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Gameday Previews – Saturday, May 7

By Staff, 05/06/22, 1:31PM EDT


Monterey Bay F.C. opens its new home, and San Antonio heads to Phoenix as part of an eight-game slate

Monterey Bay F.C. will open its home at Cardinale Stadium on Saturday night as it plays host to Las Vegas Lights FC.

The newest venue in the USL Championship has its official opening on Saturday night as Monterey Bay F.C. kicks off at Cardinale Stadium, while there’s a big Western Conference clash as San Antonio FC looks to reverse its lone defeat of the season so far in a visit to Phoenix Rising FC as part of an eight-game slate of action across the night.

Here’s a look ahead to all the action.

Hartford Athletic vs. Loudoun United FC

Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: HFD 56%, LDN 20%, Draw 24%

The Lowdown: Hartford Athletic will try to claim its first league victory of the season on Saturday night as it plays host to fellow struggler Loudoun United FC, which has lost five consecutive games after a bright start to the season as it arrives at Trinity Health Stadium. The Athletic suffered their fifth consecutive defeat last Saturday night in a weather-delayed 1-0 loss to Indy Eleven that saw new arrival Corey Hertzog make his debut for the club, and the hosts will be hoping Hertzog – who sits second all-time in regular season goals in USL Championship history with 73 tallies – can spark a turnaround after a disappointing start to Head Coach Harry Watling’s second season at the helm. Loudoun, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-1 defeat to El Paso Locomotive FC at Segra Field last Saturday that saw the side hold a halftime lead before the visitors rallied to take victory. Loudoun opened the game with two wins and a draw but has conceded 13 goals in the past five outings to drop to 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Hartford will be hoping its veterans can take advantage of that defensive vulnerability and jumpstart its campaign.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Andre Lewis:
The Jamaican midfielder has recorded one goal and 12 chances created this season and could provide the service alongside Danny Barrera that Corey Hertzog needs to get off the mark.

Loudoun United FC – Abdoul Zanne: The 19-year-old has recorded a goal and assist in 64 minutes off the bench this season and could be an option to try and help lift the Loudoun attack as the side tries to get back on track.

New Mexico United vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Venue: Isotopes Park
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: NM 44%, SD 31%, 25%

The Lowdown: New Mexico United is set to welcome its largest crowd of the season so far as it looks to build on a midweek draw on the road against a San Diego Loyal SC side that is vying for first place in the Western Conference after a comeback victory last weekend. New Mexico played to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday night against Sacramento Republic FC at Heart Health Park, receiving a late reprieve after a missed penalty kick by the hosts left the game scoreless. United has not found the net in its past three games overall, however, to sit in 10th place in the Western Conference and will be hoping for a return to form from Jamaican forward Neco Brett, who recorded three goals in the opening month of the regular season but has gone scoreless since. San Diego has had little trouble finding the net, meanwhile, with Kyle Vassell sitting on five goals this season, but it was his assist on Jack Blake’s goal followed by Evan Conway’s late winner that proved key in a 3-2 win for SD Loyal last time out on the road against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The visitors are now 2-2-1 on the road this season and will be looking for another win to keep pace with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at the top of the West as they play their 10th game of the campaign.

Spotlight Players
New Mexico United – Justin Portillo:
The experienced central midfielder will likely play a key role in controlling the tempo for the hosts and has been an ace at set pieces with a league-high 28 chances created this season.

San Diego Loyal SC – Nick Moon: Coming off a Goal of the Week-winning finish against Tampa Bay, Moon will look to continue his uptick in form if he gets another chance in the starting lineup on the left flank.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Birmingham Legion FC

Venue: Highmark Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: PIT 45%, BHM 27%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC returns home looking to rebound from defeat last time out as it plays host to a Birmingham Legion FC side that is undefeated in its last three outings and only a point outside the Eastern Conference playoff positions. The Hounds suffered a 2-0 defeat on the road against Louisville City FC in their last outing in a game that saw Dane Kelly sent off with 10 minutes to go, leaving the USL Championship’s all-time goalscoring leader suspended for Saturday’s contest. The Hounds have been strong on home turf so far, though, with three wins from three in the league at Highmark Stadium this season, a key to the club’s current third-place position in the Eastern Conference. Legion FC was held to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday night against Miami FC at Protective Stadium in an even game between the two playoff contenders as Matt VanOekel recorded the 29th clean sheet in the Championship’s regular season for his career with three saves. Pittsburgh has won each of the three prior meetings between the sides, including when they last met in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs at Highmark Stadium, and the hosts will be hoping to maintain that form as midfielder Kenardo Forbes takes aim at becoming the first player to record 50 regular-season assists in the Championship.

Spotlight Players
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Albert Dikwa:
With four goals and two assists this season, Dikwa has made a strong start and will look to challenge a solid Birmingham back line in Dane Kelly’s absence.

Birmingham Legion FC – Juan Agudelo: After coming on as a substitute on Wednesday night, the former United States international could make a return to the starting lineup and look to add to his one goal and eight chances created this campaign.

FC Tulsa vs. Detroit City FC

Venue: ONEOK Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: TUL 40%, DET 33%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa returns home looking to span a four-game losing streak as it plays host to a Detroit City FC side that has been going in the opposite direction in the standings, sitting in second place after a four-game winning streak in the league as it arrives for its first visit to ONEOK Field. Detroit claimed a 2-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls II last Saturday evening at Keyworth Stadium as second-half substitute Francis Atuahene played a role in both goals, scoring the winner with nine minutes to go for his first league goal of the season for his new club. DCFC is undefeated in its last seven league games overall and has conceded only once in its past four contests with goalkeeper Nathan Steinwascher sitting tied for second in the league with four shutouts this season. Tulsa, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-1 defeat on Wednesday night against El Paso Locomotive FC, a result that has now seen the side concede 12 goals over its past four defeats with goalkeeper Sean Lewis leading the league with 30 saves. Tulsa has had some bright moments, with JJ Williams having recorded five goals this season after his tally in El Paso, and the side will have Lebo Moloto available for selection after his red card against Locomotive FC was overturned by the Independent Review Panel. With the side sitting four points out of the playoff positions going into the weekend’s action, though, the hosts will need a big performance to right the ship against one of the more impressive units in the Eastern Conference so far this campaign.

Spotlight Players
FC Tulsa – Ronald Rodriguez:
The El Salvador international has recorded an 80 percent tackle success rate and 12 clearances in seven appearance this season but will need a sharp display to try and help the hosts turn things around defensively.

Detroit City FC – Rhys Williams: The right-sided wingback has been a strong contributor to DCFC’s success this season with two assists and 12 chances created as well as 20 tackles won in eight appearances.

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. LA Galaxy II

Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: ELP 62%, LA 16%, Draw 22%

The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC will try to make it a six-point week as the hosts go for a third consecutive victory when they play host to the LA Galaxy II, with Los Dos also coming off a solid victory themselves last weekend in their most recent outing. Locomotive FC took a 3-1 win on Wednesday night against FC Tulsa as Luis Solignac scored a pair of goals and Dylan Mares had a goal and assist to lead the side in the attacking third. Solignac’s two-goal outing was his second in a row, jumpstarting the Argentine’s campaign after injury had hampered his early season. Locomotive FC’s win moved it a point behind the Galaxy II, who currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference after a 3-0 win against Phoenix Rising FC last Sunday night to run their undefeated streak to three games. Mexico U-20 international Jonathan Perez had a goal and two assists for Los Dos in that contest and could be in the spotlight again with the potential that United States U-20 international Diego Luna will be in the El Paso lineup, bringing together two of the bright young players in North American on the same field.

Spotlight Players
El Paso Locomotive FC – Diego Luna:
The United States U-20 international has recorded two goals and one assist this season, and currently leads the Championship with a +2.49 Goals Added Above Replacement mark this season.

LA Galaxy II – Eric Lopez: The Los Dos shot-stopper has produced some impressive displays in recent weeks and could need to do so again facing an El Paso attack that has hit its stride in recent outings.

Monterey Bay F.C. vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

Venue: Cardinale Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: MB 42%, LV 31%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. will make its debut at new home venue Cardinale Stadium as it plays host to Las Vegas Lights FC, bringing back to life one of the historic venues in Northern California’s sporting landscape. Formerly known as Freeman Field on the campus of CSU Monterey Bay, Cardinale Stadium has undergone a $12 million renovation over the past eight months to provide a modern, intimate atmosphere at the 6,000-seat venue. With the chance to play before home fans for the first time, MBFC will be looking to turn around its on-field fortunes as injuries have hampered a solid start to the club’s inaugural season. The side has been led by forward Chase Boone with three goals and could feature a pair of local products in forward Walmer Martinez and midfielder Adrian Rebollar, both of whom grew up in the Monterey Bay region. Las Vegas arrives sitting fifth in the Western Conference and on a three-game undefeated streak after earning a 1-1 draw on the road against Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday night. Goalkeeper Tomas Romero shone for the visitors at Heart Health Park, with his nine saves setting a season-high for the 2022 campaign. Lights FC has lost only once in its last five games overall as it prepares to face former Head Coach Frank Yallop, who has led the formation of Monterey Bay’s squad since his departure from the club at the end of the 2020 season.

Spotlight Players
Monterey Bay F.C. – Walmer Martinez:
The Santa Cruz native was the first signing in MBFC history and will be aiming to make a big impact in the club’s opening night at its permanent home.

Las Vegas Lights FC – Roberto Molina: The El Salvador international notched his first goal of the season in Sacramento and will hope to upstage his La Selecta teammate Martinez as Lights FC tries to spoil the party.

Orange County SC vs. Oakland Roots SC

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OC 51%, OAK 23%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Orange County SC will look to build on a positive road victory last time out as it plays host to fellow California club Oakland Roots SC with the sides separated by a point on the wrong side of the playoff line in the Western Conference. OCSC took a 2-1 win on the road against Rio Grande Valley FC last Saturday night as former Mexico international Erick “Cubo” Torres scored both goals at H-E-B Park, giving him four tallies in all competitions this season. The win was just OCSC’s second in the league this season as the defending title holders have made an up-and-down start to the campaign, but should boost the side’s confidence as it completed a season-sweep against the Toros after victory at home on March 19. The hosts will look for their first home win since that contest against Oakland, which produced numerous chances but was unable to capitalize in a 3-0 defeat to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday night at Laney Stadium. A saved first-half penalty kick by Ottar Magnus Karlsson and other opportunities denied by Colorado Springs’ Jeff Caldwell proved key as the Switchbacks pulled away late for victory. If Roots SC can sharpen its finishing from a 43.1 percent shooting accuracy rate, it could cause Orange County problems on its home turf.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Erick “Cubo” Torres:
OCSC’s big offseason arrival is starting to hit his stride and finding a solid partnership in the attacking third with fellow new arrival Milan Iloski.

Oakland Roots SC – Charlie Dennis: A former USL League One standout, Dennis has been a strong creative force for Roots SC this season and sits eighth in the league with 18 chances created this campaign.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. San Antonio FC

Venue: Wild Horse Pass
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: PHX 35%, SA 40%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: San Antonio FC will try to take revenge on the only side to have handed it defeat this season as it heads to face Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday night. San Antonio currently sits in second place in the Western Conference with seven wins out of eight games to start the campaign after producing an attacking explosion in a 6-0 win against Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday night at Toyota Field. Six different players found the net as FC Dallas loanee Nicky Hernandez recorded a goal and assist in his first start for the side while Elliot Collier bagged his fourth goal of the league campaign. San Antonio was stifled in attack when they last faced Phoenix on April 2 at Toyota Field, falling to a 2-0 defeat that saw Luis Seijas and Marcus Epps find the net for the visitors, and Rising FC will be hopeful of a similar display after suffering a 3-0 loss on the road against the LA Galaxy II last Sunday evening. Phoenix has won four out of five outings at Wild Horse Pass so far this season – including three in a row – and will be aiming to close the six-point gap that currently separates itself from SAFC in the standings with another positive performance.

Spotlight Players
Phoenix Rising FC – Marcus Epps:
The bright winger scored against his former club when these sides met last month and will be one to watch as he continues to grow into his role at Rising FC.

San Antonio FC – PC: The Brazilian midfielder was absent when the two sides met previously and has proven a key element to SAFC’s success over the past two seasons with his pressing and play in the center of the park.

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