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USL Championship Power Rankings – Week 21

By Staff, 09/15/21, 2:00PM EDT


Next month offers intrigue, potential for rivalry between Locomotive FC, Switchbacks

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

There’s a substantial divide between El Paso Locomotive FC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in both the USL Championship’s Mountain Division standings and this week’s Power Rankings, but the upcoming month in which the teams play each other three times between Wednesday’s showdown at Weidner Field and October 13’s regular-season finale at Southwest University Park should be a series that fans beyond both clubs should be paying attention to closely.

For a start, the storylines for how this season could play out for both clubs are both intriguing. On El Paso’s side, winning consistently down the stretch could result in the side earning homefield advantage throughout the USL Championship Playoffs. Currently, Locomotive FC has the highest potential final points total in the league of 78 points, and with a 20-game undefeated streak at home dating back to last season – say nothing of advancing from all three of its prior home playoff games – you know the side will want that great home support behind it as it pursues its first silverware in November.

For Colorado Springs, there’s a chance to make a statement to the rest of the Western Conference that it won’t be an easy out in what would be its first appearance in the playoffs since 2016, while also offering the opportunity to close the current nine-point gap between the sides and set up a proper duel for first place at the end of the season.  

Add to that the individual storyline of Colorado Springs’ Hadji Barry pursuing the Championship’s single-season scoring record, or that we’ll get to see how the Switchbacks’ lead-leading attack fares against the Western Conference’s best defense in El Paso, and there’s a lot going on here that could set up something good as time goes along.

There’s no question Locomotive FC’s rivalry with New Mexico United will be that which burns hottest, but El Paso and Colorado Springs could become appointment viewing long term as one of the other notable annual battles in the Championship within the next 30 days.

Here’s how the big picture looks elsewhere. 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 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Week 22: @ ATL

Last Week:
History beckons for the Rowdies on Saturday against Atlanta United 2 with the chance to break the Championship’s shutout streak record after their seventh consecutive clean sheet against New York.
2 The Miami FC
Week 22: v. CHS

Last Week:
Miami was tested strongly defensively in Memphis but came through thanks to an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Connor Sparrow. Saturday’s visit from Charleston is going to be a key game this week.
3 Phoenix Rising FC
Week 22: v. LV, v. OC

Last Week:
Rising FC cut it awfully close before getting a late break against the Galaxy II to keep their winning streak moving, but they’ve now got a 13-point cushion in the Pacific Division and still have a shot at best record in the league.
4 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Week 22: @ CLT

Last Week:
You’ve got to love Bob Lilley, who saw room for improvement in the Hounds’ 5-0 victory against Loudoun United FC. That’s why his teams are always in contention.
5 El Paso Locomotive FC
Week 22: @ COS

Last Week:
El Paso was cruising on Saturday night at home to Sacramento, but it should get a much stronger test on Wednesday night on the road against Colorado Springs. Going to be a must-see on ESPN Plus.
6 FC Tulsa
Week 22: v. ATX

Last Week:
Tulsa’s undefeated streak is at six games after its draw with Birmingham, and now it gets the first of three intriguing interconference matchups down the final stretch at home to the resurgent Austin Bold FC.
7 San Antonio FC
Week 22: @ NY, @ SAC

Last Week:
San Antonio got the job done against Real Monarchs SLC, but this road trip – which takes the side from coast-to-coast this week with games in New York and Sacramento – is going to end up a serious grind.
8 Louisville City FC
Week 22: @ IND

Last Week:
LouCity once again hammered on the door but couldn’t get a winner against OKC Energy FC on Sunday. With Tampa Bay, Phoenix and El Paso all winning, that’s a knock down in the side’s hopes of homefield advantage in the playoffs.
9 San Diego Loyal SC
Week 22: v. TAC

Last Week:
San Diego had the better of the play and chances against Oakland on Saturday night but couldn’t find a breakthrough. There’s a three-way battle for second place shaping up now with Orange County and Tacoma.
10 Birmingham Legion FC
Week 22: v. OKC

Last Week:
JJ Williams’ equalizer ensured Birmingham held onto second place in the Central Division ahead of Tulsa. Now everyone below the playoff line will be hoping Legion FC can knock off Energy FC on Saturday night.
11 Charlotte Independence
Week 22: v. PIT
Last Week:
Seven goals scored, two shutouts and a six-point advantage over Charleston for fourth place in the Atlantic Division? That was a very good week for the Independence’s playoff chances.
12 OKC Energy FC
Week 22: @ BHM
Last Week:
It wasn’t great – going without a shot for 65 minutes wasn’t a good sign – but Energy FC held on for a point against Louisville and in turn fourth place for now in the Central.
13 Tacoma Defiance
Week 22: @ OAK, @ SD
Last Week:
The Defiance won’t have good memories of its last visit to Oakland, but it’s going to have to turn that result around if it wants to bolster its position and join the race for second place in the Pacific.
14 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Week 22: v. ELP, @ RGV
Last Week:
The Switchbacks showed some mettle going toe-to-toe with Rio Grande Valley on Saturday despite being down to 10 men. They’ve got a big opportunity to send a message against El Paso on Wednesday night.
15 Oakland Roots SC
Week 22: v. TAC, v. LA
Last Week:
Oakland pulled out a win in Vegas and then earned a point against a San Diego side that had scored seven goals in its last two outings. That’s a solid week, but now Roots SC needs a win against Tacoma to keep progressing in the playoff race.
16 Orange County SC
Week 22: @ PHX
Last Week:
Getting Thomas Enevoldsen back and fully healthy for the final stretch of the regular season and a potential playoff run is about as good an addition as any side is going to make before next week’s roster freeze.
17 Atlanta United 2
Week 22: v. CHS, v. TBR
Last Week:
Yeah, it’s a bit unfair to knock Atlanta down a little bit after a week off, but this week is going to be critical to the side’s playoff chances with interdivisional home games against Charleston and Tampa Bay.
18 Austin Bold FC
Week 22: @ TUL
Last Week:
Two wins from two against playoff rivals and suddenly Austin is the side in fourth spot in the Mountain Division. It’s going to be interesting to see if they can maintain that momentum in Tulsa.
19 Indy Eleven
Week 22: v. LOU
Last Week:
Saturday’s LIPAFC as LouCity visits The Mike for the first time since the 2019 USL Eastern Conference Final should be memorable, Indy’s going to have to step up to the mark for this on.
20 Charleston Battery
Week 22: @ ATL, @ MIA

Last Week:
The Battery went 3-0-1 against Atlanta United 2 last season when they were in the same group. After Charlotte’s past week, it’s going to need another three points on Wednesday or face a gap it can’t bridge with games in hand.
21 Sacramento Republic FC
Week 22: v. SA
Last Week:
– When it doesn’t happen for Sacramento’s attack, it really doesn’t happen. Saturday in El Paso was the fourth time this season the side was held without an official shot on target, most of any side in the league.
22 Memphis 901 FC
Week 22: @ NY
Last Week:
If you’re a Memphis 901 FC fan, I’d suggest the glass-half-full approach ahead of Sunday’s visit to the New York Red Bulls II in that the side is creating a lot of good chances – 7.98xG over the past three games. Some of them will start going in consistently, soon.
23 Hartford Athletic
Week 22: v. SLC, @ LDN
Last Week:
All things considered, the Athletic’s game at home to Real Monarchs on Wednesday is a must-win, because if you don’t stop the losing streak there it could stretch on given the schedule that’s coming next.
24 New Mexico United
Week 22: v. SLC
Last Week:
If we’re honest, New Mexico just didn’t do enough to merit victory against Austin last Friday night. It’s got to take victory at home to the Monarchs on Saturday to keep in playoff contention.
25 Rio Grande Valley FC
Week 22: v. COS

Last Week:
The Toros had a golden opportunity to break their winless streak up a goal and a man late against Colorado Springs but still couldn’t hold on. This team needs a confidence boost ahead of its return meeting with the Switchbacks at H-E-B Park on Saturday.
26 Sporting Kansas City II
Week 22: --

Last Week:
They held out Indy for a while before conceding late, but there was a good amount of battle about SKC II on Saturday that could be difficult for other opponents down the stretch.
27 LA Galaxy II
Week 22: @ OAK

Last Week:
Los Dos looked like it had done enough to earn a point against Phoenix before disaster struck deep in stoppage time. It’s going to be an uphill climb to the playoffs from here.
28 New York Red Bulls II
Week 22: v. SA, v. MEM

Last Week:
New York has now conceded more than 50 goals this season after Saturday’s drubbing by the Rowdies. They’ll try to bounce back on Wednesday against San Antonio.
29 Real Monarchs SLC
Week 22: @ HFD, @ NM
Last Week:
Four losses in a row for the Monarchs now after back-to-back defeats last week, and only one goal scored by a Real player in the last four games overall. Not great.
30 Loudoun United FC
Week 22: v. HFD
Last Week:
Shipping 10 goals in two games against two playoff contenders is about where it’s at for Loudoun, which is now approaching official elimination from playoff contention.
31 Las Vegas Lights FC
Week 22: @ PHX

Last Week:
After Saturday’s loss in Orange County, Lights FC is on the longest losing streak in the Championship this season at eight games. Who’s up next? Just Phoenix Rising FC.

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