Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
The first contest in this year’s Copa Tejas highlight a busy 11-game slate in the USL Championship on Saturday that also includes a meeting between the top two teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, a postseason rematch in Florida, and two other notable contests out west in what’s set to be an entertaining night of action.
Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: IND 52%, ATL 22%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Indy Eleven returns home looking to build on its first victory of the season last time out as it plays host to Atlanta United 2. A pair of second-half goals by Stefano Pinho earned Indy a 2-1 win on the road against Rio Grande Valley FC last Saturday night, and the side was further boosted on Monday by the announcement of the signing of two-time Championship MVP Solomon Asante to add more attacking firepower to the squad. Asante will not be available for selection on Saturday, but Indy will be hopeful of earning a first home win this campaign against an Atlanta side that suffered a 4-0 defeat against Detroit City FC in its last outing and will be without both Darwin Matheus and Nigel Prince as they serve one-game suspensions. Atlanta took victory in its last road outing, and the potential attacking presence of Jackson Conway and Nicolas Firmino is one that Indy will need to account for from the visitors.
Indy Eleven – Mechack Jerome: The center back recorded his first assist of the season against the Toros and has been solid overall since his offseason arrival, recording 21 clearances and eight interceptions on the back line.
Atlanta United 2 – Jonantan Villal: The 16-year-old Academy product has recorded a pair of assists this season while recorded 10 chances created overall and could be a handful for Indy’s defensive line.
Venue: Cashman Field
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LV 25%, PIT 50%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: Two teams in the top five in the league in goals scored will square off for the first time on Saturday afternoon as Las Vegas Lights FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC meet at Cashman Field. Lights FC will be hoping to rebound from a 3-2 defeat to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday in which it took a second-half lead on Cal Jennings’ third goal of the season but was unable to hold on as the visitors struck twice in the final quarter of the game. Jennings and Danny Trejo have been a dynamic attacking pair for Las Vegas this season, with Trejo having been named the Championship’s Player of the Month for March after his fast start to the season that currently sees him lead the league in goals (5) and assists (4). The Hounds have also seen their current strike partnership flourish so far with Dane Kelly and Albert Dikwa each on four goals after a 4-3 win against FC Tulsa last Saturday, while playmaker Kenardo Forbes enters the contest only three assists away from becoming the first player in the Championship’s history to reach 50 regular-season helpers in his career.
Las Vegas Lights FC – Danny Trejo: The Championship’s Player of the Month for March has been a consistent threat all season and will be hoping to add to his totals against a Hounds defense that hasn’t been watertight so far.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Alex Dixon: The veteran winger notched his first goal of the season in Tulsa and has also recorded two assists this campaign as he continues to be an integral part of the Hounds’ attack.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium
538.com Predictor: MIA 51%, HFD 23%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Miami FC will try to build on a historic victory last time out as it plays host to Hartford Athletic looking to rise the Eastern Conference standings. Miami took a 1-0 win against Florida rival the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night to earn the club’s first victory at the Rowdies’ Al Lang Stadium in club history. Pierre Da Silva’s second-half goal proved the difference, while the contest saw goalkeeper Connor Sparrow return in goal and log the 20th regular season shutout of his career. Miami and Hartford split their two meetings in South Florida last season, and the Athletic will be hoping to claim their first win of the season as the side currently sits as the lone winless side in the Eastern standings. Hartford suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at Birmingham Legion FC last Sunday as the side conceded deep in second-half stoppage time to see a point slip away but will need an attacking improvement after scoring only four times in its opening four games of the season.
Miami FC – Aedan Stanley: The 22-year-old defender made his first appearance of the season against Tampa Bay and delivered a solid performance, recording five clearances and two interceptions in Miami’s three-man back line.
Hartford Athletic – Danny Barrera: The Colombian veteran has yet to put his name on the scoresheet this season, recording five chances created and no shots on target. Hartford will need its playmaker to get on track to aid a turnaround.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Al Lang Stadium
538.com Predictor: TBR 58%, TUL 18%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies and FC Tulsa will meet for the first time in the USL Championship’s regular season after having played in last season’s USL Championship Playoffs with both teams looking to rebound from defeats last time out. The Rowdies saw their undefeated start to the season come to an end with a 1-0 loss to Miami FC, which marked the first time the side had lost at home to its in-state rival. The Rowdies took a 6-2 victory against Tulsa when they met in the postseason last November, however, as Leo Fernandes scored a pair of goals and both Sebastian Guenzatti and Steevan Dos Santos found the net. Tulsa fell 4-3 to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in its last outing as a pair of late goals by Rodrigo Da Costa and JJ Williams weren’t enough to complete a comeback at ONEOK Field. The visitors will head to Al Lang Stadium having seen its first chance to bounce back from that result washed out, as its visit to Memphis 901 FC scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed before kickoff due to inclement weather that caused an unplayable pitch at AutoZone Park.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Leo Fernandes: The club veteran shone when these teams met last postseason but is yet to get off the mark this year with only one assist and seven chances created in five games.
FC Tulsa – Dario Suarez: The Cuban winger produced one of the goals of the playoffs in defeat at Al Lang Stadium and will be hoping to help his side to a more positive result this time around to remain ahead of the Rowdies in the standings.
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Venue: Weidner Field
538.com Predictor: COS 53%, MEM 22%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will try to equal the best start to a regular season in Championship history as it hosts Memphis 901 FC for the second meeting between the clubs. The Switchbacks have won five consecutive games to start the season after rallying for a 3-2 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday at Cashman Field as second-half goals by Zach Zandi and Cam Lindley pulled the side back from its first deficit of the season. Colorado Springs can now equal the six-game winning streaks to start a season recorded by the Richmond Kickers (2011) and Rochester Rhinos (2012) in the Championship’s early era. Memphis will arrive in Colorado Springs having not seen action in more than a week after its Wednesday night contest with FC Tulsa was postponed before kickoff due to inclement weather that caused an unplayable pitch at AutoZone Park, but the side is undefeated in its last three league outings as it heads to Colorado.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Hadji Barry: The 2021 Championship MVP is tied for second in the league this season after picking up his third assist of the season in Las Vegas and has recorded 11 chances created overall.
Memphis 901 FC – Niall Logue: The Northern Ireland center back has recorded 18 clearances in four games this season, will he and his teammates will have their hands full with Colorado Springs’ strong attacking corps.
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Toyota Field
538.com Predictor: SA 52%, ELP 24%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: The first game in this year’s Copa Tejas arrives at Toyota Field with both San Antonio FC and EL Paso Locomotive FC looking to build on victories last time out. SAFC took a 1-0 victory on the road against Orange County SC in a rematch of the 2021 Western Conference Final as goalkeeper Jordan Farr delivered a standout display with a six-save shutout to allow Elliot Collier’s second-half goal to stand as the winner. SAFC now sits in third place in the Western standings with four wins out of five but found El Paso to be a nemesis a season ago as Locomotive FC took the season series – a key to its claiming the Copa Tejas overall – with a 2-1-1 record. El Paso is coming off its first win of the season under new Head Coach John Hutchinson last Saturday as the side scored a club-high five goals in a 5-0 win against Monterey Bay F.C., with Josue Aaron Gomez finding the net twice and Dylan Mares recording a goal and assist in the victory. After posting the first shutout of the campaign, Locomotive FC will be hoping last week’s result marked the start of a turnaround that can propel them back into the playoff picture after a slow overall start to the campaign.
San Antonio FC – Connor Maloney: Showing his versatility this season, Maloney has recorded 19 clearances and nine interceptions while notching one assist and five chances created in attack and could be key in Saturday’s game.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Diego Luna: The United States U-20 international bagged a highlight-reel finish for his first of the new season against Monterey Bay and scored three times against SAFC in four games last year.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Laney Stadium
538.com Predictor: OAK 59%, LDN 17%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC will once again take aim at its first win of the season as it plays host to Loudoun United FC in the first meeting between the clubs but will be hoping to build on an impressive fightback in midweek against its Eastern Conference opponent. Roots SC rallied twice despite being down to 10 men to earn a 2-2 draw with San Diego Loyal SC as Ottar Magnus Karlsson scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to earn his side a point against the current Western Conference leaders. Oakland has now drawn three consecutive games and will be hoping to earn Head Coach Juan Guerra his first victory against a Loudoun side that was stymied in its last outing, a 2-0 defeat against Louisville City FC last Sunday that saw the side record only a pair of shots in the contest. Loudoun has shown itself to be dangerous at times this season in posting an early 2-2-1 record, with Tyler Freeman having recorded a pair of goals, but after a bright start United heads west having suffered defeat in consecutive outings.
Oakland Roots SC – Emrah Klimanta: The veteran center back came on as a second-half substitute and delivered the assist on Karlsson’s goal on Wednesday and will likely take a place back in the starting lineup with Tarek Morad serving a one-game suspension.
Loudoun United FC – Grant Lillard: Lillard has been a consistent performer at the back for Loudoun this season and will need to be at his best against Oakland’s Karlsson, who has now scored three goals on 10 shots this campaign.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
538.com Predictor: OC 46%, SAC 27%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Orange County SC will play host to Sacramento Republic FC in one of the Championship’s most evenly balanced series over the years with the hosts hoping to rebound from defeat in their last outing. OCSC suffered a 1-0 defeat to San Antonio FC last Saturday night at Championship Soccer Stadium as visiting goalkeeper Jordan Farr kept the hosts, led by Cubo Torres’ five shots, at bay. The performance by Torres, however, left a silver lining with the former Mexico international coming close to opening his account for the club on a pair of occasions only to be denied by strong saves. Sacramento arrives in Orange County holding a narrow 9-8-5 edge in the all-time series between the clubs across regular season and playoff meetings and has won three of four to start the season. Republic FC last saw league action on April 2 when it took a 2-1 victory against Monterey Bay F.C., but since then has also claimed victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last week against the Portland Timbers U23. The visitors will be looking for their first away win of the season, having suffered defeat to San Diego Loyal SC in their lone prior trip this campaign.
Orange County SC – Seth Casiple: The central midfielder has started in all four games so far this season and could have a big role to play against Sacramento’s strong group in the middle of the park for the hosts to earn a result.
Sacramento Republic FC – Douglas Martinez Jr.: The Honduran forward has notched two goals and two assists so far this season and will be hoping to lead the way to victory against a solid OCSC back line.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Torero Stadium
538.com Predictor: SD 41%, LOU 32%, 27%
The Lowdown: The current Eastern and Western Conference leaders will meet for the second time in their history as San Diego Loyal SC plays host to Louisville City FC in a potential USL Championship Final preview at Torero Stadium. LouCity arrives undefeated this campaign after a 2-0 victory against Loudoun United FC last Sunday afternoon that saw the club’s defense hold the hosts to only one shot on goal as Wilson Harris and Brian Ownby found the net at Segra Field. Harris’ goal was his team-high third of the season while goalkeeper Kyle Morton recorded his fifth shutout in six games this campaign, having only conceded once on 12 shots faced for a 91.7 percent save percentage thus far. That record could be tested by SD Loyal, which currently leads the league with 16 goals this campaign. The hosts were unable to hold a lead in their most recent outing on Wednesday night, however, as Oakland Roots SC earned a 2-2 draw with a stoppage-time equalizer, giving Head Coach Landon Donovan’s side potential motivation to rebound against a LouCity side that won 2-1 when the sides met for the first time at Lynn Family Stadium a season ago.
San Diego Loyal SC – Collin Martin: The central midfielder scored his first goal of the season in a stellar individual display against Oakland, and more of the same may be needed against a strong Louisville midfield lineup.
Louisville City FC – Brian Ownby: The veteran winger has been consistently sharp this season, and his potential matchup against an in-form Elijah Martin on SD Loyal’s back line could be a key to the outcome.
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park
538.com Predictor: LA 45%, MB 28%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. will try to rebound from a disappointing week as they head to face the LA Galaxy II for the first time in their inaugural season, with Los Dos also looking to break a two-game winless streak of their own. MBFC dropped a 5-0 result on the road against El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday night as midfielder Robbie Crawford was sent off for two cautionable offenses late in the first half as the side’s seven-game road trip before its home opener continued. Monterey Bay has seen some good performances so far this campaign, however, with Chase Boone leading the side with three goals and Kai Greene looking solid in the center of the defense. Finding a way to put last week’s loss behind them will be essential against a Galaxy II side that fell 3-1 against Phoenix Rising FC last Saturday but that has shown its ability at certain points this season. LA had taken four points from its prior two outings before heading to Phoenix and back on home turf will be hopeful of taking its second win of the campaign after a 1-0 win against Rio Grande Valley FC on March 23.
LA Galaxy II – Michael Salazar: The Belize international has been among the goalscorers for Los Dos this season and will hope to provide an attacking impact against MBFC’s back line.
Monterey Bay F.C. – Hugh Roberts: The veteran center back has had some big moments for the expansion side including scoring the winner in their inaugural victory but will be hoping for more consistency moving forward.
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Wild Horse Pass
538.com Predictor: PHX 50%, NM 26%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC will try to build on a strong home victory last time out as it plays host to rival New Mexico United at Wild Horse Pass in a fixture that has delivered plenty of drama over the past three seasons. Rising FC earned a 3-1 win against the LA Galaxy II last Saturday as Luis Seijas scored a pair of goals and Aodhan Quinn recorded his third assist of the season. The win was Phoenix’s third in a row across all competitions and sent the side back above the playoff line and a point ahead of New Mexico after two prior defeats. United enters Saturday’s contest undefeated so far this season, however, having taken two wins and two draws from its opening four games in the league. Led by new Head Coach Zach Prince, the visitors have seen early returns from forward Neco Brett, who has three goals in four contests, and will be looking for their first official win in the series. With the two squads also set to meet next Wednesday in the Third Round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, there could be plenty of energy as each side tries to make a statement in prelude to that showdown.
Phoenix Rising FC – Kevon Lambert: Deployed in the center of defense in back-to-back league victories, Lambert could be tasked with thing to contain fellow Jamaican Neco Brett and the United attack.
New Mexico United – Justin Portillo: The veteran midfielder has been one of the impact arrivals this season for New Mexico and his battles with Aodhan Quinn and Arturo Rodriguez will be a matchup to watch.
Tag(s): Game Previews San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Atlanta United 2 Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Monterey Bay F.C.