The Tampa Bay Rowdies' Yann Ekra could become the second player to record 250 regular season appearances in the USL Championship's history this weekend. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
One of the USL Championship’s veterans can join an exclusive club this weekend, while this past weekend saw one of the youngest players in the league’s history make his debut for the defending title holders.
We’ve got more on both of those topics, and plenty more besides, as well as our regular look at upcoming individual player milestones and the Week 5 Discipline Report.
Let’s dig in.
TAMPA BAY’S YANN EKRA SET TO MAKE 250TH REGULAR SEASON APPEARANCE
The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Yann Ekra could make his 250th regular season appearance in the USL Championship on Saturday night when his side hosts Miami FC for the renewal of the rivalry between the in-state rivals.
Ekra would become only the second player to reach the mark following Dane Kelly, who is now competing in USL League One with the Charlotte Independence. The 32-year-old midfielder is closing in on Kelly’s all-time regular season appearances mark of 252 with the potential Ekra could claim the crown of the Championship’s regular season appearances leader on April 29 when the Rowdies visit Detroit City FC.
A native of Cote d'Ivoire who moved to France and came through the Academy at Olympique Lyonnais, Ekra made his debut in the Championship in 2012 for the Harrisburg City Islanders. He was part of the City Islanders team that reached the 2014 USL Championship Final, spending four seasons overall at the club. He joined the Rowdies in 2019 and has made 84 regular season appearances in Green and Gold while helping the side to two Eastern Conference titles.
LEGION FC’S NECO BRETT REACHES TOP FIVE IN REGULAR SEASON GOALS
Birmingham Legion FC’s Neco Brett moved into a tie for fifth place in the USL Championship’s regular season goalscoring list on Saturday night as his two-goal performance against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium moved him to 72 regular season goals in his career.
Brett is now tied with Colombian legend Jorge Herrera for fifth place, and sits just two goals behind fourth-placed Corey Hertzog on 74 goals. Brett’s goals have come at a strike rate of a goal every 171.8 minutes across his 173 regular season appearances, placing him seventh in strike rate among the 21 players who have recorded at least 50 goals in the league’s regular season.
Most Individual Regular Season Goals in the USL Championship
1. Dane Kelly – 106
2. Hadji Barry – 79
3. Cameron Lancaster – 75
4. Corey Hertzog – 74
T-5. Jorge Herrera – 72
T-5. Neco Brett – 72
20 USL CHAMPIONSHIP CLUBS ADVANCE TO OPEN CUP THIRD ROUND
Orange County SC was among the USL Championship clubs to safely advance to the Third Round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this week. The side will face Portland Timbers FC of Major League Soccer later this month. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Oran
Led by 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Finalist Sacramento Republic FC, 20 teams from the USL Championship of the league’s 24 entrants advanced to the tournament’s Third Round on Tuesday and Wednesday night, a notable increase in success from a year ago.
12 teams posted at least three goals in their outings, with New Mexico United posting the widest margin of victory in a 6-0 win against in-state amateur side UDA Soccer. They were followed by Orange County SC, a 5-0 winner against future USL League Two club Capo FC, while Las Vegas Lights FC took a 4-0 win against the LA Force of the National Independent Soccer Association.
New Mexico’s Josh Dolling and Hartford Athletic’s Elvis Amoh both notched hat tricks for their respective clubs, while Sacramento’s Russell Cicerone and Zeiko Lewis each notched a pair of goals in a narrow escape for Republic FC as they took a wild 5-4 victory against amateur side Crossfire Redmond to begin their new campaign.
SAN ANTONIO’S DALZIEL OZUNA BECOMES CHAMPIONSHIP’S FOURTH-YOUNGEST DEBUTANT
San Antonio FC Academy product Dalziel Ozuna became the fourth-youngest player to appear in a USL Championship regular season contest on Saturday night when he came on as a second-half substitute against Monterey Bay F.C. aged 15 years, 27 days old.
A USL Academy signing, Ozuna was coming off a call-up to the United States U-15 Men’s National Team camp in March in which he was joined by Sacramento Republic FC’s Chance Cowell. Ozuna surpassed San Antonio’s record for the youngest player to appear in a USL Championship regular season game of Henrik Sakshaug, who made his debut against Phoenix Rising FC aged 17 years, 73 days old on April 2, 2022.
Youngest Players to Make USL Championship Regular Season Debut
1. Axel Kei, Real Monarchs SLC – 13 years, 9 months, 9 days vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 10/8/21
2. Ansu Kanneh, Phoenix Rising FC – 14 years, 10 months, 2 days vs. LA Galaxy II, 10/3/20
3. Diego Garcia, El Paso Locomotive FC – 15 years, 1 day vs. LA Galaxy II, 10/17/21
4. Dalziel Ozuna, San Antonio FC – 15 years, 27 days at Monterey Bay F.C., 4/1/23
5. Austin Brummett, Tacoma Defiance – 15 years, 2 months, 7 days at Phoenix Rising FC, 4/20/19
INDY ELEVEN POSTS RECORD SINGLE-GAME POSSESSION HIGH
Indy Eleven held 79.6 percent of possession against Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday, the most in a Championship regular season contest on record, but was unable to find a breakthrough in a scoreless draw. | Photo courtesy Matt Schlotzhauer / Indy Eleven
Indy Eleven posted the highest possession mark in a USL Championship match on record on Saturday night in its 0-0 draw with Las Vegas Lights FC, holding 79.6 percent of possession as it completed 624 of 717 attempted passes over the contest at Michael A. Carroll Stadium.
The club’s successful passes mark of 624 also ranked third-most in regular season games, while its 717 attempted passes ranked fifth-most. As with other teams that have held that level of possession in the league since the metric became available in 2017, however, Indy did not come away with all three points.
In fact, the 10 teams to hold the highest possession marks in the Championship’s regular season have posted a collective record of 1-5-4. Louisville City FC’s 4-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC on September 22, 2018 – when the side posted a 76.3 possession mark – is the lone instance of a win, with four teams suffering a 1-0 defeat.
Most Team Possession in a USL Championship Regular Season Contest (2017-Present)
1. Indy Eleven – 79.6 percent vs. Las Vegas Lights FC, 4/1/23 – Drew 0-0
2. Sporting Kansas City II – 77.1 percent vs. San Antonio FC, 5/26/17 – Lost 1-0
3. Louisville City FC – 76.3 percent vs. Ottawa Fury FC, 9/22/18 – Won 4-0
T-4. New Mexico United – 75.2 percent vs. Austin Bold FC, 6/12/21 – Drew 0-0
T-4. Atlanta United 2 – 75.2 percent vs. Charleston Battery, 4/24/18 – Lost 3-0
Charleston Battery goalkeeper Trey Muse is closing on recording 250 saves in the USL Championship's regular season as his side hosts Hartford Athletic this Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Irina Filenko / Charleston Battery
Approaching 250 regular-season appearances
Yann Ekra (TBR) – 249
Approaching 200 regular-season appearances
Danny Barrera (HFD) – 196
Approaching 150 regular-season appearances
Sebastian Guenzatti (IND) – 148
Forrest Lasso (TBR) – 148
Cameron Lancaster (LOU) – 148
Eric Bird (TUL) – 147
Bradley Bourgeois (TUL) – 147
Lucky Mkosana (TBR) – 146
Approaching 100 regular-season appearances
Graham Smith (MEM) – 99
Leland Archer (CHS) – 98
Romario Williams (COS) – 98
Michael Salazar (MIA) – 97
Wilson Harris (LOU) – 97
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 97
Approaching 15,000 regular-season minutes
Alex Tambakis (NM) – 14,837
Tarek Morad (OAK) – 14,752
Bolu Akinyode (MIA) – 14,656
James Musa (COS) – 14,639
Approaching 10,000 regular-season minutes
Rodrigo Da Costa (TUL) – 9,852
Approaching 75 regular season goals
Neco Brett (BHM) – 72
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
TAMPA, Fla. – The following is the USL Championship’s discipline report for Week 5 of the 2023 USL Championship season:
New Mexico United’s Justin Portillo has been suspended for one game following his red card for two cautionable offenses against Oakland Roots SC on April 1. Portillo will be unavailable for selection in New Mexico’s contest against Monterey Bay F.C. on Saturday night.
Tag(s): Features San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.