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Gameday Previews – Saturday, July 9

By Staff, 07/08/22, 12:00PM EDT


12-game slate includes spotlight games around the Eastern playoff line, and a major California rivalry

NorCal rivals Sacramento Republic FC and Oakland Roots SC will square off for the second time this season in a busy night of action in the USL Championship on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC

There’s a busy night of action across the USL Championship on Saturday night with 12 games that include one of the notable rivalries in the Western Conference as Sacramento Republic FC plays host to Oakland Roots SC, a key interconference game as Memphis 901 FC hosts Phoenix Rising FC, a top-four clash in the West, and two games that will continue to shape the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Here’s a look ahead to all the action.

Hartford Athletic vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: HFD 25%, TBR 49%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will try to continue their current undefeated streak as they head to face Hartford Athletic in the second meeting between the teams this season, with the hosts returning home after securing a notable road point in midweek. The Athletic earned a 1-1 draw against Detroit City FC on Wednesday night as a second-half goal by Andre Lewis pulled the side even at Keyworth Stadium. The goal was Lewis’ second in as many games and kept Hartford undefeated through two games under the leadership of interim Head Coach Ray Reid. The side could face a bigger challenge against a Rowdies side that is in its best form of the season with four wins in its last five games and an eight-game undefeated run overall. Tampa Bay took a 2-0 victory against Memphis 901 FC at Al Lang Stadium last Saturday night as Jake LaCava moved to nine goals this season after striking twice in the first half. The Rowdies were held to a 1-1 draw by Hartford earlier this season, however, with Joel Johnson striking first for the visitors before LaCava replied late in the first half, and the Athletic will be hoping to earn their second home win against the Rowdies all-time this time around.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Tom Brewitt:
The English center back will have to play a key role in trying to contain the Rowdies’ attack, which has recorded 20 goals over its current eight-game undefeated run.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Jake LaCava: The young forward has achieved notable success against the Athletic previously in his career, scoring four goals in nine prior contests, the most LaCava has scored against an individual opponent so far in his career.

Indy Eleven vs. Detroit City FC

Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: IND 41%, DET 31%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Indy Eleven will try to snap a four-game losing streak as it hosts Detroit City FC in a key game for the hosts as they try to jump back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Indy suffered a 1-0 defeat against fellow playoff contender Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Highmark Stadium on Wednesday night as Albert Dikwa scored the only goal of the game for the hosts, who held Indy to only to only one official shot on target. Indy will need to regain its attacking spark as it looks to break a three-game scoreless run against a Detroit side that is coming off a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night against Hartford Athletic. Le Rouge held a halftime lead thanks to Pato Botello Faz’s sixth goal of the season before Hartford hit back in the second half, but the result kept DCFC comfortably in the playoff places in the Eastern Conference with a nine-point gap to eighth-placed Indy. As the sides meet for the first time in league play, the Boys in Blue will be eager to start chipping into that deficit with a win.

Spotlight Players
Indy Eleven – Manuel Arteaga:
The Venezuelan forward is set to return from his one-game suspension and will be aiming to add to the five goals he recorded in June to earn nomination for the Championship’s Player of the Month award.

Detroit City FC – Abdoulaye Diop: The central midfielder may have an important role to play in trying to limit the threat Indy’s creative players can pose, led by two-time Championship MVP Solomon Asante, who has three assists and 14 chances created in 517 minutes since his arrival.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Miami FC

Venue: Highmark Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: PIT 48%, MIA 25%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will try to make it three wins in a row as they play host to Miami FC at Highmark Stadium on Saturday with the visitors heading north for a second consecutive weekend in search of victory. Miami earned a 1-0 win on the road against Indy Eleven last Saturday night as Joshua Perez scored in the second half and Connor Sparrow posted a six-save shutout to move Miami into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Miami victory ended a five-game winless streak and gave its playoff chances a major boost, but it will have to try and maintain that momentum against a Pittsburgh side that has seemingly regained its footing in the past two outings. The Hounds earned a 1-0 win against Indy Eleven on Wednesday night at Highmark Stadium thanks to a second-half goal by Albert Dikwa as the host held Indy to only one shot on target. The game also marked the 243rd regular-season appearance for Dane Kelly, making the Jamaican the Championship’s all-time leader in regular season appearances. After the sides played to a 2-2 draw on May 28 in a game that saw Russell Cicerone and Alex Dixon each record a goal and assist for the Hounds at Riccardo Silva Stadium, each club will be eager to claim all three points this time around.

Spotlight Players
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Russell Cicerone:
The forward leads the Hounds with seven goals this season and went close to adding to that tally against Indy in midweek as he provided some dangerous moments in the penalty area.

Miami FC – Paco Craig: The veteran defender has been solid all season in the center of defense for Miami, recording 37 clearances and 12 interceptions, and will have an important role to play if Miami is to claim a second consecutive road win.

Charleston Battery vs. Birmingham Legion FC

Venue: Patriots Point
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: CHS 29%, BHM 45%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Birmingham Legion FC will try to further solidify its position in the playoff places as it heads to face the Charleston Battery, who are looking to break a three-game losing streak and keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Birmingham currently sits in sixth position in the Eastern Conference but was held to a 3-3 draw by Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night in a game the visitors led twice at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Zach Herivaux appeared he might have delivered a winner for Birmingham after goals by Enzo Martinez and Bruno Lapa early in either half, but Atlanta responded both times as Nicolas Firmino scored the decisive equalizer in second-half stoppage time. Charleston sits 15 points out of the playoff places, meanwhile, after suffering a 2-0 defeat on the road against Western Conference leader San Antonio FC in its most recent contest last Saturday. The Battery were held without a shot on target at Toyota Field and only four shots overall. They will be aiming to find their range again led by the attacking talents of Augustine Williams back on home turf.

Spotlight Players
Charleston Battery – Romario Piggott:
The Panamanian went on a run of two goals and two assists in three games in June but has been held off the scoresheet in the past two outings. A return to form would be very welcome here.

Birmingham Legion FC – Alex Crognale: The center back had a disappointing display against Atlanta by his high standards and will look to bounce back and contain a talented but inconsistent Battery attack.

Louisville City FC vs. New York Red Bulls II

Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: LOU 80%, NY 5%, Draw 15%

The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will try to maintain its hold on first place in the Eastern Conference as it plays host to a New York Red Bulls II side that is currently in last place in the standings. LouCity moved back into first place in the East last Saturday night as Sean Totsch converted his third penalty kick of the season and fifth goal overall to lift the side to a 2-1 win against Birmingham Legion FC on home turf. Louisville has now won three games in a row to sit a point ahead of Memphis 901 FC at the midway point of their regular seasons, with the teams set to meet next weekend in one of the biggest games of the campaign so far. New York, meanwhile, is on a 15-game winless streak with its only win so far this season having come on the road against Atlanta United 2 on March 16. The side fell 3-0 last Friday night against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which was followed by the announcement on Saturday of the departure of Head Coach Gary Lewis from the club. Saturday will mark the first game at the helm for interim Head Coach Ibrahim Sekagya, who has been a fixture on the sidelines for the Red Bulls II as an assistant coach since the club’s founding in 2015 after completing a 17-year playing career with the Red Bulls in Major League Soccer.

Spotlight Players
Louisville City FC – Jorge Gonzalez:
The attacking midfielder has notched one goal and one assist this season but has notched 21 chances created and could get the chance for a breakout performance here.

New York Red Bulls II – Christopher Cragwell: The Panamanian defender was one of the few bright spots in New York’s contest against Pittsburgh and has recorded 34 clearances and 22 interceptions in 12 games this season.

Memphis 901 FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Venue: AutoZone Park
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: MEM 48%, PHX 29%, Draw 24%

The Lowdown: Memphis 901 FC will try to rebound from only its fourth loss of the season as it plays host to a Phoenix Rising FC side that grabbed a late equalizer in its last contest but that is still trying to break a five-game winless streak as it arrives for the first meeting between the clubs. Memphis fell 2-0 against fellow Eastern Conference contender the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium as the visitors were unable to rally after conceding twice in the opening 20 minutes. Memphis has been stellar on home turf this season, however, and has won its last five games at AutoZone Park after a 2-0 win against Detroit City FC on June 25 in its last home contest. Phoenix, meanwhile, is hoping to get back in the win column after grabbing a late 2-2 draw against Orange County SC last Saturday at Wild Horse Pass. Richmond Antwi’s second goal of the season earned the hosts a point in second-half stoppage time but left the side five points out of the playoff positions at the midway point of the season. Having reached the postseason in each of the past five campaigns, Phoenix will try to claim its third away win of the season having previously gone 2-5-0 on its travels this season to try and boost its chances.

Spotlight Players
Memphis 901 FC – Jeremy Kelly:
Voted the Player of the Month for May, Kelly has gone without a goal or assist in the past six games. This would be an ideal moment to get back onto the scoresheet against a Rising FC defense that has struggled much of the season.

Phoenix Rising FC – Greg Hurst: Tied for the team-lead in goals, Hurst is looking for his first goal since May 28 as Phoenix heads to Tennessee and could be key to finding a breakthrough victory on the road.

FC Tulsa vs. Atlanta United 2

Venue: ONEOK Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: TUL 57%, ATL 21%, Draw 21%

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa will try to build on a positive comeback last time out as it plays host to an Atlanta United 2 side that has caught fire in the attacking third during a three-game undefeated run. Atlanta rallied twice to earn a 3-3 draw on Wednesday night against Birmingham Legion FC at Fifth Third Bank Stadium as Tristan Trager scored for the sixth time in the past four games before Nicolas Firmino delivered a stoppage-time equalizer on Robbie Mertz’s second assist of the night. Mertz is now tied for the league-lead with six assists, having recorded two apiece in the club’s past two outings, while the side has scored nine goals in the past three games overall. Atlanta will be looking to maintain that form against Tulsa, which also rallied to earn a 2-2 draw against Loudoun United FC last Sunday night in its most recent outing. Goals by Dario Suarez and Rodrigo da Costa earned the side a point, but left Tulsa five points out of the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference with 15 games to go in its regular season. Tulsa continued to be active this week in overhauling its squad and could see Trinidad and Tobago international Noah Powder make his debut on Saturday after being acquired in a trade with Indy Eleven for goalkeeper Sean Lewis. The hosts will be hoping to deliver a similar result to the 4-0 victory they took at ONEOK Field when the sides last met in 2021, but Atlanta could have much more to say this time around.

Spotlight Players
FC Tulsa – Rodrigo da Costa:
The Brazilian playmaker’s equalizer in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time against Loudoun was his first since June 1 and could provide a springboard for greater success moving forward.

Atlanta United 2 – Tristan Trager: Voted the Championship Player of the Week this past Tuesday, Trager is averaging a goal every 81 minutes for the season after bagging six goals in a four-game scoring streak he’ll look to continue in Tulsa.

New Mexico United vs. Rio Grande Valley FC

Venue: Isotopes Park
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: NM 48%, RGV 24%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: New Mexico United will try to complete a sweep of their two contests this week against Rio Grande Valley FC as the sides currently on either side of the playoff line in the Western Conference square off for the second time in four days. United took a 1-0 win on Wednesday night before almost 10,000 fans at Isotopes Park for a contest that had previously been rescheduled from June as Justin Portillo converted from the penalty spot inside the final 10 minutes for the only goal of the game. Portillo is now 4 of 4 from the spot this season, and 15 of 16 for his career in the Championship as he has played a key role in establishing New Mexico as a playoff contender once again this season. A second win could move United into the top four in the standings, but the hosts will want to try and find more creativity in the final third against a Toros side that could also use a victory as it sits four points out of the playoff places and had the other big chance of the game on Wednesday only for Juan David Cabezas’ sliding close-range finish to go wide.

Spotlight Players
New Mexico United – Jerome Kiesewetter:
The former United States international won the penalty kick that gave United victory and proved a handful throughout the contest, which he could be again as he looks for his first goal in United’s colors.

Rio Grande Valley FC – Jose Francisco Torres: The former United States international had a solid outing on Wednesday night but will be looking to notch either a first goal this season or his first assist since June 1 in Saturday’s rematch.

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: ELP 47%, COS 28%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will try to rebound from a disappointing setback on Monday night as they visit El Paso Locomotive FC, which enters in fourth place in the standings and on a current league best 10-game undefeated streak. El Paso had to rally to earn a draw in its most recent outing, however, as Eric Calvillo’s goal in second-half stoppage time grabbed a 2-2 draw against Atlanta United 2 last Saturday night. El Paso has now drawn three of its past four outings, which has left the side susceptible to being overtaken by the teams below it in the Western standings with Locomotive FC having already played 20 games this regular season, tied for the most in the league so far. Colorado Springs, meanwhile, reached the midway point of its campaign this past Monday night but suffered a 3-2 defeat against San Diego Loyal SC despite a pair of goals by 2021 Championship MVP Hadji Barry that kept it four points back of Western Conference leader San Antonio FC. Barry has scored four goals in the past two games for the side to move to 10 tallies this season overall, two back of league leader Milan Iloski of Orange County SC. The Switchbacks have only lost consecutive games once previously this season but will be looking for their first win at Southwest University Park in club history on Saturday night having come away with one draw in five prior visits.

Spotlight Players
El Paso Locomotive FC – Eric Calvillo:
The El Salvador international has scored four goals in the past four games since returning from international duty in June and could be a key figure in what’s likely to be a major midfield battle.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Jimmy Ockford: The veteran center back will need to keep the back line organized against an El Paso attack that currently sits second in the Championship with 38 goals this campaign.

Orange County SC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OC 56%, MB 20%, 25%

The Lowdown: Orange County SC faces almost a must-win to boost its playoff chances as it plays host to Monterey Bay F.C. after letting a lead slip on the road in its last outing. Orange County got a pair of goals by Milan Iloski on the road last Saturday night against Phoenix Rising FC but was unable to hold on for all three points at Wild Horse Pass as a stoppage-time equalizer by Richmond Antwi resulted in a 2-2 draw between the longtime rivals. The result left Orange County nine points out of the playoff places with 16 games to go in the regular season, putting the side in danger of becoming only the second reigning title holder to miss the following season’s playoffs. Iloski has been a standout performer this season, however, and now leads the league with 12 goals this season, a total he’ll be aiming to add to against a Monterey Bay F.C. side that is winless in its last five games after a 1-1 draw against New Mexico United last Saturday night. Chase Boone scored an early goal for MBFC to move to a team-high five goals this season, but with a 14-point gap to make up to the playoff positions entering Saturday’s game it seems set that the first-year side will play the role of spoiler the rest of the way, potentially starting against Orange County.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Albi Skendi:
The Albanian defender could have to step up in a big way with Michael Orozco suspended for the contest after his red card against Phoenix as the hosts look to earn victory at home.

Monterey Bay F.C. – Christian Volesky: The veteran forward has notched one goal and two assists so far this season but could have a chance to add to those numbers against a depleted Orange County back line.

San Diego Loyal SC vs. LA Galaxy II

Venue: Torero Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SD 61%, LA 18%, Draw 20%

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will try to build on a morale-boosting victory on Monday night as it returns home to face an LA Galaxy II side that is also in a positive run of form as it heads south to America’s Finest City. Los Dos claimed a 3-1 victory against Oakland Roots SC last Friday night for a third victory in the past four games that have moved the side above the playoff line in the Western Conference. Goals five minutes apart early in the second half by Remi Cabral and Cameron Dunbar paved the way for the hosts at Dignity Health Sports Park before Preston Judd notched his ninth goal of the season to cap the display. San Diego, meanwhile, is sitting comfortably in third place after it took a thrilling 3-2 win on the road against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC this past Saturday night despite ending the game down to 10 men. In a back-and-forth contest, SD Loyal took the lead in the second half thanks to Tumi Moshobane before the Switchbacks leveled from the penalty spot as Grant Stoneman was sent off for the visitors. Despite being down a man, San Diego grabbed the lead with nine minutes to go through Evan Conway and then held firm defensively to move within two points of Colorado Springs for second place. Now on a three-game winning streak, the hosts will be looking to avoid a repeat of their trip to LA earlier this season that saw the Galaxy II score twice in second-half stoppage time to earn a 2-2 draw, but with a 6-2-0 record at Torero Stadium this season Head Coach Landon Donovan’s side will be expecting another win and the chance to close the gap further to front-runner San Antonio FC.

Spotlight Players
San Diego Loyal SC – Alejandro Guido:
The midfield playmaker has notched four goals and three assists this season but has also been on of the most influential all-around players in the league and will be a challenge for Los Dos to contain on home turf.

LA Galaxy II – Preston Judd: The 23-year-old has passed 25 goals in the Championship in just a season-and-a-half and continues to be a handful for opposing defenses to deal with on a game-by-game basis.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Oakland Roots SC

Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SAC 48%, OAK 25%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will try to rebound from a tough loss last time out as it returns to the friendly confines of Heart Health Stadium to face NorCal rival Oakland Roots SC, which enters in need of a victory to boost its own playoff chances. Sacramento saw a five-game winning streak in all competitions come to an end last Friday night as it fell 3-0 against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field, putting the side in sixth place in the Western Conference as it enters this weekend’s action. Republic FC is undefeated on home turf this year across all competitions, however, having claimed victories against both San Antonio FC and the LA Galaxy II in its last two contest at Heart Health Park. The hosts will be looking for a notable first on Saturday, however, with Republic FC still yet to take victory in an official league contest against Roots SC after the sides played to a 1-1 draw at Laney Stadium on May 28. That was one of Oakland’s league-high nine draws so far this campaign, a total that sees the side currently sit three points out of the playoff positions with 14 games to go in its campaign. After a 3-1 defeat on the road against the LA Galaxy II last Friday night in its most recent outing, Roots SC is in serious need of a win to boost its playoff chances with the teams above it in the standings all having games in hand they could use to pull away.

Spotlight Players
Sacramento Republic FC – Douglas Martinez Jr.:
The Honduran forward has done a lot of good work leading Sacramento’s attacking line this season but is also looking for his first goal since June 5 against San Antonio with only three goals in the league overall this season.

Oakland Roots SC – Ottar Magnus Karlsson: The Icelandic forward dropped into second place in the Golden Boot race last weekend behind Orange County SC’s Milan Iloski, but scored from the penalty spot when these sides last met.

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