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How Locomotive FC’s Benny Diaz joined an exclusive Championship club | News & Notes

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/29/23, 11:40AM EDT


Battery’s Barajas joins league’s youngest goalscorers; Home comforts? Not so far this season

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

It had been almost a full calendar year since a goalkeeper had last recorded an assist in the USL Championship when El Paso Locomotive FC’s Benny Diaz pulled off the feat last Saturday against Louisville City FC.

In this week’s edition of the USL Championship’s News & Notes we’ve got the elite group of goalkeepers that recorded both an assist and a shutout in the same game, as well as notes about Charleston Battery phenom Fidel Barajas after his first goal in the professional ranks, and why home turf hasn’t proven to be a safe haven for Championship teams so far in this year’s home opener schedule.

We’ve also got a full list of upcoming milestones for players across the Championship, and the Week 4 Discipline Report.

Let’s dig in.



El Paso Locomotive FC’s Benny Diaz recorded his fourth shutout in the USL Championship for his career in the club’s 3-0 victory against Louisville City FC on Saturday afternoon, but with his assist on Ricardo Zacarias’ first-half goal he joined a short list of 10 goalkeepers to post both a clean sheet and an assist in the same game in the Championship’s regular season.

Overall, Diaz became the 19th goalkeeper to record an assist in the USL Championship’s regular season. Current Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Tomas Gomez is the lone player to have achieved the feat twice.

Goalkeepers to Have Recorded an Assist and Shutout in a Regular Season Game
Benny Diaz, El Paso Locomotive FC – vs. Louisville City FC, 3/25/23
Joe Kuzminsky, Charleston Battery – vs. Charlotte Independence, 7/23/21
Matt VanOekel, Birmingham Legion FC – vs. Memphis 901 FC, 5/15/21
Parfait Mandanda, Hartford Athletic – vs. New York Red Bulls II, 7/17/20
Tomas Gomez, Saint Louis FC – vs. Philadelphia Union II, 7/27/19
Thomas Olsen, Las Vegas Lights FC – vs. Tacoma Defiance, 4/13/19
Matt Pickens, Nashville SC – vs. Charlotte Independence, 4/7/18
Travis Worra, Richmond Kickers – vs. Rochester Rhinos, 9/23/17
Josh Ford, Orange County SC – vs. OKC Energy FC, 5/10/14


The Charleston Battery’s Fidel Barajas continued to make a big impression on the early-season fortunes of the club on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. As he scored his first goal in the professional ranks in the Battery’s 3-0 win against Tampa Bay, the 16-year-old also became the youngest player to record a goal in the USL Championship era for the club.

Barajas’ third-minute strike – which came in at No. 4 in ESPN’s Futbol Americas’ weekend goals list on Monday – came aged 16 years, 11 months and 20 days old. That mark places him tied for 32nd in the Championship’s list of the youngest goalscorers in regular season history, but also places him sixth among players who opened their accounts while competing for an independent club in the league.

Youngest Goalscorers for an Independent Club in the USL Championship’s Regular season
1. Cade Cowell, Reno 1868 FC – 15 years, 7 months, 25 days
2. Daren Yapi, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – 16 years, 8 months 21 days
3. Bryce Jamison, Orange County SC – 16 years, 9 months, 2 days
4. Logan Dorsey, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – 16 years, 11 months
5. Diego Abarca, El Paso Locomotive FC – 16 years, 11 months, 16 days
6. Fidel Barajas, Charleston Battery – 16 years, 11 months, 20 days


Louisville City FC fell in its home opener for the first time since 2020 on Saturday afternoon, part of a notable trend early this USL Championship season. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Home comforts have been hard to come by for numerous teams so far early in the USL Championship season, with this past weekend’s action another in which clubs struggled in their opening games of the season on home turf. Defeats for Hartford Athletic, Louisville City FC and Detroit City FC left Championship clubs with a cumulative record of 4-8-7 in home openers so far this season with Indy Eleven, Phoenix Rising FC and Oakland Roots SC (Saturday), New Mexico United (April 15) and Las Vegas Lights FC (May 5) the five remaining teams yet to take to the field at home so far.

All five of those teams would have to take victory to push the league cumulatively to a winning record in home openers. It’s a far cry from a season ago when clubs posted a cumulative record of 18-7-2 in their home openers, a winning percentage of 67 percent. Should the sides fail to record five wins, it will mark only the second losing record in home openers in the Championship in the past five years, with 2020 seeing sides post an 11-17-6 mark in their home debuts.

Cumulative Home Opener Records in the USL Championship (2019-23)
2022: 18-7-2
2021: 17-10-4
2020: 11-17-6
2019: 13-10-13


USL Championship clubs will start their road in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup next week as they look to emulate Sacramento Republic FC's run a season ago. | Photo courtesy Brad Smith / ISI Photos

Twenty-three of the USL Championship’s clubs will enter the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in next week’s Second Round with each aspiring to the success of Sacramento Republic FC a season ago, when Head Coach Mark Briggs’ side became the first lower-division club to reach the Final since the USL First Division’s Charleston Battery in 2008.

In order to achieve that, they’ll have to emerge from a round that last year proved fraught with difficulty as the teams being targeted by lower-division competition from USL League One and elsewhere in the professional ranks, and sides from USL League Two and elsewhere in the pre-professional realm.

Last season eight clubs fell in the Second Round to lower-division opponents, with 15 teams advancing. This year’s tournament includes some rematches from last year, including FC Tulsa playing host to local amateur side Tulsa Athletic, San Diego Loyal SC facing off with Albion SC, and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC playing host to USL League One’s Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC.

One team that has already safely made it through to the Third Round, however, is Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which was handed a bye following the withdrawal of Rochester NY FC prior to the kickoff of the tournament this month.

Rio Grande Valley FC defender Erik Pimentel saw his second red card in as many contests to start the season when he was sent off during the Toros’ contest against Monterey Bay F.C. on Friday night at H-E-B Park. The 32-year-old had previously been dismissed in his side’s season-opener against Las Vegas Lights FC before serving a one-game suspension in RGVFC’s second game against Oakland Roots SC.

Only four players in the USL Championship’s history have received three red cards in a single regular season, the most recent being Michael Knapp last year for the New York Red Bulls II. Knapp is now Pimentel’s teammate with the Toros after signing with the club this offseason.

Most Red Cards in a USL Championship Regular Season
3 – Michael Knapp, New York Red Bulls II (2022)
3 – Faris Pemi Moumbagna, Philadelphia Union II (2019)
3 – Oscar Umar, Saint Louis FC (2019)
3 – AJ Ajeakwa, Orange County SC (2016)

Upcoming Player Milestones

Speedy Williams can become the 24th player in USL Championship regular season history to pass 15,000 minutes when Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC faces Loudoun United FC on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Mark Reis / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Approaching 250 regular-season appearances

Yann Ekra (TBR) – 248

Approaching 150 regular-season appearances
Sebastian Guenzatti (IND) – 147
Forrest Lasso (TBR) – 147
Cameron Lancaster (LOU) – 147
Eric Bird (TUL) – 146
Lucky Mkosana (TBR) – 146

Approaching 100 regular-season appearances
Sebastian Velasquez (MEM) – 99
Josue Aaron Gomez (ELP) – 99
Leland Archer (CHS) – 98
Graham Smith (MEM) – 98
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 97
Romario Williams (COS) – 97

Approaching 15,000 regular-season minutes

Speedy Williams (COS) – 14,944
Alex Tambakis (NM) – 14,747
Tarek Morad (OAK) – 14,662
James Musa (COS) – 14,639

Approaching 50 regular season goals

Chris Wehan (NM) – 49
Lucky Mkosana (TBR) – 48

Approaching 50 regular season assists

Aodhan Quinn (IND) – 48
Solomon Asante (IND) – 47

Approaching 40 regular season assists
Enzo Martinez (BHM) – 38

Approaching 30 regular season assists
Oscar Jimenez (LOU) – 29
Lewis Hilton (TBR) – 29
Justin Portillo (NM) – 28
Niall McCabe (LOU) – 27

Approaching 250 regular season saves

Trey Muse (CHS) – 246

Approaching 40 regular-season shutouts

Matt VanOekel (BHM) – 38

Approaching 30 regular-season shutouts
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 29

Discipline Report – Week 4

TAMPA, Fla. – The following is the USL Championship’s discipline report for Week 4 of the 2023 USL Championship season:

Rio Grande Valley FC’s Erik Pimentel has been suspended for one game following his red card for violent conduct during his side’s contest against Monterey Bay F.C. on March 24. Pimentel will be unavailable for Rio Grande Valley’s contest against Detroit City FC this Saturday afternoon.

Monterey Bay F.C.’s Mobi Fehr has been suspended for one game following his red card for two cautionable offenses against Rio Grande Valley FC on March 24. Fehr will be unavailable for selection in Monterey Bay’s contest against San Antonio FC on Saturday night.

Detroit City FC’s Yazeed Matthews has been suspended for one game following his red card for two cautionable offenses against Indy Eleven on March 25. Matthews will be unavailable for Detroit’s contest against Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday afternoon.

Charleston Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann has been suspended for one game following his red card for delaying the restart of play against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on March 25. Pirmann will serve his suspension during Charleston’s contest against Hartford Athletic on April 8.

Tampa Bay Rowdies Assistant Coach Stuart Dobson has been suspended for one game following his red card for entering the field of play to confront a match official against the Charleston Battery on March 25. Dobson will serve his suspension during Tampa Bay’s contest against Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday night.

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