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USL Championship Power Rankings – Week 16

By Staff, 08/11/21, 4:00PM EDT


Pittsburgh’s attack taking center stage as Hounds stalk silverware this season

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Championship’s Power Rankings.

For a while, there’s been this preconceived notion of what Head Coach Bob Lilley asks of his teams, and in the past it might have been true. Solid defensively, don’t give much away, whoever your goalkeeper is claim your Golden Glove at the end of this season.

But to think of him – and the present-day Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – at this point would be a massive disservice.

Yes, Lilley is still demanding of how he expects his teams to work in the midfield and the defensive end. You can’t get away from that if you want to be a title contender.

But what should be clear by now is that Lilley’s sides want to attack and want to score as much as they want to keep clean sheets. Three goals in three consecutive games – as part of a four-game winning streak going into Wednesday’s game – paint part of the picture, with Alex Dixon the player currently catching fire with five of those tallies.

If you look at the bigger picture, though, this is a team that – despite changes in personnel from year-to-year – is not the one you would stereotype a Bob Lilley side to be. Consider that since the start of the 2019 season, the Hounds have scored 118 – excluding own goals – in 67 games. That’s fourth-best in the league in that span, and Dixon, Russell Cicerone and the others are the ones now making hay.

It used to be that defense would win you titles in the USL Championship. That’s not the case anymore, and the Hounds are becoming about as entertaining as it gets as they eye silverware at the end of the season.

Here’s how the big picture looks today. As always, feel free to come and yell at me on Twitter (@NJEMurray).

Atlanta United 2 Austin Bold FC Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC El Paso Locomotive FC
Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven LA Galaxy II Las Vegas Lights FC Loudoun United FC Louisville City FC Memphis 901 FC
The Miami FC New Mexico United New York Red Bulls II Oakland Roots SC OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Real Monarchs SLC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC San Antonio FC San Diego Loyal SC Sporting KC II
Tacoma Defiance Tampa Bay Rowdies FC Tulsa

Biggest Movers






1 El Paso Locomotive FC
Week 17: @ NM
Last Week:
Locomotive FC not only came through its run of five games in 15 days with four consecutive wins to close, but it now leads the league in shutouts as well. Formidable group.
2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Week 17: v. MIA, @ CLT
Last Week:
The Hounds are on a four-game winning streak going into Wednesday’s home game with Miami. They’ve won five in a row each of the past two seasons and will be hoping to make it three campaigns in a row.
3 Louisville City FC
Week 17: v. TUL

Last Week:
Thanks to its victory against SKC II and Birmingham’s late loss in Tulsa, LouisCity now has a seven-point edge at the top of the Central Division ahead of its meeting with the Black and Gold this weekend.
4 Phoenix Rising FC
Week 17: v. OC
Last Week:
Dropping three spots might be considered harsh, but Rising FC will be annoyed at conceding that late equalizer to Las Vegas that resulted in El Paso surpassing it in total points at the midway point of the season.
5 The Miami FC
Week 17: @ PIT, @ ATX

Last Week:
Holding steady after last week’s draw on the road against Hartford, Miami will get the chance to show what they’re made of again in a must-see Wednesday night clash with Riverhounds SC.
6 OKC Energy FC
Week 17: @ ATL, @ IND
Last Week:
Energy FC made the most of its chances against Memphis on Saturday night and will be hoping for more of the same as it visits Atlanta and Indy this week in another pair of key games.
7 San Antonio FC
Week 17: @ NY
Last Week:
San Antonio can’t quite solve El Paso yet – which is true for pretty much everyone at this point – but they’re still in a solid position going into Saturday’s game against the Red Bulls II after Sunday’s South Texas Derby win.
8 San Diego Loyal SC
Week 17: v. TAC
Last Week:
SD Loyal is having another of those stretches where it’s not creating enough in front of goal. In its past four games, the side hasn’t registered above 1.00 Expected Goals in any outing, and that needs to pick back up.
9 Rio Grande Valley FC
Week 17: v. COS
Last Week:
The Toros got a good victory against the Monarchs last Wednesday night but couldn’t back it up at home on Sunday against San Antonio. That adds to the importance of this weekend’s game with Colorado Springs at H-E-B Park.
10 Birmingham Legion FC
Week 17: v. SKC, @ MEM
Last Week:
Legion FC got a solid victory at home in its rematch against Atlanta United 2 but let a point on the road slip away against Tulsa late. There’s still no reason for much panic, though, with a seven-point cushion over third place.
11 Tacoma Defiance
Week 17: @ SD
Last Week:
The Defiance took eight points from their four-game homestand to remain above the playoff line and stay undefeated at Cheney Stadium. Now the big question of whether they can carry that form onto the road arrives.
12 Charlotte Independence
Week 17: @ NY(W), v. PIT
Last Week:
The Independence are undefeated in their last three after Tuesday’s victory on the road against the Red Bulls II, where Christian Fuchs put in a pretty good debut for someone who hadn’t played officially since last December.
13 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Week 17: @ MEM(T), @ RGV
Last Week:
The Switchbacks had an up-and-down seven days. Lost to Austin Bold FC, then romp past Hartford Athletic before giving up a late penalty in a draw with Memphis 901 FC. They’re above the playoff line now, though, which is what matters most.
14 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Week 17: v. HFD
Last Week:
The Rowdies found maybe an unlikely hero in Max Lachowecki against the Red Bulls II last Friday night, now they’ll come back home looking for a big performance against Hartford Athletic.
15 Hartford Athletic
Week 17: @ TBR
Last Week:
The side’s trip to Colorado Springs added to the illustration of where the pressure points are in Hartford’s defense. The Athletic have now conceded at least three goals in three of their past five outings.
16 Charleston Battery
Week 17: v. LDN
Last Week:
The Battery fought against Riverhounds SC but saw their home undefeated streak come to an end. A visit from Loudoun could be what they need to get off a two-game losing streak.
17 FC Tulsa
Week 17: @ LOU
Last Week:
They might have arrived late, but at least those three points arrived thanks to Marlon’s winner against Birmingham. We’ll see if this is the turning point Tulsa’s season needs to solidify a top-three position.
18 Memphis 901 FC
Week 17: v. COS(T), v. BHM
Last Week:
Saturday night was a reminder of how narrow the margins might end up being for 901 FC if it’s going to reach the playoffs, but earning a late 1-1 draw against the Switchbacks will give this side a solid boost ahead of a rivalry game with Legion FC.
19 Atlanta United 2
Week 17: v. OKC, @ SKC
Last Week:
Atlanta went from being on the wrong end of a ferocious attack to being the aggressors themselves against Indy Eleven on Sunday. More of that and they’ll continue to cause people problems.
20 Sacramento Republic FC
Week 17: @ OAK, v. LV
Last Week:
Sacramento is undefeated in four games after its draw in Tacoma, now it needs to find a way past Oakland on Wednesday night to make sure it keeps pace with the other contenders in the Pacific.
21 Austin Bold FC
Week 17: v. MIA
Last Week:
Austin went from solid at home against Colorado Springs to listless on the road against El Paso. With Jason Johnson and Sean Okoli gone, the weight is going to be heavy on Stefano Pinho’s shoulders to get this side the goals it needs to contend.
22 Las Vegas Lights FC
Week 17: @ SAC
Last Week:
Las Vegas showed how far it has come since the start of the season in earning a point off Phoenix after trailing. That’s the first time Rising FC has dropped point from a winning position all season.
23 LA Galaxy II
Week 17: @ OAK
Last Week:
Los Dos came through again on the road against Orange County to remain in the Pacific Division playoff race. These next two games on the road at Oakland and Las Vegas could be vital in that effort, too.
24 Real Monarchs SLC
Week 17: --
Last Week:
The Monarchs suffered a tough home defeat before Jeff Dewsnupp made history as the youngest goalkeeper to record a shutout in the Championship’s history as the side took victory in San Diego. Well done, young man.
25 New Mexico United
Week 17: v. ELP
Last Week:
New Mexico would love nothing more than to knock El Paso off its perch on Saturday night, but it’s an important three points in the bigger picture as well considering how the Mountain Division is shaping up now.
26 Orange County SC
Week 17: @ PHX
Last Week:
That’s only one win in the last five games for OCSC after giving up a late winner to Los Dos on Saturday night. We’ll say it again, this team has to start performing better at home.
27 Indy Eleven
Week 17: v. OKC

Last Week:
Indy Eleven pulled victory from the jaws of defeat in Tulsa before nothing short of a disastrous performance against Atlanta. “Everyone's embarrassed, I'm embarrassed by it,” said interim Head Coach Max Rogers, and he was spot on.
28 Sporting Kansas City II
Week 17: @ BHM, v. ATL

Last Week:
SKC II is starting to slip away from the Central Division’s playoff race after three consecutive defeats, but at least Enoch Mushagalusa is still insanely fun to watch.
29 New York Red Bulls II
Week 17: v. CLT(L), v. SA

Last Week:
The Red Bulls II have still won only once at home this season after Tuesday’s defeat to the Independence, and that’s no way to contend for a playoff spot.
30 Loudoun United FC
Week 17: @ CHS
Last Week:
Jermaine Fordah put in a tremendous display to get Loudoun its first point since June 30 on Friday night. Now, can the attack find second, maybe third gear?
31 Oakland Roots SC
Week 17: v. SAC, v. LA
Last Week:
Roots SC’s suffering continued with back-to-back losses to Phoenix and Tacoma. It would likely take some satisfaction from playing spoiler to Sacramento on Wednesday night.

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