Detroit City FC will try to rebound from its first home loss of 2022 as it hosts El Paso Locomotive FC on ESPN on Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Keyworth Stadium. | Photo courtesy Jon DeBoer / Detroit City FC
The first regular season game in USL Championship history to air on ESPN kicks off a busy slate of interconference games on Saturday as two former Championship title winners square off for the first time, and the two teams sitting level at the top of the Western Conference face challenging opposition on home turf as part of the night’s action.
Here’s a look ahead at all the action.
Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: DET 31%, ELP 42%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will try to rebound from its first home defeat of 2022 on Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd as it welcomes El Paso Locomotive FC to Keyworth Stadium for the first USL Championship regular season game to air nationally on ESPN. Le Rouge conceded early in either half to suffer a 2-0 defeat to Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday, marking the first time the side had been shut out at home this season. The side remains in the top four in the Eastern Conference, however, with its on-field success in its first year in the Championship one of the biggest stories of the season so far as veterans such as goalkeeper Nathan Steinwascher, defender Stephen Carroll and midfielder Maxi Rodriguez have been supplemented by incoming standouts including Antoine Hoppenot, who leads the team with five goals and four assists. Locomotive FC will take aim at a second consecutive notable away victory as it heads to Detroit after taking a 1-0 victory last Saturday night against Phoenix Rising FC at Wild Horse Pass. A second-half penalty kick by Josue Aaron Gomez sent El Paso to all three points, marking the side’s first win against Phoenix in its history as it extended its current undefeated run to five games. Both teams are set to have players return from international duty, with DCFC’s Billy Forbes having notched a pair of goals for Turks and Caicos in its recent Concacaf Nations League games, and El Paso potentially bringing back Haiti’s Christiano Francois, Grenada’s Shavon John-Brown and El Salvador’s Eric Calvillo to bolster its lineup.
Detroit City FC – Maxi Rodriguez: The central midfielder has been a two-way standout for Le Rouge this season and will need to be at his best against a strong Locomotive FC group that could see El Salvador international Eric Calvillo return to action.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Luis Solignac: The Argentine will likely return from a one-game suspension in Michigan and will be aiming to add to his team-leading seven goals so far this campaign in another big moment for the side.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
538.com Predictor: ATL 33%, HFD 42%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: Atlanta United 2 will try to build on its third victory of the season last time out as it plays host to a Hartford Athletic side hoping to build on a midweek draw as it tries to break a four-game winless streak. Atlanta claimed a 2-0 result against Loudoun United FC last Saturday night as Brazilian midfielder Raimar scored both goals, a result that moved the side into double-digit points this season. Raimar has since his introduction to the lineup, with three goals and two assists in six appearances for the side, and in combination with midfielder Robbie Mertz has helped Atlanta record multiple goals in each of its past three outings. Hartford arrives in Georgia aiming to reverse the result from the first meeting between the sides in April when Atlanta took a 2-1 victory at Trinity Health Stadium, but the side earned a positive 1-1 draw against Eastern Conference leader Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday night as Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. scored a first-half goal and defender Tom Brewitt made a key goal line clearance late to earn a point. Hartford sits a point back of Atlanta in the Eastern Conference, however, and with both teams in need of making up ground to the playoff places as the midway point of the season approaches, victory is going to be essential for both in this contest.
Atlanta United 2 – Grant Howard: The 19-year-old defender put in a solid display as Atlanta claimed only its second shutout of the season against Loudoun United FC but will need to be sharp against an experienced Hartford attack.
Hartford Athletic – Juan Carlos Obregon Jr.: The Honduran forward’s goal against Memphis was his second of the season in five appearances and will hopefully spark a solid run of form as the Athletic try to make a move up the standings.
Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LDN 23%, PHX 54%, Draw 22%
The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC is in need of a change in fortunes as it heads to face Loudoun United FC for the first time on Saturday night with the perennial title contender having suffered defeats in four of its last five outings to slip below the playoff line in the Western Conference going into the weekend’s action. Rising FC fell 1-0 to El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass, the fourth home defeat the side has suffered this season after going undefeated at home in 2021. Phoenix has also been held scoreless in its last two outings, the first time the side has been held scoreless in consecutive games across the regular season and playoffs since July, 2017 against FC Tulsa and San Antonio FC. The visitors will be hoping for a better display against Loudoun, which fell 2-0 against Atlanta United 2 last Saturday night to remain in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. United earned victory at home in its last outing at Segra Field as Abdellatif Aboukoura scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls II on June 8, but the hosts will likely get a bigger test from a Phoenix side in desperate need of a confidence-boosting victory.
Loudoun United FC – Abdoul Zanne: The attacking midfielder has notched a goal and assist so far this campaign and will be hoping to put in a strong performance against a solid Phoenix back line.
Phoenix Rising FC – Greg Hurst: The Scottish forward found the net in Phoenix’s last trip to the east coast on May 28 at Hartford Athletic and could be the player to break the side’s drop in attacking performance of late.
Venue: Al Lang Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: TBR 70%, CHS 11%, Draw 19%
The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will aim to continue their impressive recent run of form as they play host to a Charleston Battery side coming off its best result of the season last time out as the sides square off in downtown St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay took a 2-1 victory on the road against Florida rival Miami FC last Saturday night to earn a fourth victory in the past five games with a second-half penalty kick by Leo Fernandes proving decisive as the Rowdies held off a late Miami attempt to rally at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Tampa Bay is now only three points off first place in the Eastern Conference as it approaches the midway point of the regular season, with Fernandes having scored from the spot in consecutive outings to move to four goals and three assists this campaign. Charleston, meanwhile, swept to a 3-0 victory against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Saturday to earn its first win since the opening day of the campaign and move off the bottom of the Eastern Conference as an early goal by Augustine Williams was followed by late first-half goals by Andrew Booth and Romario Piggott to potentially turn a corner in their campaign. The Battery will need to turn around its recent form against the Rowdies here, however, with Tampa Bay having won the last five meetings between the teams.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Lewis Hilton: The midfield playmaker provided the delivery for an own goal that opened the scoring for the Rowdies in Miami and his high-tempo game will be a challenge for the Battery to contain.
Charleston Battery – Augustine Williams: The Sierra Leone forward has notched five goals this season, including three in the past two games, and will try to prove a handful for the Rowdies’ strong defensive unit.
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LOU 53%, OC 22%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Louisville City FC could claim top spot in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night as it plays host to fellow former USL Championship title winner Orange County SC in the first meeting between the clubs in their histories. LouCity enters two points back of current Eastern leader Memphis 901 FC – which is off this weekend after a midweek draw at Hartford Athletic – as it returns to action after a 1-0 defeat to the third-placed Tampa Bay Rowdies on June 5 in its most recent outing. Louisville’s loss came as the side was held without an official shot on target, a surprise given LouCity’s typically prolific attack this season which has recorded 27 goals to sit tied for fourth in the league this campaign. The hosts have won five out of seven contests at Lynn Family Stadium this campaign, however, as they welcome an Orange County side that needs a major turnaround in its title defense. OCSC suffered a 3-0 defeat on the road against Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday for its third consecutive loss, leaving the defending champions in 12th place in the Western Conference and seven points out of the playoff positions. After this week’s major news of 18-year-old defender Kobi Henry’s transfer to Ligue 1 club Stade de Reims, the side has looked to bolster its back line with the arrival of Nashville SC rookie Ahmed Longmire on loan for the remainder of the season, aiming to tighten up a defense that has conceded eight goals in the past three games.
Louisville City FC – Brian Ownby: The veteran winger has recorded three goals and two assists this season and will try to test Orange County’s back line on the right side and add to a solid campaign so far.
Orange County SC – Patrick Rakovsky: After last season’s playoff heroics, Rakovsky has recorded only one shutout in 14 games this campaign and could need to come up with a big performance to help the visitors earn a result on the road.
Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: RGV 40%, PIT 33%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will meet for the first time on Saturday night with the Toros hoping to rebound after letting a lead slip on the road last time out with the playoff places in the Western Conference within view. The Toros held a two-goal lead against Oakland Roots SC last Saturday night at Laney Stadium but conceded twice in the final 12 minutes to finish with a 2-2 draw in California. The result marked the first drawn contest for RGVFC this season, leaving the side two points out of the playoff positions in 10th place in the standings. The hosts will be hoping to add to the recent struggles for the Hounds, however, with the side having suffered a 3-0 defeat on the road against the Charleston Battery in its most recent outing. Pittsburgh is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference but is winless in its last four games since a 1-0 win against El Paso Locomotive FC on May 14. Led by the attacking duo of Dane Kelly (6 goals) and Albert Dikwa (5 goals) the hosts will be aiming to get back on the front foot as they head to South Texas for the first time.
Rio Grande Valley FC – Robert Coronado: Playing a more advanced role than in previous seasons, Coronado has notched four goals this campaign, all of which have come in the past five games, a run he’ll be aiming to continue.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Danny Griffin: The central midfielder has been one of the Hounds most consistent performers for much of the campaign and will need to try and keep a creative Toros midfield from causing problems for the visitors.
Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: COS 54%, IND 21%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will try to maintain its place at the top of the Western Conference standings as it plays host to Indy Eleven for the first meeting between the teams in their histories. The Switchbacks rallied to take a 3-1 victory against the LA Galaxy II last Saturday night for their fourth win in the past five games, and 10th in 12 games so far this campaign overall, as the side’s potent attack continued to impress. Goals by Elvis Amoh, Hadji Barry and Cam Lindley earned victory for the visitors at Dignity Health Sports Park, with Barry backing up his 2021 Most Valuable Player campaign with another solid season for the side. After equaling the league record with 25 goals last year, Barry has taken a more creative role behind Amoh this year, but has still registered five goals and five assists, including three goals and two assists in his last five appearances. Indy, meanwhile, will try to maintain its position above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference as it looks to build on a 1-1 draw against Miami FC in its most recent outing on June 8. The revamped side – which now features two-time Most Valuable Player Solomon Asante – has produced a solid run under new Head Coach Mark Lowry to return to playoff contention this season with forward Stefano Pinho leading the Boys in Blue with seven goals and three assists.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Cam Lindley: The Indiana native is set to face his former club and enters in the middle of a strong season for the Switchbacks with two goals, four assists and 38 chances created, the latter placing him tied for the league-lead.
Indy Eleven – Solomon Asante: The Ghanaian playmaker recorded one goal in three appearances against the Switchbacks while at Phoenix Rising FC during his career and remains one away from 50 regular-season goals for his career heading to Weidner Field.
Venue: Toyota Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SA 60%, OAK 17%, Draw 23%
The Lowdown: San Antonio FC returns home after victory last time out aiming to keep pace at the top of the Western Conference as it plays host to Oakland Roots SC for the first time, with the visitors hoping to rebound from a midweek setback as they head to Texas. Roots SC saw a seven-game undefeated streak come to an end on Wednesday night as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to New Mexico United at Laney Stadium. Oakland took a first-half lead through Edgardo Rito, but a pair of second-half goals by United saw the visitors through to victory while keeping Roots SC below the playoff line in the Western Conference. The visitors will now visit one of the more difficult places to play in the Championship this season, with San Antonio having won three out of four games so far this campaign as it opens a run of four games in the next five at home. SAFC had to battle for victory last time out, however, conceding the opening goal before getting a late winner from Santiago Patino in a 3-2 victory against Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday afternoon. Sitting even on points with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to start the weekend, San Antonio will be aiming for another three points ahead of a showdown between the two Western Conference leaders next weekend.
San Antonio FC – PC: The Brazilian midfielder has been a driving force for San Antonio over the past two seasons and recorded a pair of assists against Monterey Bay as part of another impressive display in the middle of the park.
Oakland Roots SC – Juan Carlos Azocar: The Venezuelan wingback has had prior success against San Antonio when part of Rio Grande Valley FC, scoring in both of his prior contest against the hosts in his career.
Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SAC 61%, LA 16%, Draw 23%
The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will look to continue its undefeated home record this season and build on a big road win last time out as it plays host to an LA Galaxy II side coming off a strong midweek victory. Sacramento claimed a 2-0 victory against Detroit City FC last Saturday as it handed Le Rouge their first home loss of the season thanks to goals by Damia Viader and Keko early in either half. The win was just Republic FC’s second on the road this season and moved the side into sixth place in the Western Conference, but the side has been more impressive on home turf where it has gone 4-0-2 in the league this season, including a 1-0 win against San Antonio FC last time out at Heart Health Park. Los Dos will try to challenge that record as they arrive after a 3-2 win against Monterey Bay F.C. on Wednesday night that saw Preston Judd record the second hat trick in the Championship to lead the side to victory. Judd has now scored seven goals this season and alongside the Galaxy II’s other attacking standouts will try to claim another victory on the road in a series that goes back to the inaugural seasons of both clubs in 2014. Across the regular season and playoffs, Sacramento holds an 11-7-7 record all-time against the Galaxy II, but five of Los Dos’ win have come in Sacramento, including a 2-0 victory last season when Jalen Neal and Cameron Dunbar found the net for the visitors.
Sacramento Republic FC – Luis Felipe Fernandes: The veteran midfielder has been stellar throughout this campaign but could have to carry a little broader load with Rodrigo Lopez unavailable due to a caution accumulation suspension.
LA Galaxy II – Cameron Dunbar: The 19-year-old attacker has notched three goals and two assists this season and will try to challenge Sacramento’s three-man defensive unit with his aggressiveness in the attacking third.
Tag(s): News Game Previews San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Atlanta United 2 Indy Eleven El Paso Locomotive FC Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic Oakland Roots SC Detroit City FC