Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC
The end of the first quarter of the 2022 USL Championship regular season comes into view as Week 9 kicks off on Wednesday night with the lone remaining undefeated side in the league in action and three other games that offer intriguing matchups across the country.
Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: ATL 17%, LOU 61%, Draw 22%
The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will try to move its undefeated run to start to the season to 10 games as it visits an Atlanta United 2 side that has suffered three consecutive defeats as it returns to action. Atlanta will be back in action for the first time since April 23 when it suffered a 4-0 defeat to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Highmark Stadium. The side has now scored only one goals in the past three contests and has scored only seven times overall this campaign with Jackson Conway leading the side with four goals individually. LouCity also squared off with the Hounds in their most recent outing this past Saturday and earned an impressive 2-0 victory before 11,093 fans at Lynn Family Stadium as Wilson Harris recorded a goal and assist, moving the young forward to five goals so far this season. Harris also found the net when LouCity took a 1-0 win against Atlanta on the opening day of the regular season, and the visitors will be looking to complete a season sweep against an Atlanta side it has gone 7-1-2 against in their prior meetings.
Atlanta United 2 – Aiden McFadden: Last year’s leading scorer for Atlanta, McFadden has yet to find the net this campaign from the right side of the field and could use a breakout performance to help boost his side.
Louisville City FC – Amadou Dia: The veteran right back notched his first assist in LouCity’s colors against Pittsburgh on Saturday and has been solid overall in eight appearances, recording eight interceptions and eight tackles.
Venue: Protective Stadium
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: BHM 44%, MIA 28%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Birmingham Legion FC can jump into the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference as it plays Miami FC at Protective Stadium with both teams coming off victories last time out as they meet for the first time this season. Legion FC took a 2-1 victory against the Charleston Battery last Wednesday night as Prosper Kasim recorded both goals for the side to move to a team-high three goals this season. The result was the third win in the past four outings for Birmingham, with Enzo Martinez having also played a role in the club’s turnaround from a slow start to the season, contributing a goal and two assists. Legion FC will now look to maintain its perfect record against Miami after wins in two prior meetings, both in South Florida, as the sides meet in Alabama for the first time. Miami took a notable road win in its last outing, however, as Kyle Murphy and Pierre Da Silva each scored in the opening 11 minutes of a 2-1 win against Memphis 901 FC this past Saturday night. That result moved Miami into fifth place in the Eastern Conference on 13 points, two points ahead of Legion FC in eighth place.
Birmingham Legion FC – Mikey Lopez: The veteran midfielder has started every game of the season so far and could have a key role to play at both ends of the field, with eight chances created and one assist and seven interceptions this season.
Miami FC – Bolu Akinyode: The Nigerian midfielder will return to face his former club looking to play a key role in the center of midfield, having recorded a passing accuracy rate of 87.7 percent and 10 tackles this campaign.
Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: ELP 58%, TUL 20%, Draw 23%
The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC will try to build on victory last time out as it returns home to play host to an FC Tulsa side that has lost its past three outings. Locomotive FC rallied from a halftime deficit to defeat Loudoun United FC 3-1 on Saturday evening at Segra Field as Luis Solignac recorded a pair of goals and United States U-20 international Diego Luna notched his second goal of the season to earn El Paso its second win of the season. El Paso has boasted one of the best attacks in the season this campaign, ranking second in the league with 17 goals overall, and that group will look to try and take advantage of a Tulsa defense that has struggled so far, allowing 15 goals and sitting at an Expected Goals Against mark of 14.9xGA, second highest-in the league this season. Tulsa suffered a 2-0 defeat to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in its last outing on April 23 and is now 1-2-0 against Western Conference opposition in interleague action this season as it looks for a turnaround to start the new month.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Dylan Mares: The playmaker has recorded three goals, two assists and 16 chances created so far this season while linking play with a passing accuracy rate
FC Tulsa – JJ Williams: The center forward recorded four goals in four appearances in April as he began to fully mesh with his new teammates. Delivering a strong attacking display is going to be important if the visitors are to break their downturn in form.
Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SAC 44%, NM 29%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will try to get back on a winning track on home turf as it plays host to New Mexico United, which returns to action after suffering defeat in its only two games in the past month. Republic FC was held to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night by Las Vegas Lights FC in its most recent outing as Dan Casey’s equalizer wasn’t followed by a go-ahead goal for the hosts despite posting 10 shots on target and 25 shots overall at Hearth Health Park. The draw was the first minor blemish on Sacramento’s home record this season, with the side having won all five games in the league and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. While the result left Republic FC winless in its last three league games, New Mexico heads west for the first time since the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs to visit Sacramento after consecutive defeats in its last two league outings. A 1-0 loss to San Antonio FC on April 23 was the most recent outing for new Head Coach Zach Prince’s side, which will be aiming to get back on the scoresheet ahead of another key game to jump back into the playoff race this weekend at home to San Diego Loyal SC.
Sacramento Republic FC – Emil Cuello: The attacking midfielder had four shots after coming on as a substitute against Las Vegas in Sacramento’s last outing and could get a chance to start this time around.
New Mexico United – Chris Wehan: After an outstanding close to the 2021 campaign, Wehan has yet to record either a goal or assist yet this season. Finding a way to break through would go a long way to boosting United’s chances.