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Subaru Park Predictor: PHI Wins 32% | Draw 24% | ATL Wins 44%
Group H
The Gist: Two teams in must-win territory will meet when the Philadelphia Union II returns to action to face Atlanta United 2 at Subaru Park. The Union II are currently sitting at the bottom of Group F, but with 10 games remaining in their regular season still have a chance to make up their games in hand on second-placed Hartford Athletic in the coming weeks. To earn all three points on Wednesday, however, they Union II will need to take victory against an Atlanta side for which the game represents win or bust. With only five games left and the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Charleston Battery currently 15 and 14 points ahead of ATL UTD 2 respectively, anything other than an Atlanta win will see it become the first side officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Discipline: None

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. The Miami FC

Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Al Lang Stadium Predictor: TBR Wins 51% | Draw 25% | MIA Wins 25%
Group H
The Gist: The Florida rivals will meet after having both suffered defeats in their last outings, and with the Rowdies having a chance to take a step toward becoming the first team to clinch a place in this year’s postseason by the end of the week. The Rowdies hold a 16-point lead on Miami in first place in Group H, and currently hold a Magic Number of 12 to qualify for the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs. With a victory on Wednesday night, that number would be halved to six points going into the weekend, where Miami hosts the Charleston Battery and the Rowdies host the Philadelphia Union II. Miami earned a 1-1 draw when they last visited Al Lang Stadium as Sebastian Velasquez’s goal was cancelled out by an equalizer from Lucky Mkosana in the second half, giving the Rowdies four points overall in its matchups against its in-state foe.
Discipline: None

Birmingham Legion FC vs. North Carolina FC

Group G

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: BBVA Field Predictor: BHM Wins 44% | Draw 27% | NC Wins 29%
Group G
The Gist: Birmingham Legion FC will try to continue to narrow its margin to clinching a place in the 2020 Championship Playoffs as it hosts a North Carolina FC side that has been struggling to find the net of late. NCFC has gone without a goal in its last three games, including a 1-0 defeat to the Charlotte Independence last Wednesday night that marked the club’s first league loss to its in-state rival all-time. Scoring has not been a problem much for Birmingham so far, with the side sitting on top of Group G notching a 4-1 victory against the Independence this past Saturday night as Neco Brett struck twice and both Jaden Servania and Bruno Lapa put in stellar performance. North Carolina still holds its own destiny for now in the race for second place in the group, but it will need to find a big performance to come away with a result on the road.
Discipline: Birmingham - Eli Crognale (Suspended)

FC Tulsa vs. Rio Grande Valley FC

Group D

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: ONEOK Field Predictor: TUL Wins 51% | Draw 26% | RGV Wins 22%
Group D
The Gist: FC Tulsa will try to snap out of a four-game winless streak when it welcomes Rio Grande Valley FC to ONEOK Field with a chance to move level on points and potentially ahead on goal differential of Austin Bold FC in the Group D standings ahead of their meeting on Saturday night in Texas. Tulsa suffered a 2-1 defeat to Sporting Kansas City II on Saturday night when a last-gasp potential equalizer in stoppage time was ruled out for offside. The spirit the side showed in mounting its comeback could carry over into Wednesday night’s game, though, which sees the winless Toros square off with FCT for the second time this season. In their prior meeting, Tulsa took a 2-1 victory at H-E-B Park as Ariel Martinez’s penalty kick with 16 minutes to go proved the difference. The hosts will be hoping for a larger margin of victory this time around, as with a two-goal win they would jump into second place ahead of Austin.
Discipline: None

Memphis 901 FC vs. Charlotte Independence

Group G

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: AutoZone Park Predictor: MEM Wins 37% | Draw 26% | CLT Wins 38%
Group G
The Gist: The second-placed Charlotte Independence will try to add to their advantage on the teams below the playoffs line, while fourth-placed Memphis 901 FC has a chance to close the gap as the teams meet in what is shaping up to be a big week in the Group G playoff race. The Independence currently sit in second place – six points ahead of Memphis – thanks in part to one of the best comebacks in the Championship this season, where they rallied from a two-goal deficit against 901 FC to take a 3-2 victory on August 15 at the Sportsplex at Matthews. That began a run of alternating wins and losses for the Independence in their last four games, and the visitors will be keen to wipe away the memory of a 4-1 defeat to Birmingham Legion FC last Saturday in their most recent outing. Memphis, meanwhile, is hoping to span a three-game winless streak that has seen it sink to the bottom of the standings. With a matchup against first-placed Birmingham coming up on Saturday night, taking all three points against Charlotte could be essential to 901 FC’s postseason aims.
Discipline: None

Orange County SC vs. LA Galaxy II

Group B

10:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium Predictor: OC Wins 56% | Draw 24% | LA Wins 20%
Group B
The Gist: Orange County and Los Dos square off on Wednesday night for the first of two meetings in four days at Championship Soccer Stadium that could have a lasting impact on the playoff race in Group B. Sitting level with 15 points, the Galaxy II are currently in second place thanks to their five victories to Orange County’s four this season. Los Dos have won their last two outings in high-scoring fashion, with Augustine Williams bagging three goals across a 3-2 victory against the Portland Timbers 2 and Las Vegas Lights FC in the past week. Orange County fell for the first time in Las Vegas last Wednesday night, and then followed that up with a 0-0 draw against San Diego Loyal SC as the goals have not quite flowed in the manner expected so far with eight goals in eight games this season. With the stakes of the playoffs as high as they are, this matchup of high-flying attack against solid defense should provide some compelling action.
Discipline: None

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Group B

10:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Cashman Field Predictor: LV Wins 37% | Draw 28% | SD Wins 35%
Group B
The Gist: Las Vegas Lights FC and San Diego Loyal SC will both try to spark their postseason hopes to life when they meet for the third and final time this season at Cashman Field. SD Loyal has gone 1-0-1 in the prior meetings with Lights FC in its inaugural season, but its 2-1 victory on July 25 represents the last win overall for Head Coach Landon Donovan’s side, which now sits in fourth place in Group B. At the center of the five-game winless streak that has occurred since has been a lack of goals, with San Diego being held scoreless in four of the give games, including a 0-0 draw with Orange County SC on Saturday night. Goals haven’t been an issue for Lights FC recently, on the other hand, with the side having scored at least three goals in its last four outings. Unfortunately for Head Coach Frank Yallop, the most recent of those contests was a 4-3 loss to the LA Galaxy II on Sunday afternoon, and that means his side has a seven-point gap to make up to the playoff places going into the second half of the season. Victory for both teams, then, is going to be essential on Wednesday night.
Discipline: None




- Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC converted two penalty kicks and saved another thanks to goalkeeper Danny Vitiello inside the opening 16 minutes on Tuesday night, paving the way to a 3-0 victory against Loudoun United FC at Highmark Stadium. PittsburghSoccerNow’s John Krysinsky has the full details and postgame reaction as the Hounds moved six points clear at the top of Group F.

- With Ever Guzman out through injury, Alex Dixon has been pushed into a more central attacking role for Hartford Athletic in recent outings. As he told the Journal Inquirer’s Adam Betz, he’s been thankful for the help the coaching staff have given him in finding the right spots to make an impact, while recently becoming the leading scorer in the second-year club’s short history.

- San Diego Loyal SC wasn’t the only team active in making additions to its squad on Tuesday. Its opponent on Wednesday night, Las Vegas Lights FC, signed an attacking piece of its own in 11-year MLS veteran Quincy Amirakwa, who has previously played for Lights FC Head Coach Frank Yallop at both the San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire.

- Orange County SC announced it will be without standout forward Thomas Enevoldsen for the remainder of the 2020 season, with the Danish striker going on loan to his home country’s Hobro IK. The move isn’t an unexpected one – Enevoldsen has been in Denmark since July for the birth of his first child – and the 2018 Championship MVP Finalist is set to return to Orange County next spring for the new season.

- Have we seen the last appearance for Tim Howard in goal for Memphis 901 FC? The former U.S. Men’s National Team shot-stopper and current 901 FC minority owner and Sporting Director was unveiled as the newest analyst for NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage on Tuesday, replacing the departing Kyle Martino.

- New Mexico United’s Josh Suggs took over second place in minutes played in the Championship’s matchup last weekend against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. As he told KOB’s Brandon Ortega, consistently earning shutouts has been a focus for United this season and will be an added focus as the side prepares to face rival El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday night.

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