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LouCity makes SD Loyal pay for mistakes, New Mexico gets the performance, not the result, Guenzatti still a plus for Rowdies | USL Championship Talking Points

By Staff, 04/18/22, 9:44AM EDT


Here’s what we took away from the past weekend of action across the league

Photo courtesy San Diego Loyal SC

From outstanding individual displays, a collection of results that left us with only one team still undefeated, and some numbers – big and small – that caught the eye, the past weekend in the USL Championship gave us plenty of entertainment, and food for thought.

Here are 10 things we took away from the weekend’s action.


San Diego Loyal SC and Louisville City FC delivered on the promise of the top two teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences squaring off on Saturday night at Torero Stadium as the visitors took a 5-2 victory in a wild back-and-forth contest that saw both teams end with 10 men and plenty of chances for both sides. For SD Loyal, though, the lesson of the game must be that against high-level opposition, you can’t be your own worst enemy.

SD Loyal’s defensive miscues provided three shooting chances for LouCity, all of which the visitors capitalized on. That shouldn’t be a surprise, either; after Saturday’s contest, Louisville has converted five times out of six opportunities that resulted from defensive errors by their opponents. LouCity’s high pressing system has caused the second-most defensive errors of any side this season – only Rio Grande Valley FC has caused more with seven according to Opta. SD Loyal showed it can be a contender in everything else it produced on Saturday but can’t be so error-prone when the chips are down in the future.


It will likely be little comfort to New Mexico United and its fans, but if there’s a silver lining to the side’s 1-0 defeat to Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass – which maintained Phoenix’s upper hand in the rivalry thanks to a superlative performance by goalkeeper Ben Lundt – it’s that Head Coach Zach Prince’s side did everything it needed to win the game except find the net.

New Mexico’s 2.71xG mark was its highest in a regular-season contest against Phoenix in the five meetings between the sides – its previous best had been 1.67xG on September 28, 2019 – and was the highest mark in the Championship this season by a side that didn’t register a goal. The result wasn’t ideal, for sure, but the manner United played was. If New Mexico can continue to produce performances like that, it’s going to be among the contenders in the Western Conference at the end of the season.


Phoenix’s Ben Lundt wasn’t the only goalkeeper to deliver an outstanding performance this weekend. On Friday night, Detroit City FC’s Nathan Steinwascher continued his stellar start to the season in DCFC’s 1-0 victory against Birmingham Legion FC in the club’s first nationally televised contest on ESPN Deportes at Keyworth Stadium. Steinwascher’s four-save shutout produced a mark of -1.82 G-xG as two crucial saves to deny Anderson Asiedu and Jonny Dean preserved the win for the hosts and earned a move up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Detroit City is now on a five-game undefeated streak going into Tuesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup clash with the Columbus Crew. The contest marks the first time the side will face a team from Major League Soccer in the tournament. With Steinwascher currently among the higher-performing goalkeepers in the league and the team in strong overall form, it looks like one of the must-see games of this week’s Third Round.


There’s been no player that has recorded a higher Expected Goals mark this season than the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Sebastian Guenzatti, whose individual 3.50xG leads the league. The problem? So far this campaign, the 2021 Championship All-League First Team selection and MVP finalist hasn’t found the net. Saturday’s missed penalty kick against FC Tulsa left the forward at 5 of 9 from the penalty spot across the regular season and playoffs since the start of last season, and while it didn’t prove crucial in a convincing 3-1 victory for the hosts at Al Lang Stadium it could still be cause for concern moving forward.

The good news for Tampa Bay is that according to his underlying numbers, Guenzatti is still one of the most important contributors to the Rowdies so far this season. According to American Soccer Analysis, his +0.68 Goals Added above Replacement ranks second on the team to Leo Fernandes (+0.87), providing insight into how everything else Guenzatti does on the field has helped the Rowdies to 12 points from seven games this campaign. If the 30-year-old gets a confidence-boosting goal in the next couple of games, it could provide a launching point for his season.


How good is Las Vegas Lights FC forward Danny Trejo’s form right now? All he needed was one chance to deliver the hosts a 1-0 victory on Saturday afternoon at Cashman Field that ended Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s undefeated start to the season. Trejo’s 27th-minute goal was one of only two shots on target for the hosts in the contest – their 0.34xG mark was the lowest for a home side this season to take victory – but a solid defensive display that helped blunt Pittsburgh’s attack proved enough, showing the value an in-form striker can provide any side.

“They're a decent team,” said Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley of Lights FC. “Obviously, they already had a win over Phoenix, and now they have a win over Pittsburgh. But I think we let them off the hook on the night. Most of the first half, they were playing to win the game, and we were not. We didn't have enough in the attack, and they got to halftime with a lead and a lot of confidence. I think we could have got something from the game, but we didn't do enough to break them down.”


In some ways, it’s hard to argue with the success San Antonio FC has achieved this season. With five wins out of six to start the campaign after Saturday’s 1-0 victory against El Paso Locomotive FC in the first official Copa Tejas game this season – on the back of a sublime finish by Elliot Collier, no less – last year’s Western Conference Final participants are well on their way to a high finish in the standings.

At the same time, this still feels like a team that is living on fine margins to earn success. SAFC has conceded only four goals so far this campaign after its third shutout on Saturday, but has also only scored seven times itself, leaving games in the balance and reliant on stellar defending to earn results. Saturday’s result could have gone sideways if El Paso’s Emmanuel Sonupe had taken advantage of a stellar chance midway through the second half to pull Locomotive FC level. If it goes wrong at the wrong time for SAFC later this campaign, it might not be as big a surprise as you’d think.


The best example of how quickly a game can turn this weekend came in Phoenix Rising FC’s victory against New Mexico United, where a counterattack after an outstanding save by Phoenix’s Ben Lundt led to the only goal of the game at the other end for Greg Hurst for the hosts less than 30 seconds later. A close second came in Memphis 901 FC’s visit to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. Three minutes before halftime, the Switchbacks sprang 2021 Championship MVP Hadji Barry in behind the 901 FC back line, but Barry’s chance to put the hosts ahead was denied by a fine one-on-one save by Memphis’ Trey Muse.

Less than 90 seconds later, it was 901 FC that instead took the lead when Aaron Molloy delivered a pin-point finish from the top-right edge of the penalty area, setting up the visitors for a 2-1 win that ended the Switchbacks’ perfect start to the season. Memphis had to be resilient to withstand the challenges that Colorado Springs’ attack produced, but overall, this felt like a statement win for a side that should be a playoff contender again this season.


Over three consecutive draws preceding Saturday’s contest, Oakland Roots SC had produced performances that could have resulted in victories. When that first win of the season, and under new Head Coach Juan Guerra, arrived on Saturday night in a 4-1 result against Loudoun United FC you could feel a sense of relief for the side, which now can try to press on and build on another solid display.

“I’m happy for the players,” said Guerra. “They deserved that so much. It was a good performance and a good result. We’ve had good performances without the three points. Today it was both — tonight I can go to sleep because I know the players will be happy.”

Roots SC’s underlying numbers are solid – the club’s Expected Points mark through seven games is 9.70xP, 10th-highest in the league, compared to six points in the standings. If it can continue to execute, there could be a move up the Western Conference standings coming soon.


Indy Eleven’s performance against Atlanta United 2 on Saturday night would have been another step in the right direction regardless of the final outcome, but the celebrations that followed Aris Briggs’ stoppage-time winner after the hosts had hammered away to earn a result in the final 10 minutes showed the sort of excitement earning the payoff for those efforts can deliver.

Indy’s 21 overall shots for the game were their most in almost two seasons since a 23-shot performance against Sporting Kansas City in July 2020. They also tied for the fifth-most in a regular season game since the club joined the Championship for the 2018 season. With Manuel Arteaga returning to fitness and Solomon Asante on the way soon, the Boys in Blue have a platform to start building on.


There are numerous things to enjoy in an average game, but Saturday night gave us two examples of something that occurs relatively regularly but is always a joy to watch. The assists delivered by center backs Paco Craig of Miami FC and Dan Casey of Sacramento Republic FC deserve a second look as they provided exactly the right ball that beat their opponents all ends up.

Kyle Murphy’s first goal in Miami’s colors sent the hosts on the way to a 2-0 win against Hartford Athletic, while Sacramento picked up a 1-1 draw with Orange County SC on 2021 USL League One Defender of the Year Damia Viader’s first goal in the Championship.

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