Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio FC will meet for the second edition of the South Texas Derby this season on Saturday night at H-E-B Park. | Photo courtesy Christian Inoferio / Rio Grande Valley FC
Two major rivalries in the Western Conference highlight Saturday night’s action in the USL Championship as the month concludes with a nine-game slate of action that includes a pair of matinees and other high-profile contests in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LOU 63%, TUL 16%, Draw 21%
The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will try to rebound from a late midweek defeat in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as it plays host to FC Tulsa, which needs its own turnaround as it tries to close the gap to the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference. LouCity suffered its third consecutive defeat in all competitions on Wednesday night as it fell 2-1 to Major League Soccer’s Nashville SC in the Round of 16 of the Open Cup, with a late goal by 2021 MLS Most Valuable Player finalist Hany Mukhtar giving the visitors victory at Lynn Family Stadium. Louisville had previously suffered a second consecutive league defeat last Saturday as it fell 2-0 to Monterey Bay F.C. and will be aiming to avoid its first three-game losing streak in league action since its inaugural season in 2015 as it tries to regain top spot in the Eastern Conference. Tulsa arrives in Louisville, meanwhile, having suffered defeat in five of its last six league outings after a 5-1 loss to Orange County SC in its last outing on May 13 that saw the side allow five goals in the first half at Championship Soccer Stadium. The visitors were the last team prior to Monterey Bay to claim victory in the league at Lynn Family Stadium, however, as Dario Suarez scored the only goal in a 1-0 result last September, giving Tulsa potential hope of continuing LouCity’s difficult recent spell.
Louisville City FC – Cameron Lancaster: The Championship’s fourth-leading scorer all-time has made a pair of substitute appearances since his return from a preseason injury over the past week and could be in line to feature more prominently on Saturday.
FC Tulsa – Ronald Rodriguez: The El Salvador international and the rest of the Tulsa back line will want to rebound from their last outing in Orange County and will need to be at their best against a strong LouCity attack.
Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: IND 29%, NM 43%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Indy Eleven and New Mexico United will try to build on victories in their most recent outings as they square off for the first time in their respective histories in the Circle City. Indy solidified its position in the playoff places in the Eastern Conference last Saturday night with a 2-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls II on home turf that saw Jonas Fjeldberg find the net. The game also saw the Indy debut for two-time USL Championship MVP Solomon Asante, who came on as a second-half substitute after joining the team early in the week. The hosts now hold a four-point lead on the teams below them in the standings after winning five of their past six outings overall, but that record could be tested by a New Mexico side coming off a club-record 7-0 victory on Tuesday night against a below-strength Phoenix Rising FC side at the University of New Mexico Soccer Complex. United’s Chris Wehan scored his second goal in as many outings to open the scoring, while Justin Portillo scored his first two goals for the club, both coming from the penalty spot, but the highlight of the night was the first professional goal for Cristian Nava as the 2021 USL Academy Playoffs Golden Ball winner scored late on in the contest. New Mexico could also add Neco Brett back to its squad on Saturday after the veteran forward made his debut for Jamaica’s senior national team on Wednesday in an exhibition against Catalonia, but having jumped into the playoff positions with a second consecutive victory the visitors will be eager to close the gap on the front-runners in the West with another positive display.
Indy Eleven – Jared Timmer: The center back has been one of Indy’s more consistent players this season and will need to deliver another good display against a United side that is starting to find its rhythm in attack.
New Mexico United – Justin Portillo: The Championship’s leader with 33 chances created this season, Portillo should play an important role in the center of midfield and on set pieces to help drive New Mexico forward.
Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: HFD 36%, PHX 40%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: Hartford Athletic plays host to Phoenix Rising FC in the second interconference matchup on Saturday night with the visitors set to return to a more full-strength lineup after a tough midweek defeat as Hartford returns to action looking to build on a two-game winning streak on home turf. The Athletic will be back in action after their contest last Saturday night against FC Tulsa was postponed, but the side has seen a recent uptick in form aided by the arrival of veteran forward Corey Hertzog, who scored a late winner for the side in its most recent outing on May 14, a 3-2 victory against the New York Red Bulls II. Both Hertzog and Phoenix’s Santi Moar enter the contest sitting on 29 career regular-season assists, meaning both could become the next player to sit with 40 regular season goals and 30 regular season assists in their Championship careers with a helper on Saturday night, joining Jorge Herrera, Solomon Asante and Enzo Martinez in that exclusive group. Phoenix will be aiming to break a two-game losing streak after suffering defeat on Tuesday night to New Mexico United but should be closer to full strength as it heads East. The side could still be without three key players in James Musa, Aodhan Quinn and Kevon Lambert, all of whom were listed as questionable on the side’s pregame injury report.
Hartford Athletic – Prince Saydee: The Liberian forward should get the chance to square off against his former club on Saturday night having recorded three assists so far this campaign in Hartford’s colors.
Phoenix Rising FC – Arturo Rodriguez: The young midfielder has recorded one goal and two assists in the league this season and could have a key role to play for the visitors as it looks for success on the road.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Segra Field
538.com Predictor: LDN 41%, CHS 33%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Two teams in great need of a win meet as Loudoun United FC hosts the Charleson Battery with the sides each sitting in the bottom four of the Eastern Conference standings. Loudoun will be looking to break an eight-game losing streak after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Memphis 901 FC last Sunday evening at Segra Field, and this week added former D.C. United homegrown defender Jalen Robinson to add more experience to its defensive group, which has conceded 13 goals over its past five outings. United remains three points ahead of the Battery, however, which is winless in its last nine games after a season-opening victory against FC Tulsa on March 12. The visitors suffered a 4-0 defeat at home to Miami FC last Saturday night at Patriots Point as their attacking struggles continued with Charleston having gone three games without find the back of the net. Last weekend did see the return to action from injury of Grenada international AJ Paterson, and his experience could provide some additional stability to a side currently 13 points adrift of the playoff places in the East.
Loudoun United FC – Ted Ku-DiPietro: The attacking playmaker has recorded two assists in four appearances this season on loan from D.C. United and could provide the creativity the hosts need to bag their first win since March 19.
Charleston Battery – Aidan Apodaca: The 26-year-old has notched two goals and one assist so far this season while recording 15 chances created and eight shots on target, offering some attacking threat for the Battery.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium
538.com Predictor: MIA 41%, PIT 30%, Draw 29%
The Lowdown: Miami FC will try to close the gap to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night as the visitors make their second consecutive trip to Florida in league action while aiming for a better result than their prior visit. The Hounds suffered a 3-1 defeat against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium as the hosts rallied after Pittsburgh had taken a first-half lead through Alex Dixon. The goal was Dixon’s second of the season to go with four assists, continuing the strong form the veteran winger has shown since joining the Hounds prior to the start of last season. The defeat broke a two-game winning streak for the Hounds, who currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and four points ahead of Miami, which took a resounding 4-0 victory against the Charleston Battery in its last outing this past Saturday. A pair of goals by Othello Bah and a goal and assist by Florian Valot led Miami to its best attacking display of the season so far, one that Head Coach Anthony Pulis will be hoping it can build on ahead of some likely departures in the upcoming international break.
Miami FC – Romeo Parkes: The Jamaican forward could face his former side on Saturday night having recorded three goals and one assist so far this campaign, including a second-half tally in Miami’s most recent win.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Kenardo Forbes: The Championship’s all-time assists leader has been on the precipice of history for the past four games in pursuit of his 50th career regular-season assist in the Championship, during which time he has recorded 11 chances created and a 0.97 Expected Assists mark.
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: H-E-B Park
538.com Predictor: RGV 30%, SA 42%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: The second edition of the South Texas Derby this season – and the second game of the 2022 Copa Tejas – sees Rio Grande Valley FC play host to San Antonio FC with the Toros looking to build on consecutive victories that have pushed the side back into the playoff race in the Western Conference. A pair of goals by Emilio Ycaza last Saturday night saw RGVFC take a 2-1 victory against San Diego Loyal SC at H-E-B Park for the side’s fifth win of the season in an up-and-down campaign that so far has yet to see the Toros record a draw in league play. The hosts will be hoping to reverse the result from the first time the sides met at H-E-B Park on March 27, when goals by Elliot Collier and David Loera delivered a 2-1 victory for the Alamo City club. SAFC will be returning to action for the first time since a 2-0 win at Miami FC on May 14 this weekend after the club’s contest last Saturday night against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC was postponed. The visitors remain tied on points with the Switchbacks for first place in the Western Conference, however, and will be eager to keep driving forward in one of the best starts the club has made in its history.
Rio Grande Valley FC – Ricky Ruiz: The former League One standout has notched a goal and assist so far this season while recording 10 completed dribbles and 10 chances created and could be a player for SAFC to watch closely.
San Antonio FC – Elliot Collier: The New Zealand forward found the net when the sides last met and has recorded a team-high four goals this season going into the latest edition of one of the best rivalries in the Championship.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Cardinale Stadium
538.com Predictor: MB 28%, COS 46%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. will try to build on its best victory of the season so far as it takes on a Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side that sits tied for the Western Conference lead but has seen each of its past two contests postponed. Monterey Bay claimed the biggest upset of the Championship season so far last Saturday night as goals by Mobi Fehr and Sam Gleadle earned a 2-0 victory on the road against perennial title contender Louisville City FC at Lynn Family Stadium, giving MBFC its third win overall in its inaugural campaign. Saturday marks the first of three consecutive home games for Head Coach Frank Yallop’s side, which is currently 1-1-0 at Cardinale Stadium after spending the first two months of the season on the road. Among those travels was a 1-0 defeat against the Switchbacks on March 19 that saw Elvis Amoh score the only goal at Weidner Field, one of three goals the offseason arrival has scored as part of Colorado Springs’ impressive attack. That group could need to shake off some rustiness on Saturday, however, with the Switchbacks set for their first game since a 3-2 win against Rio Grande Valley FC on May 5 that was followed by postponed contests against San Diego Loyal SC and San Antonio FC over the past two weekends.
Monterey Bay F.C. – Dallas Jaye: The Guam international recorded a four-save shutout in Louisville for his first clean sheet in MBFC colors and will be hoping for a repeat performance with the aid of his back line against a strong Colorado Springs attack.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Hadji Barry: The 2021 Championship MVP has recorded three goals and four assists so far this season, continuing to provide the attacking thrust for the Switchbacks alongside Michee Ngalina and newcomers Elvis Amoh and Cam Lindley.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Laney Stadium
538.com Predictor: OAK 37%, SAC 34%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC and Sacramento Republic FC will renew their rivalry on Saturday night at Laney Stadium as the visitors try to claim their first win in the series between the team after a historic victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. Sacramento advanced to the Quarterfinals of the historic tournament for the first time in its history as Rodrigo Lopez had a goal and assist and Luis Felipe Fernandes also found the net in a 2-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer at Heart Health Stadium. The win kept Republic FC undefeated in all competitions on its home turf this season and provided potential momentum as it faces another NorCal rival in Oakland looking to jump back into the playoff positions in the Western Conference. Oakland also picked up a victory last time out, however, as Ottar Magnus Karlsson’s seventh league goal of the season delivered a 1-0 win against the LA Galaxy II last Saturday for the hosts at Laney Stadium. The Icelandic forward – on loan from Italian club Venezia F.C. – is now tied for the league-lead this season. Oakland claimed the regular-seasons series against Sacramento last campaign, taking the lone win in four meetings that saw Emrah Klimenta score the winner against his former club in a 2-1 win at Laney Stadium on October 6 after the three prior meetings had been drawn. Roots SC could call on another former Republic FC player on Saturday, too, with forward Darisuz Formella having made the move to Oakland this past offseason.
Oakland Roots SC – Emrah Klimenta: Part of Republic FC’s 2014 title-winning squad, the former Montenegro international has had a solid second season so far with Roots SC and will hope to guide the back line to another good performance.
Sacramento Republic FC – Luther Archimede: The Guadeloupe international may be called into the starting lineup in the absence of Douglas Martinez Jr., who will serve a one-game suspension after his red card against El Paso Locomotive FC in Sacramento’s last league outing.
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park
538.com Predictor: LA 28%, SD 49%, 23%
The Lowdown: The LA Galaxy II will try to continue their strong home form this season as they play host to a San Diego Loyal SC side hoping to rebound after letting a lead slip away in its most recent outing. The Galaxy II return home after suffering consecutive defeats on the road, including a 1-0 loss last Saturday night against Oakland Roots SC that left Los Dos two points out of the playoff positions in the Western Conference. The side has been a far stronger proposition on its own turf so far this season, however, with LA having won four out of five contests at Dignity Health Sports Park including a 4-3 win against Louisville City FC on May 13 in its last home contest. That should keep SD Loyal on its toes as the visitors try to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat to Rio Grande Valley FC last Saturday at H-E-B Park in which the side conceded twice in the final 15 minutes after Kyle Vassell had opened the scoring. Vassell is currently tied for the league-lead with seven goals after his tally against the Toros and will be hoping to lead San Diego to its second win this season against Los Dos after Thomas Amang led the side to a 2-1 win at Torero Stadium on the opening day of the season on March 12 in their prior outing.
LA Galaxy II – Cameron Dunbar: The 19-year-old has recorded three goals and two assists so far this campaign with all three goals coming on home turf as part of a vibrant Los Dos attacking unit.
San Diego Loyal SC – Alejandro Guido: The veteran midfielder has recorded one goal this campaign as well as seven chances created while delivering consistent performances but hasn’t quite caught fire yet in the attacking third.
Tag(s): News Game Previews San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Indy Eleven New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Monterey Bay F.C.