The contest between Orange County SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies is one of six interconference games on Saturday night in the USL Championship. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
The USL Championship’s expansion of interconference play will be on full display on Saturday night with six of the night’s seven games pitting clubs from the Eastern and Western Conferences head-to-head.
Among the highlights, a clash between the sides that contested the 2021 Championship Final, a rematch of one of last year’s most notable upsets, while New Mexico United makes its season debut.
Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Venue: AutoZone Park
Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: MEM 49%, PIT 24%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Two of last year’s playoff teams in the Eastern Conference square off at AutoZone Park as Memphis 901 FC looks to rebound from a surprise opening day defeat against a Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC side that claimed a solid point on the road to kick off the new campaign. The Hounds fell behind at Birmingham Legion FC midway through the opening half, but a strong second-half display highlighted by Robbie Mertz’s equalizer earn the visitors a 1-1 draw at Protective Stadium. Both of these sides won on the other’s home turf last season as Pittsburgh won 3-0 in Memphis to kick off the 2022 season before 901 FC returned the favor with a 2-0 win at Highmark Stadium later in the season behind goals from Luiz Fernando and Aaron Molloy. Memphis will be aiming to repeat that display on Saturday after falling 3-1 against Loudoun United FC to start the season as they were held at bay by their resilient visitors in the second half. Laurent Kissiedou had scored the opening goal of the season for 901 FC, but will be unavailable this time out as he serves a one-game suspension for his red card in the second half as the hosts look to earn their first points of the season.
Memphis 901 FC – Aaron Molloy: A Championship MVP finalist last season, Molloy’s play in central midfield could be key as he goes up against one of the league’s top veterans in Pittsburgh’s Kenardo Forbes.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Albert Dikwa: The powerful forward was on the scoresheet in the Hounds’ last visit to AutoZone Park and will be aiming to get off the mark this season in helping the visitors to a positive result.
Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: MIA 45%, NM 27%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: New Mexico United will kick off its new season as it heads to face Miami FC, which enters after earning a point in its season opener a week ago. Miami played to a 1-1 draw with FC Tulsa on home turf last Saturday evening as Florian Valot’s stunning long-range strike midway through the first half was cancelled out by the visitors just two minutes later. Miami had the better of the chances in the second half as they sought a winner but was unable to come through as its difficulties in earning results at home in 2022 continued. New Mexico, meanwhile, arrives looking to make a strong start to its campaign after returning to the postseason last year. Led by second-year Head Coach Zach Prince, New Mexico has added two notable attacking pieces for this season with winger Santi Moar returning to the side and Greg Hurst also joining via transfer from Phoenix Rising FC. The visitors have also brought back many of last year’s key contributors, including midfielders Justin Portillo and Chris Wehan and attacking midfielder Amando Moreno, all of whom will be aiming to make an impact.
Miami FC – Kyle Murphy: The veteran forward was at the fore when Miami visited New Mexico for the first time last season, scoring twice in a 3-0 victory at Isotopes Park, and will be hoping for a similar display this time around.
New Mexico United – Sam Hamilton: A mainstay with United since its inaugural season, Hamilton was handed the captaincy for this season and will look to lead his side to a winning start to the campaign for a second consecutive year.
Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: COS 60%, HFD 18%, Draw 22%
The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will try to build on a dramatic midweek victory in its season-opener as it welcomes numerous familiar faces in Hartford Athletic’s squad for its home opener at Weidner Field. The new-look Switchbacks – which included six new arrivals in its first starting lineup of the season – grabbed a 2-1 win at El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday night as Duke Lacroix scored a stoppage-time winner at Southwest University Park. Jairo Henriquez also found the net for Colorado Springs, getting the season off to a flying start with a goal just 109 seconds into the game, and the El Salvador playmaker could be key again ahead of his departure for international duty next week. Hartford, meanwhile, is hoping to rebound from a difficult 5-3 defeat to Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday night to open its campaign as Prince Saydee’s pair of goals weren’t enough to overcome a first half that saw the side concede four times at Cardinale Stadium. The trip to Colorado Springs will be a familiar one for three players in the Athletic’s squad after Triston Hodge, Beverly Makangila and Elvis Amoh all made the move from the Switchbacks to Hartford this offseason, joining Andre Lewis in Connecticut.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Maalique Foster: The Jamaican forward notched an assist in his debut for the Switchbacks on Wednesday after an offseason move from Sacramento Republic FC and will be hoping to put on a show for his new home fans.
Hartford Athletic – Andre Lewis: The former Switchbacks midfielder was one of the bright spots in Hartford’s trip to Monterey Bay and will need to be at his best against a solid Colorado Springs midfield unit.
Venue: 9:30 p.m. ET
Kickoff: Southwest University Park
538.com Predictor: ELP 50%, DET 22%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC and Detroit City FC will both try to earn their first points of the season when they meet at Southwest University Park. Locomotive FC ends its opening three-game homestand to kick off the season aiming to rebound from a late 2-1 defeat against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC that saw the hosts thwarted in their efforts to grab a late goal before Colorado Springs scored in second-half stoppage time. The contest did see the debut this season for Argentine forward Luis Solignac, who almost opened his account with a chance that was well saved late in the game, and the veteran could see more minutes as El Paso seeks its first win of the season. Le Rouge, meanwhile, head west for a second consecutive week after falling 1-0 to San Diego Loyal SC last Saturday night in their season opener. DCFC narrowly outshot their hosts at Torero Stadium but were unable to find a telling finish to come away empty-handed for a second consecutive season opener. After the sides played to a 1-1 draw at Keyworth Stadium a season ago, both will be eager to pick up three points and get their seasons moving this time around.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Denys Kostyshyn: The Ukrainian winger looked bright on Wednesday night, recording three chances created and two shots and could be the player to help lift El Paso to a result this time out.
Detroit City FC – Skage Simonsen: The Norwegian forward notched both of DCFC’s shots on target against San Diego in his debut for the club and will be hoping to open his account.
Venue: Cardinale Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: MB 19%, LOU 58%, Draw 23%
The Lowdown: Monterey Bay F.C. will try to build on one of the most eye-opening performances of the opening weekend as they host fellow Week 1 victor Louisville City FC at Cardinale Stadium. Monterey Bay got a debut hat trick from Alex Dixon – the first in the club’s history – on the way to earning a 5-3 win against Hartford Athletic last Saturday night at Cardinale Stadium as Adrian Rebollar also found the net for the hosts. MBFC claimed one of the more memorable upsets of the 2022 season when it visited LouCity last season when Mobi Fehr and Sam Gleadle found the net in a 2-0 win at Lynn Family Stadium in the first meeting between the sides. Louisville will be looking to reverse that result as they try to build on a 3-1 victory against Orange County SC last Saturday night that saw Niall McCabe and Cam Lancaster find the net and Brian Ownby notch a pair of assists. Ownby is now the all-time assists leader for LouCity and has moved into a tie for fifth place all-time in the Championship’s regular season with 44 career assists, while Lancaster’s goal was his 75th regular season goal in the league, making him only the third player to reach that mark all-time.
Monterey Bay F.C. – Sam Gleadle: The attacking midfielder notched an assist in MBFC’s season opener and also won a penalty kick but will need to be at his best against an experienced LouCity midfield group.
Louisville City FC – Amadou Dia: The experienced defender notched one assist in a solid all-around display in Orange County and his likely battle with MBFC’s Morey Doner will be one to watch on Saturday night.
Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: OC 43%, TBR 30%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Orange County SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will meet for the second time in the regular season after squaring off in the 2021 USL Championship Final with both looking for their first wins of the season. Orange County fell 3-1 to Louisville City FC in its season-opener at Championship Soccer Stadium last Saturday as a first-half goal by Kevin Partida was followed by second-half pressure but no decisive finish before LouCity grabbed a late insurance goal to put the game away. Orange County could see a debut for new forward Marc McNulty against Tampa Bay, which arrived after having been held to a 1-1 draw by Indy Eleven in Week 1 at Al Lang Stadium. The Rowdies took a second-half lead thanks to Jake Areman on home turf, but a stoppage-time penalty kick gave the visitors a point moments before the final whistle. Tampa Bay claimed victory when it played host to Orange County a season ago as Leo Fernandes and Dayonn Harris led a 3-1 result, and the visitors will be hoping for something similar this time around after claiming victory on its last trip to California against Monterey Bay F.C. last October.
Orange County SC – Cody Cropper: The former Vancouver Whitecaps FC goalkeeper could make his debut for OCSC on Saturday night after signing with the club this week, adding experience between the sticks for the side.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Charlie Dennis: The new Rowdies midfielder had a solid debut after his offseason move and after Lewis Hilton’s early departure against Indy could be called on to step up further for the visitors.
Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SAC 58%, CHS 18%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC hosts its home opener aiming to build on a season-opening victory as it plays host to the Charleston Battery, who earned a point in their first game under new Head Coach Ben Pirmann last weekend. The Battery played to a 1-1 draw against Phoenix Rising FC at Patriots Point, but came out of the game looking a far different side than the one that struggled last season as Andrew Booth found the net among numerous chances created by the hosts. Charleston will be hoping for a similar display against Republic FC, which got its season off to a good start with a 1-0 win at El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday night as new forward Russell Cicerone opened his account for the club. Sacramento took a 4-2 win when it visited Charleston last season as former Battery player Zeiko Lewis was among the scorers. Head Coach Mark Briggs will be looking for a similar display of firepower here at a venue that was among the most difficult to visit in the Championship last season.
Sacramento Republic FC – Conor Donovan: The center back was his reliable self for Sacramento in El Paso and will need to be on his game against an improved Battery attack this time out.
Charleston Battery – Augustine Williams: The Sierra Leone forward has scored four goals in 11 prior games against Sacramento in his career, including last season’s meeting between the Battery and Republic FC.
Tag(s): News Game Previews CO Spring Switchbacks Orange County SC Sacramento Republic FC Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Hartford Athletic Miami FC Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.