Monterey Bay F.C. and Sacramento Republic FC will square off for the final time this regular season to cap a big night of action in the USL Championship on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Monterey Bay F.C.
A pair of contests that bring together the top four teams in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference – including a rematch of the past two Eastern Conference Finals at the top of the standings – highlight an eight-game slate of games on Saturday night that also features a key interconference clash and a second meeting between two NorCal rivals.
Here’s a look ahead to the action.
Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: HFD 44%, IND 28%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Hartford Athletic and Indy Eleven will both try to break back into the win column on Saturday night with Indy seeking to end its longest winless streak since joining the Championship as it tries to revive its postseason chances. The Boys in Blue are on a 10-game run without a victory after 2-0 defeat last Saturday night against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, with the club’s last victory having come on June 4 against the Charleston Battery. That has left the side 12 points out of the playoff positions with 12 games to go in the regular season, making its trip to Hartford a potential make-or-break point for the campaign. Indy took a 1-0 win when it played host to the Athletic on April 30 when Ayoze scored the only goal in the first half and will be hoping for the same result against a Hartford side that is winless in its last seven outings. The Athletic took the lead against Memphis 901 FC last Saturday night at AutoZone Park but eventually fell 3-1 on the road to remain with only four wins this season. Hartford has now dropped 19 points from winning positions in the Championship this season, the most of any team in the league, as it moves toward a second consecutive campaign without postseason action.
Hartford Athletic – Rashawn Dally: The local standout notched his fourth assist of the season against Memphis, most on the team, and will try to bring an attacking spark in the final third again for the home fans.
Indy Eleven – Manuel Arteaga: The Venezuelan forward has gone without a goal in his past six games and will be looking to find an attacking spark that can help keep Indy’s playoff chances alive on the road.
Venue: Highmark Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: PIT 50%, MEM 24%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Third-placed Memphis 901 FC makes the trip to face fourth-placed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night in what could be a pivotal game for both clubs in their pursuit of a home playoff game to open the postseason in October. Both clubs are coming off victories last time out, with the Hounds having earned a 2-0 win against Indy Eleven behind a pair of goals by Russell Cicerone. The brace moved Cicerone to 11 goals this season – his second consecutive campaign with double-digit goals – and kept Pittsburgh within two points of Memphis in the Eastern Conference standings as the side ran its undefeated streak to seven games. 901 FC, meanwhile, rallied from a first-half deficit to take a 3-1 victory against Hartford Athletic as Aaron Molloy recorded a goal and assist at AutoZone Park. Molloy is now tied for the league-lead with eight assists this season, having notched a helper in four of his last five games. After falling at home to Pittsburgh in the opening game of the season, Memphis will be hoping to turn the tables this time and solidify their top-three position as the season enters its final third.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Kenardo Forbes: The Jamaican playmaker sits alongside Memphis’ Aaron Molloy with eight assists this season and will look to play an influential role in the Hounds’ performance.
Memphis 901 FC – Phillip Goodrum: The forward should return to the lineup for 901 FC after suspension and will try to add to his 13 goals so far this campaign that currently place him tied for third in the Championship.
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: ATL 20%, MIA 59%, Draw 21%
The Lowdown: Miami FC will try to rebound from a midweek setback as it heads to face Atlanta United 2, which is looking for a return to the win column after a tough defeat on Tuesday night. Atlanta fell 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls II at MSU Soccer Park to kick off Week 23 despite holding a second-half lead through Raimar after New York had been reduced to 10 men, only to let the hosts back into the game in the final 10 minutes suffer another loss. The hosts are now winless in their last eight games to sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, a run Miami will be aiming to continue as it also tries to rebound from defeat last time out. Miami took a first-half lead against playoff rival FC Tulsa on Wednesday night at Riccardo Silva Stadium thanks to Paco Craig’s second goal of the campaign, but the visitors rallied before halftime to take the lead as former Miami player Dario Suarez notched a goal and assist. The loss cut Miami’s lead over Tulsa for the seventh and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference to six points, but Miami holds a game in hand and can restore its nine-point advantage with a win in Atlanta as the sides meet for the first time since the 2020 regular season.
Atlanta United 2 – Raimar: The Brazilian has notched four goals and four assists this season to serve as one of the bright spots in a difficult campaign overall, and his matchup with Miami’s Mark Segbers could be one to watch.
Miami FC – Florian Valot: The French playmaker didn’t record a created chance against Tulsa despite completing 28 of 30 passes overall and will look to be more incisive against an Atlanta defense that continues to struggle.
Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: DET 36%, OAK 36%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Detroit City FC and Oakland Roots SC will square off for the first time as members of the USL Championship on Saturday night with the interconference clash at Keyworth Stadium marking their first competitive game since 2020 after joining the league during the past two offseasons. Le Rouge will be looking to solidify their place in the Eastern Conference playoff positions back on home turf after being sent to a 1-0 defeat by the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night that marked the first defeat for DCFC since June 25. The hosts have lost only once at home this season and earned a 2-1 win when it last faced Roots SC on home turf when Shawn-Claud Lawson and Ryan Peterson gave DCFC victory. Oakland is in need of a victory this time around, however, as it enters the weekend four points outside the playoff positions in the Western Conference with 10 games to go in the campaign. Roots SC played to a 0-0 draw with Phoenix Rising FC in its most recent outing on July 27, and as it returns to action will be hoping for a big performance by forward Ottar Magnus Karlsson as he looks to regain the lead in the Championship’s race for the Golden Boot after notching 15 goals so far this campaign.
Detroit City FC – Stephen Carroll: The center back started the last time these teams squared off competitively in 2020 and will be looking to continue a stellar first season in the Championship so far against a good Oakland attack.
Oakland Roots SC – Jose Hernandez: The central midfielder will need to come up with a solid performance as he likely goes toe-to-toe with DCFC’s Maxi Rodriguez if Oakland is to get a positive result on the road.
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LOU 43%, TBR 30%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: The top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet for the second time this regular season with first-placed Louisville City FC holding a one-point lead over the second-placed Tampa Bay Rowdies as they prepare for what could be a sellout crowd at Lynn Family Stadium. The game will mark the Rowdies’ first trip to Lynn Family Stadium since the 2020 Eastern Conference Final of the USL Championship Playoffs when goals by Zach Steinberger and Sebastian Guenzatti paved the way to a 2-1 victory for the visitors and their first silverware in the Championship. Tampa Bay has won the last three meetings overall between the sides, taking a 1-0 victory at Al Lang Stadium on June 5 behind a second-half penalty kick by Leo Fernandes that was part of the club’s current 13-game undefeated streak (11-0-2). The Rowdies continued that run last Saturday night as Steevan Dos Santos scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Detroit City FC, giving the Cape Verde forward five goals in the past four games. LouCity is also undefeated since that setback two months ago, however, and moved to 7-0-1 in its last eight contests with a 4-1 win against the Charleston Battery last Saturday night in which four different players found the net and Amadou Dia notched a pair of assists. Louisville will be looking for its first win against Tampa Bay since the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs on Saturday but has a 2-0-1 record at home against the Rowdies in their three prior regular season meetings in the Derby City.
Louisville City FC – Brian Ownby: The veteran winger recorded his eighth goal of the season against Charleston, notching an individual single-season high, and will need to play a key role against the Rowdies’ solid back line.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Robert Castellanos: The central defender could be in line to make his return to action after a broken ankle in the opening game of the season, with teammate Laurence Wyke suspended due to caution accumulation for Saturday’s contest.
Venue: Protective Stadium
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: BHM 40%, SD 35%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: Birmingham Legion FC and San Diego Loyal SC will square off for the first time in an intriguing interconference clash that sees both teams enter on winning streaks after impressive recent performances. SD Loyal makes the trip east after earning a 1-0 victory on Wednesday night against Monterey Bay F.C. that ran the club’s winning streak to five games, a first in its history. Charlie Adams scored the lone goal from the penalty spot as San Diego expanded its lead over third-place Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to eight points as Head Coach Landon Donovan’s squad continued its drive toward a first home playoff game in club history in October. Legion FC is also hoping to open the playoffs at home but has work to do as it enters the weekend in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Birmingham has won three in a row, however, after taking a 6-0 victory against Atlanta United 2 last Saturday night in a game that saw Enzo Martinez notch two goals and one assist and Juan Agudelo one goal and two assists. Birmingham has also been stellar defensively this season with goalkeeper Matt VanOekel currently leading the Championship with 11 shutouts, and the host will need to remain solid at the back as they face the highest-scoring attack in the league with SD Loyal having notched 53 goals in 24 games so far this campaign.
Birmingham Legion FC – Jonathan Dean: The right back has been one of Legion FC’s top performers this season with four assists, 37 chances created and 29 interceptions and will need to be at the top of his game again facing a strong SD Loyal lineup.
San Diego Loyal SC – Charlie Adams: The veteran central midfielder has been impressive throughout the campaign, not only notching four goals and five assists but completing 88 percent of his passes, and against Legion FC he’ll need to produce another good display.
Venue: Toyota Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SA 65%, LV 12%, Draw 23%
The Lowdown: San Antonio FC will try to build on a midweek victory and maintain its lead over San Diego Loyal SC at the top of the Western Conference when it welcomes seventh-placed Las Vegas Lights FC for the second meeting of the season between the clubs. SAFC took a 2-1 win against Loudoun United FC on Wednesday night as Samuel Adeniran scored both goals for the hosts at Toyota Field. On loan from Seattle Sounders FC, Adeniran now leads San Antonio with seven goals this season and has produced a strike rate of a goal every 125.1 minutes over 11 appearances. He’s been ably backed by Justin Dhillon, who notched his seventh assist of the season on Adeniran’s opener on Wednesday night to move into a tie for fourth in the league, while also having scored six goals. Lights FC arrives after playing to a 0-0 draw last Saturday night against Phoenix Rising FC at Wild Horse Pass that kept the side in the playoff positions and has a dynamic attacking pairing of its own in forward Danny Trejo, who leads the team with 10 goals, and Los Angeles FC loanee Cal Jennings, who has seven goals and five assists in 15 appearances. Those two were held off the scoreboard when SAFC took a 2-0 win in its visit to Cashman Field on July 27 and will be hoping to test one of the best defenses in the league this time around to try and earn a result on the road.
San Antonio FC – Fabien Garcia: The French center back will need to lead SAFC’s back line in the absence of teammate Mitchell Taintor, who is set to miss Saturday’s game due to caution accumulation after a yellow card against Loudoun United FC.
Las Vegas Lights FC – Danny Crisostomo: The central midfielder has had a stellar campaign so far and will be instrumental in breaking down San Antonio’s pressing style and creating chances for Lights FC to find attacking success.
Venue: Cardinale Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: MB 32%, SAC 39%, Draw 30%
The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will try to continue a four-game undefeated streak as it heads to face NorCal rival Monterey Bay F.C. for the second time this season at Cardinale Stadium looking to complete a three-game sweep of the regular season series between the clubs. Sacramento claimed victory when the teams last met in June as Maalique Foster scored a pair of goals two minutes apart to earn a 2-1 victory for the visitors, and Republic FC needed more late heroics last Saturday night when Rodrigo Lopez scored a 90th-minute equalizer to earn the side a 1-1 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC at Heart Health Park. The result kept Sacramento in fifth place in the Western Conference, but with a win in Monterey Bay the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Finalist would jump past New Mexico United into fourth before United takes to the field on Sunday against the LA Galaxy II. Monterey Bay, meanwhile, will be hoping to rebound from a 1-0 loss on Wednesday night at San Diego Loyal SC that saw the club’s shutout streak end at 558 minutes, a run that was good for ninth-longest in the Championship’s history and third-longest by a first-year club in the league. MBFC is still in the hunt for the playoffs despite Wednesday’s setback but could use all three points against Sacramento as it tries to bridge the seven-point gap to the top seven in the standings. Having gone undefeated in its last four home games since Republic FC’s last visit, Monterey Bay will be eager to turn the tables on their rival.
Monterey Bay F.C. – Sam Gleadle: The English veteran had an enterprising outing against San Diego in midweek and will be looking to add to his three goals so far this campaign after being given a more attacking role.
Sacramento Republic FC – Rodrigo Lopez: The veteran midfielder has been stellar throughout this season, notching four goals and five assists in the league and four more goals in the Open Cup, and notched an assist in the side’s last visit to Cardinale Stadium.
Tag(s): News Game Previews San Antonio FC Sacramento Republic FC Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC Atlanta United 2 Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.