San Antonio FC can clinch the 2022 Copa Tejas with a victory on the road against El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
A major Copa Tejas clash highlights the action in a 12-game slate on Saturday night in the USL Championship, which also gives us an intriguing first-time meeting between two of the league’s most distinctive clubs and a big Western Conference clash to close the night as Phoenix Rising FC returns home to host Sacramento Republic FC ahead of Sacramento’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal next week.
Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: HFD 27%, PIT 46%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will try to complete a season-sweep of Hartford Athletic as it visits Connecticut on Saturday night while also aiming to continue its four-game undefeated streak. Pittsburgh played to a 1-1 draw against New Mexico United last Saturday night as Dane Kelly scored his seventh goal of the season to pull the visitors level at Isotopes Park. Kelly is now tied for the team lead in goals with Russell Cicerone, while Kenardo Forbes sits tied for second in the league with seven assists. Forbes found the net when these teams last met at Highmark Stadium in March as the Hounds took a 2-1 victory to move their undefeated streak in the series to five games. Hartford will be hoping to reverse that trend but is coming off a 3-1 defeat on the road against the Charleston Battery last time out that delivered another blow to the club’s postseason chances. The Athletic are currently in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, 12 points out of the playoff positions with 15 games remaining and are in major need of a victory to try and bridge the gap to Miami FC in seventh place after suffering defeats in their last two outings.
Hartford Athletic – Juan Carlos Obregon Jr.: The Honduran forward found the net at Highmark Stadium earlier this season but that is one of only two goals the striker has scored in 11 games during what has been an injury-hit season.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Russell Cicerone: The Athletic have been a good matchup for Cicerone so far in his career, with three goals and one assist in seven appearances during his career against the Connecticut club.
Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: IND 30%, MEM 42%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Indy Eleven will try to snap a five-game scoreless streak as it plays host to a Memphis 901 FC side looking to rebound and solidify its top-three position in the Eastern Conference as the sides meet for the second time this season. Indy’s attacking struggles continued last Friday night as they suffered a 1-0 defeat on the road against the New York Red Bulls II, extending the club’s scoreless streak to 450 minutes. Indy has lost each of its past four games by the same 1-0 scoreline, the first time that has happened to a side in the Championship’s history, and this week looked to add some more bounce to the club’s attack with the acquisition of Panamanian forward Juan Tejada from the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Memphis, meanwhile, suffered a 2-1 defeat to Louisville City FC at AutoZone Park as it fell for the first time this season after scoring the opening goal as Phillip Goodrum’s 11th tally of the season was overturned by a brace by LouCity’s Brian Ownby. Memphis will be without Patrick Seagrist for Saturday’s contest due to suspension but will have goalkeeper Trey Muse available for selection after his red card was overturned by the Independent Review Panel on Thursday. After taking a 2-1 victory in May when the sides first met, 901 FC will be hoping to continue Indy’s struggles and take another step toward a potential first home playoff game in club history.
Indy Eleven – Stefano Pinho: The Brazilian forward has notched seven goals and three assists this season but hasn’t found the net since June 8 against Miami FC. This would be an ideal time to break out of that downturn in form.
Memphis 901 FC – Phillip Goodrum: The powerful forward is having a breakout season after his move from Atlanta to the Bluff City and will be someone Indy’s back line has to keep tabs on throughout the 90 minutes.
Venue: Protective Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: BHM 57%, TUL 19%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: Birmingham Legion FC returns home aiming to build on consecutive victories as it plays host to an FC Tulsa side hoping to repeat its victory when the teams first squared off this season at ONEOK Field. Rodrigo da Costa and Marlon Sanchez were among the scorers in a 3-1 victory for Tulsa in March, but since that early season meeting the fortunes have reversed for the two sides as Birmingham sits in sixth place and looks on course for a playoff berth while Tulsa is in eighth and trying to narrow the gap to the playoff line. Legion FC earned a 1-0 victory against Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday night in its most recent outing, handing Sacramento its first home loss of the season in the process as Juan Agudelo’s early goal proved the difference after a three-save shutout by goalkeeper Matt VanOekel. Tulsa, on the other hand, fell 2-1 to New Mexico United in its last outing on July 13 and now sits six points behind Miami FC for the seventh and final playoff place. Picking up victory on the road could be a challenge, but recent history is in Tulsa’s favor with the side undefeated in the last four meetings between the side and having won three of those encounters.
Birmingham Legion FC – Enzo Martinez: The veteran playmaker has notched six goals this season and has proven a key to the uptick in form Birmingham has delivered of late to push comfortably into the playoff positions.
FC Tulsa – Bradley Bourgeois: Tulsa’s captain may need to step into a central defensive role with the suspension of both Adrian Diz Pe and Johnny Fenwick for Saturday’s contest while trying to contain Birmingham’s efficient attack.
Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: DET 33%, NM 37%, Draw 30%
The Lowdown: Two of the USL Championship’s most distinctive clubs will meet for the first time as Detroit City FC plays host to New Mexico United with the hosts aiming to build on a four-game undefeated streak. Le Rouge played to a 0-0 draw with fellow Championship newcomer Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday night at Cardinale Stadium to remain in fifth place in the Eastern Conference as Nathan Steinwascher recorded his seventh shutout of the season. DCFC will be looking for its first home win since May 21 on Saturday, however, after going 0-1-2 in its last three games at Keyworth Stadium, a task that could be a challenging one against a New Mexico side vying for a top-three finish in the Western Conference. United’s hopes took a minor hit last Saturday night when it was held to a 1-1 draw by Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, but the visitors arrive on a five-game undefeated streak of their own that they will be hoping to maintain and keep the pressure on third-placed San Diego Loyal SC and second-placed Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC with a victory.
Detroit City FC – Maxi Rodriguez: The central midfielder has had a fine season so far with four goals and two assists and his duel against United midfield general Justin Portillo will be one of the keys for both sides.
New Mexico United – Romario Williams: The recently-arrived Jamaican forward could make his New Mexico debut in Detroit and provide a boost to an attack that has scored six goals in the past five games.
Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LDN 24%, MIA 50%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Loudoun United FC will try to keep itself in the postseason race – and help the other teams chasing the playoffs – as it plays host to Miami FC, the side currently sitting in the seventh and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference. Loudoun is looking to rebound after suffering a 4-1 defeat last Saturday night to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a result that broke a four-game undefeated streak at home for the side. The result left United 13 points out of the playoff positions with 16 games remaining in its regular season, making a victory almost essential for the hosts in the second meeting between these clubs this season. Loudoun and Miami played to a 0-0 draw in March when they first met, and Miami was also held to a scoreless draw by Orange County SC last Saturday night in its most recent outing, but the visitors hold a solid six-point lead over eighth-placed FC Tulsa going into this weekend’s games. Miami will want to avoid a repeat of the last time they visited Segra Field, however, when Loudoun took a dramatic 3-2 victory behind late goals from Ted Ku-DiPietro and Jovanny Bolivar.
Loudoun United FC – Tyler Freeman: The young forward came off the bench to score his fifth goal of the season against the Rowdies and could be in line for a starting role this time around in a must-win game for the hosts.
Miami FC – Speedy Williams: The Jamaican international has had a below-par season by his impressive recent standings and will want to put his mark on this contest to help drive Miami toward a postseason berth.
Venue: Al Lang Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: TBR 80%, ATL 7%, Draw 13%
The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will look to continue their four-game winning streak and 10-game undefeated run as it plays host to an Atlanta United 2 side coming off a tough loss against another of the Championship’s title contenders last weekend. The Rowdies took a 4-1 victory against Loudoun United FC last Saturday at Segra Field as Dayonn Harris came off the bench to record a pair of assists and Jake LaCava and Leo Fernandes each recorded their 10th goals of the season. The Rowdies are now in second place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Louisville City FC, with an undefeated run that now stretches over two months since their last defeat against San Diego Loyal SC on April 30. Tampa Bay earned a 3-0 win against Atlanta earlier this season at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, and the visitors sport an 11-game undefeated streak overall in the series between the sides, winning eight. Atlanta suffered a 5-0 defeat to Western Conference leader San Antonio FC last Saturday, and after the transfer of influential midfielder Robbie Mertz to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in midweek the visitors will need a big display from their young standouts if they’re to have a chance to take a result back to Georgia.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Jake LaCava: The 21-year-old found the net against Atlanta when the teams met earlier this season and now sits with 10 goals three assists overall this campaign after a solid substitute appearance last week.
Atlanta United 2 – Ajani Fortune: The young Trinidad and Tobago international will need to put in a strong display against a stout Rowdies midfield to try and help his side to a positive performance.
Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: ELP 31%, SA 41%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: San Antonio FC will try to clinch the 2022 Copa Tejas against the trophy’s current holder as it looks to add to its lead at the top of the Western Conference in a visit to El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday night. SAFC heads to west Texas after a 5-0 victory against Atlanta United 2 last Saturday night that saw both Santiago Patiño and Samuel Adeniran scored a pair of goals, moving the side four points clear at the top of the Western standings with two games in hand on both Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and San Diego Loyal SC as the weekend begins. San Antonio has previously claimed victories against both El Paso and Rio Grande Valley FC in this year’s Copa Tejas, and with Locomotive FC and the Toros having drawn their first meeting a win for San Antonio would secure the fan-created round-robin series for the first time in club history. Locomotive FC will try to halt those plans, and boost its own playoff standing as it tries to rebound from a 4-0 defeat to Oakland Roots SC last Saturday night that saw the side conceded all four goals in the first half. Sitting in fifth place in the West, El Paso hasn’t suffered defeat on home turf since March 23, however, and the hosts should provide a solid test of San Antonio’s credentials as a result.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Eder Borelli: The Mexican full back had a tough outing in Oakland and will need to bounce back strongly to try and help El Paso withstand San Antonio’s strong attacking unit.
San Antonio FC – Samuel Adeniran: The Texas native has scored three goals in the past three games for SAFC and could play a major role in the attacking third for the visitors on Saturday night.
Venue: Cardinale Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: MB 57%, NY 18%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. will look to get back into the win column while adding to a two-game shutout streak as it plays host to a New York Red Bulls II side that claimed only its second win of the season last Friday night to break a five-game scoreless run. Monterey Bay played to a 0-0 draw with fellow Championship newcomer Detroit City FC last Saturday as goalkeeper Antony Siaha notched his second consecutive shutout to start his professional career, recording one save against Le Rouge. MBFC is now undefeated in its last three games as it tries to move off the bottom of the Western Conference, with the side having grown progressively more competitive as its inaugural year has continued. New York, meanwhile, was boosted by a 1-0 victory against Indy Eleven last Friday that broke a 16-game winless streak as Jeremy Rafanello scored the only goal of the game against his former club. The Red Bulls II remain in last place in the Eastern Conference but need only a point to get into double-digit points this season as they look for a second away win of the campaign.
Monterey Bay F.C. – James Murphy: The central midfielder has recorded three assists and 31 chances created so far this season and could prove key at set pieces following the transfer of Robbie Crawford to Charleston.
New York Red Bulls II – Jordan Adebayo-Smith: The 21-year-old forward notched the assist on Rafanello’s goal against Indy and will look to find the net himself after scoring three goals previously this campaign.
Venue: Laney Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: OAK 62%, LV 16%, Draw 22%
The Lowdown: Two teams sitting level on points directly below the playoffs positions in the Western Conference will square off after victories last time out as Oakland Roots SC hosts Las Vegas Lights FC in the second meeting between the sides this season. Las Vegas and Oakland ended all square in a 1-1 draw in May at Cashman Field that saw Ottar Magnus Karlsson score for the visitors, one of 15 goal so far this season that have seen the Icelandic forward take a healthy lead in the race for the Golden Boot. Karlsson added another pair of goals last Saturday night as Roots SC took a 4-0 win against El Paso Locomotive FC at Laney Stadium to move within a point of seventh-placed Sacramento Republic FC in the standings, and the Venezia F.C. loanee will be hoping to add to that tally while also aiming to boost his side’s postseason chances. Las Vegas got a standout display at the other end of the field last Sunday night, meanwhile, as goalkeeper Abraham Romero notched an eight-save shutout to take Championship Player of the Week honors after a 1-0 win against Rio Grande Valley FC. With four wins in the last five games, Las Vegas has three games in hand on Oakland entering Saturday’s contest and could earn a major boost toward its goal of a first playoff berth in club history with a win on the road.
Oakland Roots SC – Edgardo Rito: The right-sided wingback put in a standout display against El Paso to continue to build on a strong season, where he currently sits with four goals and six assists.
Las Vegas Lights FC – Morten Björshol: The Norwegian full back produced an outstanding strike to send Las Vegas to victory against the Toros and has been a consistently solid presence on the back line for the club.
Venue: Torero Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SD 45%, RGV 29%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will look to build on a big victory last Monday night as it plays host to a Rio Grande Valley FC side in need of a positive result after a disappointing defeat last time out. SD Loyal took a 3-0 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Torero Stadium on Monday night as a pair of first-half goals by Thomas Amang and Tumi Moshobane were capped by an outstanding free kick by Jack Blake in the second half. The result moved San Diego within two points of Colorado Springs for second place in the Western Conference, while also giving the side a season sweep and the head-to-head tiebreaker should the sides end even on points at the end of the regular season. The Toros were not as fortunate last Sunday as they outshot visitors Las Vegas Lights FC 25-3 but were unable to find a breakthrough in a 1-0 loss that ran the Toros’ winless streak to four games. RGVFC is now five points out of the playoff positions in 10th place in the West but has shown the ability to battle strongly against top sides throughout the campaign. The Toros earned a 2-1 victory when they played host to SD Loyal earlier this season as Emilio Ycaza scored a pair of second-half goals to rally the side to victory at H-E-B Park, and a repeat of that result would provide a major boost for the visitors as they look to return to the postseason.
San Diego Loyal SC – Thomas Amang: The Cameroonian striker notched his seventh goal of the season against Colorado Springs on Monday and has delivered an impressive strike rate of a goal every 128.4 minutes this season.
Rio Grande Valley FC – Emilio Ycaza: After rallying the Toros to victory when these sides last met, the midfielder will need to put in a strong display against a good SD Loyal midfield led by Charlie Adams.
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LA 42%, OC 32%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: The LA Galaxy II and Orange County SC will square off for the first time this season in the 405 Derby with Los Dos looking to rebound and solidify its place in the playoff positions as the defending title holders look for a much-needed victory on the road. The Galaxy II fell 4-2 to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Friday night as goals by Cameron Dunbar and Callum Johnson late in either half weren’t enough to secure a result for the visitors at Weidner Field. Dunbar has been on a hot run of form of late individually, however, with four goals and one assist in the past three games to continue a breakout campaign for the side. Los Dos leads the all-time series with a 16-9-6 record against OCSC, and the visitors will enter in dire need of adding another win to their total in the series after a 0-0 draw against Miami FC last Saturday night left Orange County winless in its last four games. Now sitting 10 points outside the playoff positions with 14 games to go in the season, time is running out for Orange County to manufacture a turnaround. Defeating its longest-standing rival on its home turf would be a very good place to start.
LA Galaxy II – Jalen Neal: The United States U-20 center back should return to the lineup after being suspended against the Switchbacks and could be key with veteran Liam Doyle unavailable as he serves a one-game suspension for caution accumulation.
Orange County SC – Erick “Cubo” Torres: The former Mexico international has notched eight goals so far this season but has been held off the scoreboard in his last four appearances, something he’ll be eager to change.
Venue: Wild Horse Pass
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: PHX 39%, SAC 34%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC will try to build on a solid display on the road in midweek as it takes on a Sacramento Republic FC side aiming to rebound from its first home defeat of the season in its visit to Wild Horse Pass. Rising FC played to a 0-0 draw against Louisville City FC on Wednesday night in the USL Summer Showcase at Lynn Family Stadium as goalkeeper Ben Lundt posted a six-save shutout that included a pair of key late stops to earn the side a result. Phoenix remains in 11th place in the Western Conference, however, sitting six points behind Sacramento in seventh place, making the first league meeting between the teams this season an effective six-pointer that could see the hosts halve the gap with a win. Sacramento earned a 1-1 draw when it last visited Wild Horse Pass last season thank to a goal by Luis Felipe Fernandes, and will be hoping to rebound from a 1-0 setback against Birmingham Legion FC last Saturday to solidify its place in the playoff positions in the Western Conference. With the Semifinals of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup around the corner on Wednesday night, the challenge for the visitors will be to find a performance that can earn a result on the road while keeping key players ready for their clash with Sporting Kansas City where the side could make history as the first lower-division team to reach the Open Cup Final since the Charleston Battery in 2008.
Phoenix Rising FC – Kevon Lambert: The Jamaican international had a stellar display against Louisville in midweek and will need to replicate that same level to try and hold Sacramento’s midfield talent in check.
Sacramento Republic FC – Douglas Martinez Jr.: The Honduran international has come up with big goals this season, including the game-winner against San Antonio FC on June 5, but hasn’t found the net since that outing, something he’ll be aiming to change on Saturday.
Tag(s): News Game Previews San Antonio FC LA Galaxy II Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa New York Red Bulls II Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC Atlanta United 2 Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.