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Gameday Previews – Saturday, September 17

By Staff, 09/16/22, 11:30AM EDT


San Diego, Phoenix renew rivalry, while Toros look to maintain form against Switchbacks in nine-game slate

San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC will clash on Saturday night with SD Loyal in line to clinch a playoff berth with a win at Torero Stadium. | Photo courtesy Ben Nichols / Phoenix Rising FC

Four more places in the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense USA could be claimed on Saturday night in a slate of nine games that includes a first trip to Detroit City FC for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the renewal of the rivalry between San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC, and the rematch of a five-goal thriller earlier this season between Rio Grande Valley FC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

Here’s a look ahead to all the action.

Hartford Athletic vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: HFD 47%, LV 27%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Hartford Athletic and Las Vegas Lights FC will square off for the first time with the visitors to Trinity Health Stadium in need of a victory to remain above the playoff line after falling in each of its past two outings. The Athletic were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday night despite claiming a 3-2 victory against FC Tulsa in the first official game at the helm for new Head Coach Tab Ramos, whose side scored three goals in the opening 25 minutes to pave the way to victory. Hartford is undefeated in its last four games overall, claiming 10 points (3-0-1) in that span as the side aims to build a new identity under the former United States U-20 Men’s National Team and Houston Dynamo FC Head Coach. Las Vegas, meanwhile, returns to action for the first time since September 3 after its contest last Saturday night against Monterey Bay F.C. was postponed. Lights FC is currently in the seventh and final playoff place in the Western Conference and has fared reasonably on the road against Eastern Conference opposition on the road this season, going 1-1-2 in its four prior games this season, but the side fell 6-1 in its last trip to the east coast against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in its most recent outing two weeks ago, a result it need to avoid a repeat of.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Danny Barrera:
The attacking playmaker has recorded three assists in Hartford’s four-game undefeated streak to move closer to reaching a half-century of regular-season assists in the Championship for his career with 48 for his career.

Las Vegas Lights FC – Dekel Keinan: The veteran center back will need to call on his experience to try and pull together a back line that has conceded 11 goals in its past two outings as Lights FC looks to get its playoff drive back on track.

Miami FC vs. Atlanta United 2

Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: MIA 74%, ATL 10%, Draw 17%

The Lowdown: Miami FC could clinch its place in the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense with a victory against Atlanta United 2, with the visitors looking to rebound from a tough outing last time out as they head to South Florida. Miami can close out a playoff spot for a second consecutive victory should it take victory against Atlanta, which would move it clear of Indy Eleven thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker held by Miami through its 1-0-1 record against the Circle City club in the regular season series. Miami took a 2-0 victory when the sides last met in August as Mark Segbers and Florian Valot found the net, and the hosts are coming off an emphatic 7-1 victory against the New York Red Bulls II last Friday night at MSU Soccer Park that saw Kyle Murphy and Joaquin Rivas each find the net twice. Atlanta, meanwhile, suffered a 4-0 defeat to Memphis 901 FC in its last outing on September 7 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, a result that left the side with defeats in six of its last seven outings. The visitors have won only twice on the road this season and will need to deliver one of their best performances of the season against a Miami side that is on a five-game undefeated streak as it approaches the postseason.

Spotlight Players
Miami FC – Kyle Murphy:
The veteran forward moved into the Top 15 in regular season goals in the USL Championship’s regular season with his brace against the Red Bulls II, and now needs one goal to record his third double-digit scoring season in the league for his career.

Atlanta United 2 – Ajani Fortune: The 19-year-old midfielder has been called into the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Team for the King’s Cup in Thailand next week and will look to head out with a good performance on the road.

Detroit City FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: DET 27%, TBR 45%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will play host to the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the first time in the second meeting between the teams this season with the hosts looking to replicate their stellar recent away form back on home turf. Le Rouge claimed their third consecutive road victory last Saturday night as goals by Maxi Rodriguez and Deklan Wynne paved the way to a 2-1 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field. The result moved DCFC within range of clinching a place in the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense USA on Saturday night, where a victory combined with Indy Eleven dropping points later in the night against Monterey Bay F.C. would send the side to the postseason. Detroit is looking for its first home victory since May, however, with the side having gone seven games without a win (0-2-5) since its defeated Atlanta United 2 on May 21. The Rowdies arrive looking for a bounce-back performance after falling 2-1 against the Charleston Battery in a game that marked the first in which they had lost after scoring the opening goal since the 2018 season. Tampa Bay took a 1-0 win at Al Lang Stadium when the teams met at Al Lang Stadium as Steevan Dos Santos scored the only goal of the game, and with the visitors vying for second place in the Eastern Conference in a crowded race with Memphis 901 FC and Birmingham Legion FC, the Rowdies will be eager to collect all three points.

Spotlight Players
Detroit City FC – Antoine Hoppenot:
The veteran forward is tied for second in the Championship with nine assists this season after providing the helper on Wynne’s goal against Colorado Springs and has five assists in his last six appearances as he prepares to face one of his former clubs.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Sebastian Guenzatti: The Rowdies legend equaled the club’s all-time goalscoring record with his 60th in the club’s colors early against Charleston and will now hope to surpass Georgia Hristov in a crucial game for the visitors.

Louisville City FC vs. Loudoun United FC

Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: LOU 78%, LDN 7%, Draw 16%

The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will look to return to the win column as it returns home to Lynn Family Stadium to face a Loudoun United FC side that has suffered defeat in three of its last four outings. LouCity played to a 0-0 draw against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Saturday night at Highmark Stadium, a result that moved goalkeeper Kyle Morton to 12 shutouts this season individually. Morton is tied for the league-lead alongside Miami FC’s Connor Sparrow and San Antonio FC’s Jordan Farr, with the trio three back of the single-season record of 15 set by current Canada Men’s National Team goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau in 2018 for Ottawa Fury FC. LouCity has won three in a row at home as it enters a final stretch of four home games in its last five in the regular season and will be hoping to close the gap to current Western Conference leader San Antonio FC with a win. Loudoun, meanwhile, remains on the road after suffering a 4-0 defeat to Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday night at Heart Health Park in which it was held to only five shots, none of which were on target. After suffering a 2-0 defeat to LouCity as the visitors got goals from Wilson Harris and Brian Ownby when the teams met for the first time this season in April, the visitors will need to deliver a big performance to come away with a result this time around.

Spotlight Players
Louisville City FC – Wilson Harris:
The young forward has scored in each of the past three home victories for LouCity and will be looking to add to his team-leading 11 tallies this season against United’s defense.

Loudoun United FC – Jeremy Garay: The 19-year-old was called up to El Salvador’s squad for international duty this month and has been a solid performer overall this season for United’s young squad.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: RGV 52%, COS 22%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC will try to add to a run of consecutive victories as it plays host to a Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side that will try to rebound and clinch a playoff place with victory at H-E-B Park. The Toros claimed a 3-1 victory against New Mexico United last Saturday night to move up to ninth place in the Western Conference but just one point out of the playoff positions as goals by Emilio Ycaza, Christian Pinzon and Jonas Fjeldberg led the hosts to victory at H-E-B Park. Pinzon’s goal was his fifth in as many games, equaling the longest goalscoring streak in the Championship this season and putting him three back of the all-time record of eight consecutive games set by Hadji Barry in the 2018 season. The Switchbacks took a 3-2 victory when the teams last met at Weidner Field in as Elvis Amoh and Zach Zandi found the net to help establish a three-goal lead for the hosts before the Toros battled back on late goals from Frank Nodarse and Wahab Ackwei, only to see their comeback come up short. Colorado Springs is looking to rebound from a 2-1 defeat at home to Detroit City FC last Saturday night but can clinch a place in the playoffs with a win against the Toros which would seal a place in the top seven in the Western Conference with four games to go in the regular season.

Spotlight Players
Rio Grande Valley FC – Ricky Ruiz:
The former USL League One standout has recorded five assists in his past four appearances, helping fuel the Toros push into playoff contention in the Western Conference.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Elvis Amoh: The Ghanaian forward scored against his former club when the Switchbacks defeated the Toros earlier this season and now returns to H-E-B Park for the first time since his offseason move.

San Antonio FC vs. New Mexico United

Venue: Toyota Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SA 49%, NM 23%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: San Antonio FC will look to extend its winning streak to three games – and potentially clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference – as it plays host to a New Mexico United side that is hoping to end a three-game losing streak as it arrives at Toyota Field. San Antonio guaranteed itself at least one home playoff game last Saturday night as Ignacio Bailone’s goal and a penalty save by Jordan Farr proved the difference in a 1-0 win against second-placed San Diego Loyal SC. Now sitting 11 points clear of its closest rival in the West with six games to go in the regular season, SAFC could seal first place in the West with a win against New Mexico should both SD Loyal and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC drop points in their respective games on Saturday night. New Mexico, meanwhile, returns to Texas for a second consecutive weekend looking to solidify its playoff spot after falling 3-1 to Rio Grande Valley FC last Saturday at H-E-B Park. Amando Moreno scored his first goal of the season early for United in South Texas, but the Toros then reeled off three consecutive goals to take victory. San Antonio took a 1-0 win earlier this season at Isotopes Park as Justin Dhillon scored the only goal from the penalty spot for the visitors, but New Mexico has had prior success against San Antonio, winning three of their four meetings a season ago.

Spotlight Players
San Antonio FC – Connor Maloney:
The versatile left-sided player has been one of San Antonio’s most consistent performers this season and will look to add another good display against a talented United front line.

New Mexico United – Justin Portillo: The central midfielder has been held off the scoresheet since recording his fourth assist of the season on July 31 against the New York Red Bulls II and will need to be at his best against a challenging SAFC midfield unit.

Monterey Bay F.C. vs. Indy Eleven

Venue: Cardinale Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: MB 48%, IND 24%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. returns home looking to continue its drive toward a playoff place as it hosts an Indy Eleven side in one of its best runs of form this season despite sitting on the outside of the playoff picture. Monterey Bay will return to action after seeing its contest against Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday night postponed to Tuesday, September 27 at Cashman Field, but the side is in solid form with victories in its last two outings to sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, but only two points out of the playoff places with seven games remaining in its inaugural regular season. The side has won five of its last six games at Cardinale Stadium dating back to July 23 after earning a 1-0 win against Orange County SC on September 7th thanks to Sam Gleadle’s third goal in the past two games. Indy, meanwhile, claimed a 4-3 victory this past Saturday night against Birmingham Legion FC at Michael A. Carroll Stadium as Solomon Asante recorded the first three-assist game of the 2022 season. Indy has claimed 10 points from its past four games but remains 14 points out of the playoff places with six games to go, meaning anything but a victory in Monterey Bay could see it eliminated mathematically from playoff contention. The visitors will be looking to build on their success, however, and will have numerous Western Conference sides in their corner as they hope for Monterey Bay’s momentum to be slowed.

Spotlight Players
Monterey Bay F.C. – Chase Boone:
The young forward is tied for the team-lead with six goals this season but is looking for his first tally since an injury layoff that has seen him make four appearances without finding the net since early August.

Indy Eleven – Neveal Hackshaw: The Trinidad and Tobago international recorded his first two-goal game in the Championship against Birmingham Legion FC after more than 150 regular season appearances and could be a key midfield driver for the visitors this time out.

Oakland Roots SC vs. New York Red Bulls II

Venue: Laney Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OAK 76%, NY 8%, Draw 16%

The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC will try to keep its late-season postseason drive on track as it plays host to a New York Red Bulls II side coming off one of the heaviest defeats in its history last time out. Oakland took a 2-0 victory against Phoenix Rising FC last Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass as Lindo Mfeka scored his first two goals of the season to lift the side into 10th place in the Western Conference. Roots SC is only one point out of the playoff positions going into Saturday night’s action, however, and will be looking to take advantage of its first clash with the Red Bulls II, who are struggling late in their last season in the Championship. New York fell 7-1 to Miami FC last Saturday night as the visitors rolled up seven consecutive goals after Jordan Adebayo-Smith had notched the opening goal of the game. Adebayo-Smith has been one of the bright spots for New York this season and now sits with a team-leading six goals this season. Oakland, meanwhile, saw Ottar Magnus Karlsson notch an assist on Mfeka’s second goal against Phoenix as he made his first start since returning to action recently, and the Icelandic forward could look to add to his team-high 15 goals against a New York defense that has conceded 67 goals in 29 games this season.

Spotlight Players
Oakland Roots SC – Edgardo Rito:
The Venezuelan will face his former club for the first time as he looks to add to a stellar season that has seen him record five goals and six assists playing as a right-sided wingback for Roots SC.

New York Red Bulls II – O’Vonte Mullings: The defensive stalwart will need to produce a good display to keep Oakland left winger Juan Carlos Azocar under wraps as the visitors look to spring one of the upsets of the season.

San Diego Loyal SC vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Venue: Torero Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SD 55%, PHX 22%, Draw 22%

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will try to clinch its place in the postseason – and potentially at least one home playoff game – as it looks to complete a season sweep of its series with Phoenix Rising FC, which is in a must-win situation to remain in the playoff race in the Western Conference. SD Loyal fell 1-0 on the road against San Antonio FC last Saturday night as Alejandro Guido’s second-half penalty kick and potential equalizer was denied, missing out on its first chance to clinch a playoff spot. SD Loyal will guarantee its place with a win against Phoenix – against which Guido scored the winner in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Wild Horse Pass in March – and could guarantee a home playoff game should results elsewhere go its way. Phoenix, meanwhile, is hoping to rebound from a 2-0 defeat to Oakland Roots SC last Saturday night that left the side in 12th place in the Western Conference standings with six games to go in its regular season. Phoenix is currently five points out of the playoff places, but has lost four of its last five overall, a run it needs to turn around if it is to continue its streak of reaching the postseason in each of the past five seasons.

Spotlight Players
San Diego Loyal SC – Kyle Vassell:
The former Northern Ireland international leads SD Loyal with 12 goals this season and scored when SD Loyal took victory earlier this season in Phoenix, a feat he’d be aiming to replicate on Saturday night.

Phoenix Rising FC – Marcus Ferkranus: The United States U-20 international could slide into center back from right back on Saturday night with Joe Farrell set to miss the contest due to a caution accumulation suspension after his eight yellow card of the season against Oakland.  

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