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Gameday Previews – Saturday, April 9

By Staff, 04/08/22, 4:50PM EDT


A major in-state rivalry highlights a day filled with action throughout and five first-time matchups

2022 USL Championship All-League selections Paco Craig of Miami FC and Sebastian Guenzatti of the Tampa Bay Rowdies will likely square off again on Saturday night in one of the best rivalries in the league. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

Week 5 in the 2022 USL Championship season kicks off on Saturday afternoon with a pair of matinees to open a nine-game slate of action that includes one of the league’s big in-state rivalries, a postseason rematch in California, and five first-time matchups.  

Here’s a look ahead to all the action.

FC Tulsa vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Venue: ONEOK Field
Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: TUL 36%, PIT 36%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa’s home winning streak and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s undefeated start to the 2022 season will both be on the line at ONEOK Field as both clubs look to build on victories in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in midweek as they face off for the first time. Tulsa is looking to cap a three-win week at home after defeating the New York Red Bulls II 3-2 in league action last Saturday, and then Tulsa Athletic 2-1 on Wednesday in the Open Cup as it carries a six-game winning streak overall at ONEOK Field that dates to last season into the contest. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, cruised to a 2-0 win against Maryland Bobcats FC at Highmark Stadium as Toby Sims scored his first two goals for the club. The Hounds could see Kenardo Forbes make his 200th regular season appearance in the Championship on Saturday, with the league’s all-time regular-season assists leader having notched his first of 2022 last Saturday in a 2-0 win against Loudoun United FC in the club’s most recent league outing.

Spotlight Players
FC Tulsa – Ronald Rodriguez:
The El Salvador international scored his first goal for Tulsa in Wednesday’s Open Cup clash off an assist from La Selecta teammate Joaquin Rivas, but his defensive experience will be the key for Saturday against Pittsburgh’s strong attacking unit.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Dane Kelly: The Championship’s all-time leading scorer has three goals and two assists so far this season after bagging a brace off the substitutes bench against Loudoun United FC last Saturday.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Venue: Cashman Field
Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: LV 25%, COS 50%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC heads to face Las Vegas Lights FC aiming to continue its perfect start to the league campaign as it pursues its club record of six consecutive victories in regular season action. The Switchbacks have been led by the trio of Hadji Barry (1 goal, 2 assists), Michee Ngalina (3 goals, 1 assist) and Cam Lindley (2 assists, 12 chances created), but gave the night off to all three for the side’s Open Cup contest against USL League One side Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC. Their absence proved notable as Hailstorm FC came away with a 1-0 win after extra time to send the Switchbacks out of the tournament. Las Vegas was also eliminated on Wednesday night as USL League One’s FC Tucson took a 3-2 win on home turf as Lights FC held leading scorer Danny Trejo in reserve, but the hosts will be hopeful of putting on another attacking show as they kick off a double header that is aiming to break the Nevada record for the highest-attended women’s soccer game in state history – the University of Nevada – Las Vegas’ women’s side will take to the field to close out the day’s action in a spring game against the University of Arizona.

Spotlight Players
Las Vegas Lights FC – Antonio Leone:
The Los Angeles FC youngster was held out of Lights FC’s Open Cup contest to remain available for LAFC in the tournament, but the Mexico U-20 international could return as Lights FC faces one of the sharper attacks in the league.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Hadji Barry: The 2021 Championship MVP got his first goal of the season against Miami FC last weekend and currently leads the Switchbacks with a +1.54 Goals Added mark, a sign of the well-rounded displays he’s delivered during the club’s winning streak

Atlanta United 2 vs. Detroit City FC

Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: ATL 39%, DET 33%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will try to continue a three-game undefeated streak when it heads to face Atlanta United 2 for the first time with the hosts having claimed back-to-back victories of their own in recent outings. Atlanta earned a 2-1 victory last time out as Nicolas Firmino scored both goals on the road against Hartford Athletic to move ahead of Detroit in the Eastern Conference standings. Detroit, meanwhile, played to a 1-1 draw last weekend in the league against Memphis 901 FC as Pato Botello Faz scored his first goal of the season, and then swept to a 3-0 victory on Tuesday night against Michigan Stars FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that saw Matt Lewis find the net twice. That result set up a home clash with Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew in the Third Round, but DCFC will be focused on earning their second Championship victory of the season on Saturday and a return to the playoff positions in the standings.

Spotlight Players
Atlanta United 2 – Robbie Mertz:
A former standout at the University of Michigan, Mertz has had a solid campaign so far in the center of midfield for Atlanta recording one assist and eight chances created in five contests.

Detroit City FC – Rhys Williams: The 26-year-old recorded his first assist of the season against Memphis and has been a solid contributor overall this season with seven chances created on the right flank.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Miami FC

Venue: Al Lang Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: TBR 52%, MIA 22%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will try to continue their undefeated start to the season as they welcome in-state rival Miami FC to downtown St. Petersburg after an emphatic midweek victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Rowdies took a 6-0 win against USL League Two side The Villages SC on Tuesday night as Lucky Mkosana recorded a hat trick and Jake Areman logged three assists at Al Lang Stadium, a big response against the lower-tier opposition after the side had held on for a 0-0 draw against Oakland Roots SC in its last league contest last Saturday. Goalkeeper CJ Cochran posted a four-save shutout that included a pair of outstanding stops for his third clean sheet of the season to earn a point for Tampa Bay in California, and he’ll be hoping to add to that against a Miami side that has yet to take victory at Al Lang Stadium in the series between the clubs. Miami also took a comfortable win in the Open Cup on Wednesday against Miami United FC to set up a clash with Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami CF in the Third Round but is looking for its first league win since the first week of the campaign after falling 2-1 to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday in its last Championship contest.

Spotlight Players
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Sebastian Guenzatti:
The Rowdies’ captain has scored six goals in seven meetings with Miami over the past two years and will be hoping to get off the mark on Saturday after an all-around solid start to the campaign.

Miami FC – Kyle Murphy: The former Rowdies forward is set to make his 150th regular season appearance in the Championship for his career and would likely love nothing more than to lead the visitors to what would be a notable win on the road. 

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Indy Eleven

Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: RGV 54%, IND 19%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC will try to build on a good road comeback in midweek in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as it plays host to Indy Eleven for the first meeting between the clubs in an interconference matchup. The Toros rallied to take a 2-1 victory against USL League One side North Carolina FC on Wednesday night as Frank Lopez and Frank Nodarse both found the net to set up a meeting with Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo FC in the Third Round. Lopez’s goal was his third of the season in all competitions, and the hosts will be hoping that form continues against an Indy side that has earned consecutive draws in league play but has yet to take victory this season through five games. Indy was knocked out of the Open Cup on Tuesday night and has scored only twice so far this season as new Head Coach Mark Lowry tries to put the foundation in place for a turnaround for the Circle City club.

Spotlight Players
Rio Grande Valley FC – Dylan Borczak:
The 22-year-old has been a positive influence on the Toros’ attack so far this season, picking up one goal and sitting with the third-highest Goals Added mark in the league at +1.56 across four appearances.

Indy Eleven – Jonas Fjeldberg: The Norwegian had a productive time on loan with the Toros a season ago and will be looking to break through for his first goal of the season at a venue he’ll be well familiar with.

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: ELP 60%, MB 18%, Draw 23%

The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC returns home after a difficult trip to California looking to move off the bottom of the Western Conference as it plays host to Monterey Bay F.C., which itself is coming off a tough midweek defeat in its first entry to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Locomotive FC was eliminated by a USL League One opponent in the Second Round for a second consecutive time on Tuesday night as Central Valley Fuego FC took a 4-1 victory that included a late goal by El Paso’s Eric Calvillo that served as little more than consolation. Locomotive FC has now lost all five of its outings this season after a 3-2 defeat to San Diego Loyal SC last weekend and has conceded 13 goals in four league contests. Monterey Bay has also had challenges in its first season and suffered a late 2-1 loss to Bay Cities FC on Wednesday night in the Open Cup to follow up a loss by the same score to Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday in the league. Chase Boone has scored three league goals for MBFC, however, and will be hoping to add to that total against El Paso’s leaky defense on Saturday.

Spotlight Players
El Paso Locomotive FC – Yuma:
The Spanish veteran hasn’t made a solid start to the campaign, but his experience and leadership is going to be needed if Locomotive FC is to get things back on track defensively.

Monterey Bay F.C. – Robbie Crawford: The Scottish midfielder found the net late in the Open Cup on Wednesday and will need a strong midfield performance against El Paso to put the visitors with a chance of a result.

Orange County SC vs. San Antonio FC

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OC 40%, SA 33%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Orange County SC and San Antonio FC square off in a rematch of the Western Conference Final from the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs on Saturday night with both teams coming off strong results in the Open Cup in midweek. Orange County romped to a 5-2 victory against the LA Force on Tuesday night that saw five different players find the net, including a run of three goals in nine minutes by Daniel Pedersen, Milan Iloski and Sean Okoli in the first half that effectively put the hosts out of sight. OCSC is looking for a second league victory on Saturday after playing to a 1-1 draw with New Mexico United in its last league outing on March 26 after Iloski scored a late equalizer at Isotopes Park. San Antonio also took victory in the Open Cup as 17-year-old Henrik Sakshaug scored his first two goals for the club – becoming the youngest player in SAFC history to bag a two-goal performance – in a 3-1 result against D’Feeters Kicks SC on Tuesday. San Antonio will head west looking to rebound from defeat to Phoenix Rising FC in its last league outing, which ended the club’s perfect start to the season, but the visitors are winless in their last five games overall against Orange County, a trend they’ll be looking to break.  

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Erick Torres:
The former Mexico international notched his first assist for Orange County against New Mexico and will be hoping his first goal isn’t far behind as he goes up against a solid SAFC defense.

San Antonio FC – Connor Maloney: The other goalscorer in Tuesday’s Open Cup win, Maloney has recorded 18 clearances and six interceptions defensively for his side in league action in a strong start to the campaign. 

San Diego Loyal SC vs. Charleston Battery

Venue: Torero Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SD 65%, CHS 14%, Draw 21%

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will try to maintain its perfect home record this season as it plays host to the Charleston Battery in the first meeting between the clubs all-time. Both clubs are led by former United States internationals, with SD Loyal’s Landon Donovan and the Battery’s Conor Casey having competed alongside each other in FIFA World Cup Qualifying and at the 2009 Confederations Cup. Donovan’s squad has made another step up so far this season with four wins out of five in the league after a 3-2 victory against El Paso Locomotive FC last Sunday afternoon, and SD Loyal also earned victory late in its first Open Cup game in club history on Wednesday when Jacob Crull’s first goal for the side proved the difference in a 2-1 win against Albion SC that set up a Third Round clash with Donovan’s former club the LA Galaxy. Charleton hasn’t been as fortunate and headed west on the back of a 1-0 defeat in the Open Cup on Thursday morning to USL League One side South Georgia Tormenta FC. The Battery are looking for their first win since the opening weekend of the season but will have to break San Diego’s home streak to accomplish that.

Spotlight Players
San Diego Loyal SC – Thomas Amang:
The Cameroonian forward notched his second goal of the season in SD Loyal’s victory against El Paso and has also recorded one assist and two chances created this campaign.

Charleston Battery – Dominic Oduro: The Ghanaian central midfielder has recorded 10 clearances and 10 interceptions so far this season, but alongside his Battery teammates needs to be sharper on the ball as the Battery try for a road upset.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. LA Galaxy II

Venue: Wild Horse Pass
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: PHX 68%, LA 13%, Draw 19%

The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC will try to build on earning consecutive victories for the first time this season on Saturday night but will want to be sharper than in its last outing as it faces the LA Galaxy II at Wild Horse Pass. Phoenix needed extra time on Wednesday night to earn a 1-0 win against Valley United FC in the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as Claudio Repetto scored the decisive goal for the hosts. The tally was Repetto’s second in as many games after he notched the opening goal in Rising FC’s 2-0 win against San Antonio FC last Saturday in its most recent league encounter. The Galaxy II, by contrast, will return to action after earning four points from their last two league outings. Los Dos took a 1-1 draw on the road against Indy Eleven last Saturday night as Michael Salazar scored his first goal of the campaign, and after winning the final meeting between these two sides last season – breaking a 13-game Phoenix winning streak in the series – the visitors will be hoping to spring a road surprise this time around.

Spotlight Players
Phoenix Rising FC – Arturo Rodriguez:
The attacking midfielder has been a dynamic presence so far with one goal and 10 chances created for Rising FC as the side looks for success in the attacking third.

LA Galaxy II – Owen Lambe: The 21-year-old right back has made a solid start to the season, winning 75 percent of his tackles and recording 14 clearances and seven interceptions.

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