The Championship weekend got underway with two stellar contests on Friday night, but we’ve now got 14 more games to look forward to before Labor Day. You can find previews of every game here, but first let’s take a look at one player who could be a key figure for his side in a crucial playoff six-pointer. Here’s your Morning Tea for Saturday.
With both Andre Lima and Kris Tyrpak opting with the club’s blessing to sit out the remainder of the 2020 season, Austin Bold FC needed someone to provide some attacking bite upon the season’s resumption.
So far, offseason addition Billy Forbes has fit the bill nicely.
Nominated for the Championship’s Player of the Month award for August after scoring six goals in seven games, the Turks & Caicos international has best been known in his time in the league as a winger who was always willing to take opponents on, in particular using his turn of pace to create space to shoot or provide the final ball.
That speed is now being used in a different way by Bold FC Head Coach Marcelo Serrano, who has used Forbes and fellow forward Ema Twumasi – on loan from FC Dallas – to stretch the field and opposing defenses.
“I bring a lot of pace,” Forbes told the Austin American-Statesman’s Chris Bils. “I’m really fast and I read the game really well. So, I’m always trying to position myself where I think the ball is going to be. That’s what I bring to the team. For coach Marcelo [Serrano] to use me as a forward and not a winger, it’s really been paying off. We’re learning that I can play striker really well.”
If there’s a comparison to be made to the move Forbes has made, it could be to Indy Eleven forward Tyler Pasher. The Canadian was used extensively as a winger during his time at Sporting Kansas City II, but moved up front last year to impressive effect as Indy reached the Eastern Conference Final of the 2019 Championship Playoffs while leading the Boys in Blue with 13 goals.
Interestingly, the comparison between the two bears out in their respective recent numbers. Since the Championship struck a partnership with data leader Opta in 2017, both Pasher and Forbes have recorded 22 regular season goals, and are in the same ballpark on dribbles completed, chances created and assists.
Forbes remaining in form could hold one of the keys to Austin’s drive for a second consecutive playoff berth this year. Bold FC opens two consecutive games on Saturday night against FC Tulsa, which it currently sits even with on 13 points in second place in Group D. The matchups at Bold Stadium – the second of which arrives on Tuesday – could play a major role in which teams reaches the postseason and which goes home after the first weekend in October.
Austin has gone six games undefeated as it enters this weekend but is looking to put games away more effectively over the final seven games of the campaign.
“There’s been times, obviously the Colorado game being up 4-0 that stings a little bit, but we took the positives from it,” Bold FC defender Amobi Okugo told Bils. “The fact that we scored four goals shows that our attack is finally hitting on all cylinders.”
With Forbes up front, Bold FC has found its ignition switch.
- Indy Eleven captain Matt Watson has been one of the important voices in the Championship throughout his time in the league. He spoke with WISH-TV’s Anthony Calhoun about his decision to sit out the side’s last outing and much more for the station’s “We Stand Together” series.
- Saint Louis FC earned a big win for their postseason hopes on Friday night as they rallied with three second-half goals to defeat Sporting Kansas City II at West Community Stadium. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Lyons was on hand to see STLFC move into second place in Group E ahead of Saturday night's action.
- Fans will return to San Antonio FC’s Toyota Field for the first time since the club’s opening game of the season in March when the side hosts Rio Grande Valley FC. The San Antonio News-Express’ has more on the club’s plans to ensure fans, players and staff stay safe while enjoying the South Texas Derby.
- Jamaican midfielder Kevon Lambert has been one of the constants for Phoenix Rising FC, and his reliability and dedication to improve is a major reason why he’s gained a fan in Head Coach Rick Schantz. “Sometimes it’s not even close who the first name is when we write down the teamsheet,” Schantz told Arizona Sports’ Jake Anderson. “There’s a few of them, but he’s definitely right up near the top.”
- New Mexico United might have held the upper hand in previous meetings against El Paso Locomotive FC, but given their proximity and the passion exhibited on the field when the sides have met there's been a good rivalry brewing in the Southwest. The Albuquerque Journal's Ken Sickenger has more ahead of Saturday night's meeting at Southwest University Park.
- El Paso Locomotive FC will try to earn its first victory all-time against New Mexico United on Saturday night when the teams face off for the third time this season. If Locomotive FC can find a way to all three points, it would tighten the race for first place in Group C down the final stretch of the season.
- Real Monarchs SLC, meanwhile, earned a 1-0 victory against the Tacoma Defiance on Friday night to gain its second victory of the season, keeping its hopes of making a late run at Locomotive FC for second place in Group C. Luis Arriaga scored the lone goal at Zions Bank Stadium, while Jimmy Slayton pulled off a pair of key late saves to preserve the win.
- Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and the New York Red Bulls II have each taken a victory in the first two meetings between the clubs this season. As they prepare for their third and final encounter on Saturday at Red Bull Arena, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Greg Macafee writes the Hounds are locked in on dealing with the high-pressing style the Red Bulls II have used to force mistakes from opponents.
- Reno 1868 FC is on a three-game winning streak as it prepares to face the winless Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday night at Greater Nevada Field, but Head Coach Ian Russell told Nevada Sports Net that it can be dangerous to pay too close attention to a team's record ahead of what remains an important game for his side to remain in first place at the top of the Group A standings.
- After arriving from Las Vegas Lights FC recently, Gabe Robinson believes he could make a permanent home at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the future, with Head Coach Alan Koch happy to have the defender in his squad for Saturday night. The Colorado Springs Gazette's Vinny Benedetto has more from Robinson as he gets acclimated to his new surroundings in the Rockies.
- One of Orange County SC’s new recruits this offseason, former Rangers FC defender Rob Kiernan is enjoying his first year in Southern California as he helps the Western Conference contender make a run at the postseason. Beautiful Game Network’s Carson Merk spoke with Kiernan about his American tale so far.
Tag(s): San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Portland Timbers 2 Real Monarchs SLC Reno 1868 FC Rio Grande Valley FC FC Tulsa Philadelphia Union II Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Louisville City FC New York Red Bulls II Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saint Louis FC Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC Austin Bold FC North Carolina FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic Tacoma Defiance Sporting KC II The Miami FC The Morning Tea