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Gameday Previews – Saturday, September 3

By Staff, 09/02/22, 11:35AM EDT


Playoff places up for grabs on 10-game night of action across the country

Western Conference leader San Antonio FC will try to find a way past Oakland Roots SC on Saturday night in California after the sides played to a 1-1 draw earlier this season. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

Playoff places are up for grabs in a 10-game slate of action that could bring the top four in the Eastern Conference into greater focus while also providing clarity to the playoff race in the West on a night that includes some intriguing interconference clashes as well as key conference showdowns.

Here’s a look ahead to the action.

Charleston Battery vs. New York Red Bulls II

Venue: Patriots Point
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: CHS 46%, NY 29%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: The Charleston Battery and New York Red Bulls II will square off for the final time in league play on Saturday night with both coming off drawn contests in midweek. The Battery return home after playing to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, a result that saw the side post its first shutout since victory against the Hounds on June 11 and gave second-year pro Daniel Kuzemka the first clean sheet of his career. The Red Bulls II, meanwhile, were held in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Hartford Athletic on Wednesday night that saw Jesus Castellanos score the fastest goal in club history after only 18 seconds and Jonathan Filipe bag the first two-goal performance of his career, but also saw New York concede twice in second-half stoppage time as the Athletic rallied to claim a point. The Battery took a 3-1 win when the teams met for the first time this season as on August 12 in a game that saw Augustine Williams score his 50th regular season goal in the Championship and Aidan Apodaca score twice, and the hosts will be hoping to build toward a successful ending to the season with both sides already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Spotlight Players
Charleston Battery – Augustine Williams:
The Sierra Leone forward had a goal and assist when these teams last met and will be looking to add to his scoring tally with 13 goals overall this season.

New York Red Bulls II – Stiven Plaza: The Ecuadorian winger made a late debut appearance for the Red Bulls II against Hartford and could see a longer stint of action this time out to provide a threat on the left flank.

Miami FC vs. Birmingham Legion FC

Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: MIA 38%, BHM 33%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Miami FC and Birmingham Legion FC will both be aiming to build on recent runs of success as they square off in a potential playoff preview at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Miami enters the game in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, having taken three consecutive victories while posting three consecutive shutouts to close in on a postseason berth. Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ side took a 1-0 victory against Louisville City FC last Saturday night on home turf as Kyle Murphy scored his seventh goal of the season and Connor Sparrow notched his 12th shutout of the season, which also served as the goalkeeper’s 30th regular season shutout in the Championship. Miami could expect another challenging contest against a Legion FC it played to a scoreless draw in May when the sides first met, with Birmingham having won two in a row and six of its last seven outings overall after a 3-1 victory against the New York Red Bulls II last Sunday evening. The result kept Legion FC in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings but just one point behind both Memphis 901 FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies as the battle for position continues in the playoff race. Legion FC got goals from Jonathan Dean, Juan Agudelo and Enzo Martinez against New York, giving Martinez 11 for the season.

Player Spotlight
Miami FC – Florian Valot:
The French playmaker has quietly risen up the assists leaderboard with eight going into this weekend’s action and has recorded two goals and two assists in the past three games, all victories.

Birmingham Legion FC – Bruno Lapa: The Brazilian notched a pair of assists in Legion FC’s victory against the Red Bulls II, giving him three over the past two games and 30 chances created overall this season.

Atlanta United 2 vs. FC Tulsa

Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: ATL 26%, TUL 52% Draw 22%

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa remains in a must-win position as it heads to face Atlanta United 2 looking to complete a season sweep of their series. Tulsa took a 2-1 victory against Atlanta when they first met on July 9 at ONEOK Field and Rodrigo da Costa and Brian Brown each found the net and rallied for victory by the same score against Loudoun United FC last Saturday night as Marlon and Dario Suarez both scored to keep Tulsa’s slim playoff hopes alive. The visitors enter Saturday in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but with an eight-point deficit to make up on seventh-placed Detroit City FC with only seven games to play in the regular season. Atlanta, meanwhile, has been officially eliminated from playoff contention, as it looks for its first victory since June. The hosts suffered a fifth consecutive defeat in a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Saturday night despite a second-half goal by Jackson Conway that pulled the side level before the Hounds regained the lead for good. The result extended Atlanta’s overall winless streak to 11 games, but if the hosts can earn a result here it could not only open the door to teams higher up the Eastern standings clinching a playoff berth, but also put a serious dent in Tulsa’s playoff chances.

Spotlight Players
Atlanta United 2 – Jackson Conway:
The young forward scored his eighth goal of the season against Pittsburgh, moving him level with Aidan McFadden for the club’s single-season record with six games to surpass it.

FC Tulsa – Marcus Epps: The midseason arrival had a solid start last time out against with three chances created and will be hopeful of making his first impact on the scoresheet for his new club in another crucial contest.

Detroit City FC vs. Indy Eleven

Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: DET 52%, IND 20%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will look for a second consecutive victory as it returns home to Keyworth Stadium against an Indy Eleven side that remains on the fringes of the playoff conversation despite having picked up a pair of notable victories in its last two outings. Le Rouge took a 3-0 victory last Saturday night against the Charleston Battery at Patriots Point as Pato Botello Faz scored a pair of goals – including the 1,000th in the Championship this season – and Antoine Hoppenot notched his eighth assist of the season. DCFC took a 1-0 win against Indy when it visited Michael A. Carroll Stadium in July as an early goal by Connor Rutz proved enough for the visitors, but the Boys in Blue have rallied in the past week to pick up victories against both San Antonio FC and Louisville City FC, the current respective leaders of the Western and Eastern Conferences. Indy took a 2-1 win against LouCity on Wednesday night as Stefano Pinho scored twice, including the winner from the penalty spot with 12 minutes to go, and while the side still faces a 16-point deficit to the playoff places with eight games to go it could prove a spoiler as Detroit tries to move up from seventh place in the standings and continue its drive toward a postseason berth.

Spotlight Players
Detroit City FC – Antoine Hoppenot:
The veteran playmaker has recorded two goals and three assists in his career against Indy previously and has four assists in the past four games overall to move into contention for the league lead.

Indy Eleven – Mechack Jerome: The Haiti international’s experience could be invaluable as Indy looks to claim a result on the road against a Detroit lineup looking to build on an impressive victory last time out.

Louisville City FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC

Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: LOU 54%, SAC 19%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will play host to Sacramento Republic FC in the first meeting between the two title contenders in their respective histories, with LouCity looking to rebound after a second consecutive defeat in midweek and Sacramento heading east ahead of its trip to Florida for the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final next Wednesday. Louisville fell 2-1 this past Wednesday against LIPAFC rival Indy Eleven as the visitors were unable to make an early goal by Ray Serrano stand up at Michael A. Carroll Stadium. The two-game downturn is the second this season for LouCity, but the side hasn’t suffered three consecutive defeats in a regular season since the final three games of its inaugural season in 2015, the only prior time that has happened in club history. Sacramento arrives on the back of a 1-0 victory last Saturday night against Oakland Roots SC at Heart Health Park which saw Conor Donovan score the only goal and lift Republic FC to its first win in the series against its NorCal rival. The visitors could field a rotated lineup as they prepare for what is the biggest game in club history against Orlando City SC next Wednesday night, with Sacramento the first lower-division team to reach the Open Cup Final since the Charleston Battery in 2008. Sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, and looking set for the postseason, Republic FC’s depth will still offer a threat to the current Eastern Conference leaders.

Spotlight Players
Louisville City FC – Brian Ownby:
The veteran winger came off the bench for a bright cameo late on Wednesday and will be aiming to add to his single-season high of eight goals against Republic FC.

Sacramento Republic FC – Deshorn Brown: The Jamaican forward has notched a goal and assist in two prior appearances against LouCity and could get the call to start at Lynn Family Stadium.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

Venue: Al Lang Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: TBR 69%, LV 10%, Draw 21%

The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will aim to build on victory last time out as it plays host to a second consecutive Western Conference opponent with playoff contending Las Vegas Lights FC heading to Al Lang Stadium. The meeting is the second between the teams with the Rowdies having claimed a 2-1 victory at Cashman Field in the final game of the 2021 regular season as Steevan Dos Santos bagged both goals for the visitors. The Rowdies are coming off a 3-1 victory against Orange County SC last Saturday night as Leo Fernandes notched a goal and assist to continue his stellar individual campaign to lead the hosts to a win that served as a modicum of payback in a rematch of the 2021 USL Championship Final. Tampa Bay could claim its return to the postseason for a fourth consecutive season with a victory should FC Tulsa fail to take victory against Atlanta United 2, but the hosts will also be hoping to claim second place in the standings outright as it enters the night level on points with Memphis 901 FC and one point ahead fourth-placed Birmingham Legion FC in a tight battle for seeding in the East. Las Vegas, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from a 5-0 defeat last Saturday against Rio Grande Valley FC that served as a setback to the club’s playoff hopes, but Lights FC remains in control of its pathway if it can get back on track. Currently in seventh place with seven games to go in the regular season, Lights FC will be aiming to deliver a surprise result on the road.

Spotlight Players
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Sebastian Guenzatti:
Last season’s All-League selection had a lively performance against Orange County last Saturday night and could be in line for a second consecutive start as he looks to equal the club’s all-time goalscoring record.

Las Vegas Lights FC – Danny Crisostomo: The experienced midfielder will need to put in a big performance against a Rowdies corps that should include Lewis Hilton and Laurence Wyke, one of the better combinations in the league.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: COS 41%, PHX 35%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Phoenix Rising FC will both look to build on victories last time out as the Switchbacks look to turn the tables on their visitors in the second meeting between the clubs this season after Rising FC took an emphatic victory when they met in July. Phoenix ran away with a 4-0 win at Wild Horse Pass behind first-half goals from Aodhan Quinn and JJ Williams when the teams first met, and the visitors are coming off a crucial 2-1 victory on Wednesday night against Rio Grande Valley FC in the club’s bid to return to the playoffs this season. A pair of goals by Luis Seijas secured the first win in charge for new Rising FC Head Coach Juan Guerra and moved the side within five points of the playoff places with eight games to go in the campaign. Colorado Springs is in far better shape when it comes to postseason prospects, sitting in third place in the West after a 1-0 victory against New Mexico United last Saturday night that saw Hadji Barry record his 16th goal of the season. The 2021 Championship MVP sits second in the league in goalscoring this season, while having also notched a single-season career high with eight assists. The Switchbacks have recorded consecutive shutouts in the past two outings as well, with the defense tightening up after a poor run of form that included the loss to Phoenix. A victory on home turf this time for Colorado Springs would not only boost their chances of a first home playoff game since 2016, but also put another dent into Phoenix’s chances of joining them in the postseason.

Spotlight Players
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Michael Edwards:
The central defender could get a chance to step into the lineup after his return to the club on loan from the Colorado Rapids as the Switchbacks look to stymie Phoenix’s attack.

Phoenix Rising FC – JJ Williams: The powerful center forward scored his first goal in Rising FC colors against the Switchbacks in July and will look to lead the attacking line in another must-win game for the visitors.

Monterey Bay F.C. vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Venue: Cardinale Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: MB 24%, SD 51%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC returns to action with a chance to clinch its postseason berth as it makes the trip to face Monterey Bay F.C., which is also looking to rebound from a setback last time out and keep its playoff hopes alive. Monterey Bay fell 2-0 to the LA Galaxy II last Saturday night at Cardinale Stadium for its second consecutive defeat, leaving the side in 12th place in the Western Conference. The first-year side still has nine games remaining but faces an eight-point gap to the top seven which essentially makes this contest a must-win. SD Loyal, meanwhile, is sitting comfortably in second place in the West but will be looking to rebound from a 3-1 defeat against Oakland Roots SC on August 24 in its most recent outing. Evan Conway opened the scoring for the hosts at Torero Stadium, but San Diego was unable to hold the lead as Oakland goalkeeper Paul Blanchette put in a stellar display to help his side to victory. San Diego claimed a 1-0 victory when the teams last met behind a penalty kick by Charlie Adams on August 10 and will be hoping for a similar result this time around to put it in with a chance of closing out a postseason spot and closing the gap to San Antonio FC in first place in the standings.

Spotlight Players
Monterey Bay F.C. – Christian Volesky:
The veteran forward is closing in on 50 regular season goals for his career and will want to try and help Monterey Bay’s attack get back on track after consecutive scoreless games.

San Diego Loyal SC – Kyle Adams: The center back is set to pass 10,000 minutes of regular season action in the Championship on Saturday and will have a key role to play to try and keep Monterey Bay’s attack in check.

Oakland Roots SC vs. San Antonio FC

Venue: Laney Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OAK 36%, SA 36%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC and San Antonio FC will both be looking to rebound from defeat on the road in their most recent outings as Western Conference leader SAFC looks to take advantage of Louisville City FC’s midweek misstep as it heads to California. San Antonio fell 1-0 to Indy Eleven last Saturday night for just its fifth loss of the season as an early string of chances failed to deliver a goal against the hosts at Michael A. Carroll Stadium. SAFC regained the inside track to finishing with the best record in the regular season on Wednesday night, however, when Indy also claimed victory against LouCity, leaving San Antonio with the highest available points total in the league with seven games to go. San Antonio was held to a 1-1 draw by Oakland earlier this season at Toyota Field, however, as the sides exchanged first-half goals and Roots SC goalkeeper Paul Blanchette posted a six-save performance. Roots SC is in need of all three points this time around, though, after a 1-0 defeat to Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday left it in ninth place in the West and four points out of the playoff places with seven games to play. With only three home games left, Oakland will be keen to put in a big performance before its fans.

Spotlight Players
Oakland Roots SC – Edgardo Rito:
The right wingback has been a key player for Roots SC this season with six goals and five assists and will need to deliver a big two-way performance against a similarly structured San Antonio lineup.

San Antonio FC – Cristian Parano: The Argentine playmaker recorded his first start for the side since his return on loan from Portugal against Indy and could be key to helping the side rebound away from home.

Orange County SC vs. Memphis 901 FC

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OC 37%, MEM 36%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Both Orange County SC and Memphis 901 FC will try to rebound from defeats last time out as they meet for the first time with the hosts in need of victory to try and salvage a late playoff run. Orange County fell 3-1 on the road against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night as Brian Iloski’s outstanding second-half free kick wasn’t enough to help the visitors to a second positive result at Al Lang Stadium in as many visits. The result left OCSC in last place in the Western Conference with a 10-point deficit to the playoffs to make up and only eight games to play, making victory against Memphis a must if the defending title holders are to make a serious late bid. 901 FC fell on Wednesday night against Loudoun United FC as Jacob Greene scored the only goal for the visitors in a game Memphis dominated offensively only to be thwarted by a nine-save performance by Loudoun goalkeeper Luis Zamudio. The defeat was the second in a row for Memphis, which remained level on points with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in second place in the Eastern Conference and one point ahead of fourth-placed Birmingham Legion FC. Memphis has had success against Western Conference opposition previously this season, however, taking victories on the road against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, New Mexico United and Las Vegas Lights FC in its three prior trips west this season. Another victory could see Memphis clinch a playoff place on Saturday night, pending the result of FC Tulsa’s visit to Atlanta United 2 earlier in the evening.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Milan Iloski:
The younger Iloski brother has recorded 19 goals this season and will be looking to add his name to the list of players to bag 20-goal campaigns in Championship history while leading his side to victory.

Memphis 901 FC – Aaron Molloy: The Irish midfielder still leads the Championship with 10 assists this season while also notching six goals and could be the key player in the center of the park for the visitors once again.

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