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Gameday Previews – Saturday, March 25

By Staff, 03/24/23, 11:15AM EDT


Five teams host home openers on a full day of action across the afternoon and evening

Oakland Roots SC is among five teams set to host their 2023 home openers in the USL Championship across Saturday's slate as they host Memphis 901 FC. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC

Week 3 of the 2023 USL Championship season wraps up on Saturday with a full day of action that includes three afternoon kickoffs and some intriguing conference showdowns throughout.

Five clubs will host their home openers, with Hartford Athletic, Louisville City FC and Detroit City FC welcoming fans for a matinee before FC Tulsa and Oakland Roots SC welcome their fans for the first time this season.

Here’s a look ahead to all the action.

Hartford Athletic vs. Birmingham Legion FC

Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: HFD 36%, BHM 39%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: Hartford Athletic returns home looking for its first victory of the season as it faces a Birmingham Legion FC side coming off an impressive comeback win in its last outing. Hartford earned a 1-1 draw on the road against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday night as Elvis Amoh scored his first goal for his new club, and the Ghanaian forward will be hoping to make a big first impression on the Trinity Health Stadium faithful alongside fellow newcomer Antoine Hoppenot and veteran Danny Barrera. The hosts will have to match another potent forward line that came to live last week for Legion FC as Tyler Pasher scored his first two goals for Birmingham before Neco Brett notched a stoppage-time winner in a 3-2 victory against FC Tulsa at Protective Stadium. Brett’s goal was his 70th regular season goal in the Championship, pulling him closer to the top five in league history. The visitors will be hoping for a repeat of their most recent visit to Hartford, which saw Enzo Martinez notch a stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 win for Legion FC last season.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Antoine Hoppenot:
The veteran winger scored once in three prior visits to Hartford in his career, now he’ll be hoping to open his account for Athletic in his first home game after an offseason move.

Birmingham Legion FC – Alex Crognale: The center back has notched a goal and assist in the opening two games of the season but will be eager to help the side notch its first shutout of the season this weekend.

Louisville City FC vs. El Paso Locomotive FC

Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: LOU 68%, ELP 11%, Draw 20%

The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will try to continue its perfect start to the season as it welcomes El Paso Locomotive FC to Lynn Family Stadium for the first time, but will be without some key players as it plays its home opener. Leading the absences for LouCity is Brian Ownby, who scored the only goal in the side’s 1-0 win against Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday but was subsequently sent off for two cautionable offenses, resulting in a one-game suspension. Also absent is top young center back Joshua Wynder, who is on international duty with the United States U-20s in Spain, and the side is also without some key injured players including Wilson Harris, Dylan Mares, Wes Charpie and Ray Serrano. The hosts will try to overcome those challenges against an El Paso side that has had some positive moments but has yet to claim a point after three games this season. Locomotive FC suffered a 3-1 defeat to Detroit City FC last Saturday at Southwest University Park despite a first goal for the club by Denys Kostyshyn. As Head Coach Brian Clarhaut looks for his first points at the helm, he’ll try to rally his squad to spring a surprise on the road.

Spotlight Players
Louisville City FC – Rasmus Thellufsen:
The Danish arrival has been solid in his first two appearances for LouCity and will be hoping to put in another good shift as he plays in front of his new home fans for the first time.

El Paso Locomotive FC – Marc Navarro: The Spanish veteran has shown bright moments in the attacking third so far with six chances created but he will get a strong test from fellow full back Amadou Dia on the right side here.

Detroit City FC vs. Indy Eleven

Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: DET 48%, IND 24%, Draw 28%

The Lowdown: One of the best potential new rivalries in the Championship renews as Detroit City FC hosts its home opener against an Indy Eleven side returning to action for its second game of the season. Indy grabbed a 1-1 draw on the road against the Tampa Bay Rowdies to open the season on March 11 as Aodhan Quinn converted from the penalty spot in second-half stoppage time to secure a point for the visitors. Indy has continued to add to its attacking corps since then with the club acquiring Honduran forward Douglas Martinez Jr. via transfer from Sacramento last week, and Saturday could see the former USL Championship title winner make his debut for the Boys in Blue. Le Rouge, meanwhile, are coming off a strong 3-1 victory against El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday night at Southwest University Park in a game that saw Yazeed Matthews and Maxi Rodriguez find the net in the second half to send the side to victory. After losing only three times in the league at Keyworth Stadium last season, the hosts will be eager to get their home slate off to a strong start against an Indy side that earned a 0-0 draw the last time it visited.

Spotlight Players
Detroit City FC – Stephen Carroll:
The DCFC veteran has been solid in the opening two games of the season and will need to put in a good shift as he goes up against Indy’s new-look attacking line led by forward Sebastian Guenzatti.

Indy Eleven – Solomon Asante: The two-time Championship MVP had a quiet opening game of the season in Tampa Bay, not registering a shot on target or chance created, and should look to be more active this time out.

Charleston Battery vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Venue: 7:30 p.m. ET
Kickoff: Patriots Point
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: CHS 32%, TBR 42%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: The Charleston Battery and Tampa Bay Rowdies will both try to pick up their first wins of the season as they square off at Patriots Point having played to a pair of draws in their opening contests. Charleston picked up its second point of the season in a 1-1 draw last Saturday night on the road against Sacramento Republic FC as AJ Paterson scored in the opening half before the hosts hit back at Heart Health Park. The Battery were unable to find a winner despite playing up a man throughout the second half, and the side will be without multiple notable players due to international duty with Leland Archer (Trinidad and Tobago), AJ Paterson (Grenada) and Deklan Wynne (New Zealand) all set to be absent from the back line. Tampa Bay also played to a 1-1 draw in its last outing as Zach Herivaux scored a late equalizer on the road against Orange County SC last Saturday at Championship Soccer Stadium, and the side has yet to quite click into gear offensively yet this season. The Rowdies will be hoping to avoid a repeat of its last trip to Patriots Point, too, when the Battery took a 2-1 win thanks to a pair of goals from Andrew Booth last season.

Spotlight Players
Charleston Battery – Arturo Rodriguez:
The former League One Most Valuable Player signed with the Battery this week and could make his debut for the side on Saturday night after spending the past two seasons with Phoenix Rising FC.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Forrest Lasso: The former Battery player will head back to Charleston looking to help the Rowdies secure their first shutout of the season.

FC Tulsa vs. Loudoun United FC

Venue: ONEOK Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: TUL 53%, LDN 22%, Draw 25%

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa will try to kickstart its season as it opens a three-game homestand with a visit from Loudoun United FC, which has already picked up four points from its opening two games of the season. Tulsa returns home after letting a second-half lead slip in a 3-2 defeat against Birmingham Legion FC last Friday night. Goals by Rodrigo da Costa and Marcus Epps either side of halftime gave Tulsa the lead but the visitors conceded twice inside the final 10 minutes as Legion FC took victory. Loudoun, meanwhile, enters the contest undefeated after earning a 1-1 draw in its home opener against defending USL Championship title holders San Antonio FC. United took the lead against San Antonio as Zach Ryan scored his third goal of the season before the visitors hit back in the second half, but Loudoun will be without Ryan on Saturday night as he serves a one-game suspension following a late red card. Loudoun has also seen Tommy Williamson and Kalil ElMedkhar deliver positive moments so far this season, however, and the visitors will be hopeful of a better result than their last visit to Tulsa which saw the hosts take a 2-1 victory behind goals from Marlon and Dario Suarez last season.

Spotlight Players
FC Tulsa – Marcus Epps:
The experienced winger produced a brilliant finish in Birmingham and has looked sprightly in both the club’s opening two games, completing 5 of 6 dribbles and notching two chances created.

Loudoun United FC – Cole Turner: United’s other co-captain alongside Zach Ryan, Turner has been solid defensively so far this season with seven clearances and four interceptions.

San Antonio FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Venue: Toyota Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SA 52%, COS 22%, Draw 26%

The Lowdown: San Antonio FC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC square off for the first time since last year’s Western Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs both hoping to continue undefeated starts to the new season. San Antonio played to a 1-1 draw last Sunday afternoon as it visited Loudoun United FC as a second-half goal by Ignacio Bailone rallied the side from a halftime deficit, with a dominant second half display being repelled by the hosts at Segra Field to keep SAFC from all three points. Colorado Springs also rallied to earn a point in its last outing as Zach Zandi’s goal earned a 1-1 draw in the Switchbacks’ home opener against Hartford Athletic last Saturday. The visitors will be hoping for better fortunes than in their prior trips to Toyota Field, where they have never won in seven regular-season meetings. That form held true last postseason as well, when Connor Maloney’s first-half goal proved decisive in a 2-0 win. This Switchbacks side will look much different from the lineup that night, however, with former SAFC player Deshane Beckford among the arrivals in Colorado Springs this season.

Spotlight Players
San Antonio FC – Justin Dhillon:
The veteran forward notched his first assist of the season last weekend against Loudoun and has already recorded six shots on target as he looks for his opening goal of the campaign.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Deshane Beckford: A league title winner with San Antonio last season, the Jamaican has picked up two assists in two games to start this campaign and will hope to be a challenge for his former teammates.

Oakland Roots SC vs. Memphis 901 FC

Venue: Laney Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OAK 45%, MEM 28%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC hosts its home opener looking to build on a positive performance last time out as it faces a Memphis 901 FC side that could see a former United States international make his debut after its early-season challenges. 901 FC introduced goalkeeper Bill Hamid as its newest arrival on Monday morning and the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year might get his first test in the club’s colors as Memphis tries to earn its first points of the season. The visitors fell 3-1 for a second consecutive week last Saturday afternoon against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC despite Bruno Lapa’s first goal of the season, marking the first time the side had dropped consecutive games to start a season since 2020. Roots SC, meanwhile, took a 1-1 draw on the road against Rio Grande Valley FC last Sunday night as Johnny Rodriguez scored his first goal of the season. Oakland was unfortunate not to claim victory in stoppage time when Trayvon Reid hit the woodwork with almost the last kick of the game, but the positive performance should buoy the hosts as they look to maintain their strong home form of a season ago.

Spotlight Players
Oakland Roots SC – Lindo Mfeka:
The South African playmaker has notched two chances created and completed 3 of 3 dribbles and could be influential as Roots SC looks to impress a strong home opener crowd.

Memphis 901 FC – Graham Smith: An All-League selection last year, Smith will need to pull the Memphis back line together after two disappointing outings as it heads on the road for the first time this season.

Orange County SC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: OC 67%, LV 12%, Draw 22%

The Lowdown: Orange County SC will try to pick up its first win of the season against a Las Vegas Lights FC side that will bring back a familiar face to Championship Soccer Stadium for its second game of the campaign. Former Mexico international Erick “Cubo” Torres made his Lights FC debut as a substitute in its 1-1 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC on March 12 and will now potentially square off with former club Orange County, for which he notched nine goals a season ago. Lights FC is set to return to the field this week after a bye, but OCSC was in action last Saturday night as it earned a 1-1 draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies for its first point of the season. A first-half goal by newcomer Lasse Nielsen put Orange County ahead before Tampa Bay answered late in the second half to share the points, but the hosts could be optimistic of earning a result having going 6-0-1 in seven prior home contests against Las Vegas in the series between the two teams.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Kevin Partida:
The central midfielder has made a strong start to the season, completing 81 percent of his passes and winning 3 of 4 tackles while also finding the net once.

Las Vegas Lights FC – Andrew Carleton: The former United States youth international looked sharp in his Lights FC debut and delivered some dangerous set pieces that Orange County will need to be wary of.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+ Predictor: SAC 42%, SD 31%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: Two Western Conference contenders that have made undefeated starts to the season will square off in arguably the marquee game of the weekend at Heart Health Park with San Diego Loyal SC aiming to continue its perfect start to the campaign. SD Loyal took a 3-0 victory against Phoenix Rising FC last Sunday afternoon as Evan Conway and newcomers Ronaldo Damus and Blake Bodily found the net at Torero Stadium. The contest marked a second consecutive shutout to start the season as goalkeeper Koke Vegas posted a three-save shutout. The Spaniard has yet to record three consecutive clean sheets since arriving in San Diego at the start of last season, and his perfect record could be tested by a Sacramento side that is looking to build on its own strong start. Republic FC earned a 1-1 draw in its home opener last Saturday as it rallied from a goal down while a man down thanks to Jack Gurr’s second-half goal. Sacramento will have the services of Luis Felipe Fernandes on Saturday, though, after his red card last week was rescinded following a successful appeal to the Independent Review Panel. The Brazilian is now on course to make his 100th regular season appearance in the Championship in what should be a tremendous clash between the California rivals.

Spotlight Player
Sacramento Republic FC – Shane Wiedt:
One of the new arrivals on Sacramento’s back line has been strong so far with nine clearances and three interceptions, and he’ll need another solid performance against SD Loyal’s attack.

San Diego Loyal SC – Ronaldo Damus: Having scored on his debut for the club against Phoenix after coming on as a substitute, Saturday night could see the first start for the Haitian international in San Diego’s colors.

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