Louisville City FC's Oscar Jimenez had two assists on Saturday night as Kyle Adams' arrival in the lineup provided more flexibility for the side against Indy Eleven. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
The 21st weekend in the USL Championship regular season delivered the first two games to end with 5-2 scorelines this season, the first individual four-goal game since the 2019 campaign, and the second-most goals on a single night in the campaign so far in a wild Saturday night of games.
Here are seven key storylines we took away from the action, and some additional thoughts on the rest of the weekend.
There was enough to like in what Kyle Adams did individually in his debut for Louisville City FC on Saturday night. The New Zealand international, acquired earlier in the week via transfer from San Diego Loyal SC, won 6 of 8 aerial duels, made three headed clearances and completed 7 of 9 long passes among 26 of 32 passing overall.
What might have been more important, though, was what Adams allowed LouCity to do in its overall shape. Moving into the left side of a three-center-back system alongside Sean Totsch and Wesley Charpie, Adams’ presence allowed freedom for both Oscar Jimenez and Amadou Dia to join the attack, and Jimenez took full advantage.
The veteran’s first two-assist game since the 2018 regular season helped power Louisville to a 2-0 victory against Indy Eleven on Saturday before a season-high crowd of 13,248 fans at Lynn Family Stadium. The result clinched the LIPAFC rivalry for the season with a sweep of the Boys in Blue and moved LouCity back into the top four while breaking a three-game losing streak.
“Today I played as a wingback, and when I first got here in 2017 that’s the position I played,” said Jimenez. “I had a lot of joy doing it, so all day today I just said I’m going to go out there and have fun.”
LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz spoke after the game about Adams’ addition allowing his side to do some things they’d been hoping to this season. While it’s only a first step, it’s plenty to build on for Cruz’s side.
Scoring the landmark 1,000th goal in Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC history left Joe Farrell thrilled.
“This is such a storied franchise,” he said. “It’s been around for some time, and so many great players have walked through these halls and on this pitch and have worn our colors, so just to get one small goal that happened to be the 1,000th is truly amazing and remarkable.”
What might have mattered most about Farrell’s first goal for the Hounds, though, was when it arrived. Coming four minutes before the halftime break with the hosts trailing Memphis 901 FC by a pair of goals, it sparked one of the most impressive comebacks of the season that resulted in a 4-2 win for the Hounds that ensured they remained on top of the Eastern Conference at the end of Saturday night.
“We had a few costly turnovers that resulted in transition moments that resulted in goals for the other team, so we found ourselves down,” said Farrell. “After this Wednesday’s game [against Indy], we had a meeting on Thursday, and we talked about being resilient in those moments, having courage rather than putting your head down and conceding another one, having courage to fight back, and I think we responded great.
“We started creating opportunities before I scored, so my goal was just a result of that, a result of everyone’s response.”
Farrell was one of three players to bag their first goal in Pittsburgh’s colors on Saturday, including Dani Rovira, whose tally early in the second half carried on the momentum it had built going into the break. Recent arrival Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. added the third in the 55th minute and from there the Hounds were in control in front of a club-record regular season crowd of 5,466 fans.
“It was fun to see, and the crowd certainly was a big factor for the guys tonight,” said Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley. “We had to find a third and a fourth; I wouldn’t want to sit on that 3-2. We closed the last 20 minutes out pretty comfortably. We could have had a little bit more, but we were smart about it. The big key was for them not to breach us again, and I was pleased with how we closed the game.”
Given the stakes for Orange County SC and New Mexico United as they battled for a chance to end the night above the playoff line at Championship Soccer Stadium on Saturday night, it wasn’t a great surprise that neither wanted to give much away to the other.
In front of a second consecutive sellout crowd, though, Milan Iloski gave the majority of the 5,500 fans on hand what they’d come to see with a sharp finish off an excellent cross by Bryce Jamison with 10 minutes to go to earn a 1-0 win and a move up to sixth place in the Western standings.
“It's lovely to be here,” said OCSC interim Head Coach Morten Karlsen. “We felt the love and the energy against Monterey, and we definitely felt it again today. I think our contribution to the game, we didn't give them that much to celebrate, but we got them a win at the end, and it was fantastic.”
Orange County has put together six wins in its last seven games to make a surge up the standings. While August is going to offer a serious test of those playoff credentials, starting with next Saturday’s visit to San Diego Loyal SC, the side’s momentum on the field and in the stands is reason for major optimism.
In a majority of games, it can be a question of which team can find its attacking rhythm first that ends up being pivotal to the direction the contest takes.
In Rio Grande Valley FC’s wild 5-2 win against Copa Tejas rival El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday night, it was a question of which team could get its defense into shape faster. A furious opening 20 minutes that saw both sides score twice saw the Toros accomplish what they needed to, and in turn sweep past its visitors in impressive fashion.
“We had to find that balance, and when we found it, we started moving the ball quick and getting off our feet,” said Toros midfielder Jose Francisco Torres. “We were moving the ball better and we defended a little bit better. Juan David [Cabezas] knew he had to sit back and stay tight to the back line and when he did that, I think we started defending very well. Obviously, El Paso is a great team, they move the ball very well, but we found a lot of spaces behind them because they started getting frustrated.”
The win marked the first time the Toros had scored five goals against a fellow Texan club in the Championship in their history and pulled the side back within two points of the playoff places. After last weekend’s setback in Tulsa, the Toros still feel dangerous when it comes to finding a pathway up the standings.
Chalk one thing up for Nicky Law that Neill Collins didn’t do as Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies – he won his first game at the helm.
As challenging as the contest proved against an in-form FC Tulsa side that overall had the better of the first half, once the Rowdies took an early second-half lead through Forrest Lasso’s headed finish, it felt like the momentum shifted firmly in favor of the hosts on the way to a 3-0 victory at Al Lang Stadium that also saw Charlie Dennis and JJ Williams find the net.
“A lot of emotions for me tonight,” said Law. “You want to get that first victory in your first attempt. I’m very fortunate to do it and to do it in front of our home fans who were amazing all night. The way the boys rolled into the stadium tonight. You could just see they were ready. It filled me with confidence.”
Getting Dennis back into the swing of things was certainly a major plus for Tampa Bay. The influential midfielder recorded his first goal contributions since June 10 with a goal to go with the assist on Lasso’s finish, capitalizing on the rebound after a chance for Cal Jennings.
With a clash against current Eastern Conference leader Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC up next – against which Collins saw his side play to a 2-2 draw in his first game in 2018 – the confidence the Rowdies can take away from this performance will be crucial in one of Week 22’s must-see games.
If there’s one thing you can point to in the Charleston Battery’s turnaround from a season ago, it’s this – the team will fight until the very end to get a result.
The latest evidence of that came on Saturday night when the Battery overturned a late deficit through goals by Tristan Trager and Derek Dodson to take a 2-1 victory against Birmingham Legion FC at Protective Stadium that kept the side within range of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at the top of the Eastern Conference.
“It was great to get three points; it showed courage, it showed resilience, because it was tough,” said Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann. “We were looking down the barrel, zero points, then to get back and tie it and to go all the way and get all three points, it was tremendous. It's a huge moment for these players. It's a huge moment for this club.”
The Battery have now claimed a league-high 14 points from losing positions this season, double its mark a season ago. The current total also stands as the most the club has gained in a Championship regular season since the league’s inception in 2011 as Augustine Williams bagged only the second two-assist game of his career.
“Once we started pressing collectively and then making sure that the things [Birmingham] were having success with, we were limiting that, everything starting to be more in our favor,” said Williams. “That helped us a lot to take control of the game and put it in our favor.
“It gave us the momentum to keep pushing and fighting and to make sure that we go back home and we’re executing in front of our fans. We’re looking forward to that.”
Oakland Roots SC was trying to balance minutes within its group after a hard-fought midweek victory, but before kickoff against Detroit City FC on Saturday night those plans were thrown for a loop when Lindo Mfeka picked up a knock in warm-ups, necessitating a lineup change that saw Trayvone Reid inserted.
It certainly didn’t seem to cramp Roots SC’s style – Jonathan Rodriguez’s goal after 23 seconds provided the perfect start with its fastest goal for the club this season – but after conceding almost as quickly to Le Rouge it took a stellar display by goalkeeper Paul Blanchette to ensure the hosts preserved a point at Pioneer Stadium in a 1-1 draw.
“Obviously Lindo going out in warm-ups was tough, having a big change on the fly,” said Roots SC Head Coach Noah Delgado. “One less player, and had a couple of guys that we had to rest today. But I’m very happy with the boys’ desire, you know. They started the game unbelievably. Disappointing set piece goal, but I thought the boys put their heart on the line tonight. You know, it looked like a tie early on. And Paul had some amazing saves at the end.”
With nine saves, Blanchette stole the show for the hosts and ensured their undefeated streak reached five games. With a league-leading 78 saves this regular season while sitting second in the league with eight shutouts, the 29-year-old is stepping forward in big spots as Oakland sits in the top three in the West going into the final third of the season.
Here are some additional thoughts on what we saw this weekend…
- San Antonio FC’s Tani Oluwaseyi was on one Saturday night – read more about it here – but don’t undervalue Jorge Hernandez’s influence. The 22-year-old has the ball on a string.
- San Diego Loyal SC just has Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s number, it seems. Four games, four wins after Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 victory, even though the Switchbacks looked better than their meeting earlier this month.
- As good as Phoenix Rising FC’s attack is looking at times, if they make the playoffs Rocco Rios Novo is going to be a big reason. He’s at a minus-6.09 goals-minus-goals conceded mark right now for his side, rivalling Blanchette.
- Miami FC avoided backsliding in winning at Loudoun United FC. With three home games in the next four and a trip to Hartford Athletic the lone road game, the side needs to make its move.
- It wasn’t as scintillating overall as a performance as in midweek for Sacramento Republic FC in Las Vegas, but the combination of Jack Gurr, Keko and Russell Cicerone continued to deliver to complete a six-point week.
- This is not the ideal moment for the first three-game losing streak of the season for Monterey Bay F.C., especially with Sacramento coming to town next weekend. Huge, huge NorCal clash.
- Ending the night without a shot on target and only two shots inside the penalty area against Louisville City FC was a letdown Indy Eleven couldn’t afford.
- Memphis 901 FC conceded more goals in July (20) than Sacramento Republic FC has all season (16).
Tag(s): Features San Antonio FC 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 Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Monterey Bay F.C.