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Gameday Previews – Saturday, August 19

By Staff, 08/18/23, 3:00PM EDT


Nationally televised doubleheader highlights busy night of action across the league

San Diego Loyal SC and New Mexico United will square off for the second time this season on Saturday night with the clash at Torero Stadium part of a national doubleheader on ESPN2. | Photo courtesy Brandino / New Mexico United

The first nationally televised doubleheader in the USL Championship’s history will visit Detroit City FC’s Keyworth Stadium and a crucial Western Conference clash between San Diego Loyal SC and New Mexico United as part of a 10-game slate of action that also includes key games in the postseason race across both conferences.

Here's a look ahead at all the action.

Birmingham Legion FC vs. Louisville City FC

Venue: Protective Stadium
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Birmingham Legion FC will try to gain ground on Louisville City FC, and break a four-game winless streak, as the two playoff contenders square off for the second time this season. Legion FC (9-11-3, 30pts) earned its first point in August last Saturday night as it played to a 1-1 draw with Sacramento Republic FC at Protective Stadium as Collin Smith’s first goal in the professional ranks was cancelled out by a late equalizer from the visitors. Birmingham remains in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, seven points back of Louisville in fifth, but rallied for a 2-1 win when the sides met last month on a stoppage-time winner by Alex Crognale after Juan Agudelo had scored 10 minutes into the second half. LouCity (10-7-7, 37pts) is undefeated in its last four games, meanwhile, but is looking to get back in the win column after twice letting a lead slip away in a 2-2 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC at Lynn Family Stadium last Saturday. Sitting level on points with Memphis 901 FC, the visitors are in need of a win as they pursue another top-four finish and home game to open the postseason later this campaign.

Spotlight Players
Birmingham Legion FC – Matthew Corcoran:
The 17-year-old midfielder notched two assists when these sides met earlier this season and has notched 22 chances created in his first full season with the club.

Louisville City FC – Manny Perez: The right-sided wingback returned to the starting lineup and notched one assist against Rio Grande Valley FC, providing a platform to build on in what has been a solid individual campaign.

Hartford Athletic vs. Miami FC

Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Miami FC will try to rebound and get back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference as it visits Hartford Athletic, which will try to throw another wrench into the South Florida club’s postseason chances. Hartford (4-15-4, 16pts) returns home after a 2-0 defeat against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Saturday night. The side has alternated wins and losses in its last four outings, but is now 13 points outside the playoff positions with only 11 games to play, making a first playoff berth a longshot. Miami (6-10-8, 26pts) remained below the playoff line as its three-game winning streak came to an end last Saturday in a 1-0 defeat to Indy Eleven at Riccardo Silva Stadium, but has been successful against Hartford with three wins and a draw in the past four meetings between the sides. Kyle Murphy and Florian Valot both found the net when the side took a 2-0 victory in its last visit to Trinity Health Stadium a season ago, and with a three-point gap to the top eight going into the weekend starting another winning run here will be essential to the side’s chances of a third consecutive playoff berth.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Prince Saydee:
The Liberian winger has been a bright spot with five goals and three assists and will be aiming to make an impact against one of his former clubs here.

Miami FC – Mark Sebgers: The right-sided defender will look to have an impact at both ends of the field for the visitors, having recorded three assists and 12 chances created so far this campaign.

Detroit City FC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN2

The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will try to get back in the win column and boost its postseason chances as it faces off with Las Vegas Lights FC, which suffered another deflating defeat in its last outing. Le Rouge (6-12-6, 24pts) suffered a 1-0 defeat to the Charleston Battery last Saturday night, ending a three-game undefeated run as its scoring struggles this season continued. The side now sits five points outside the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference going into the weekend. DCFC claimed victory when it faces Las Vegas for the first time a season ago, however, as Connor Rutz scored the only goal of a 1-0 win at Cashman Field. Lights FC (2-13-8, 14pts) also fell last Saturday in a 3-0 defeat to Loudoun United FC that saw Andrew Carleton have a penalty kick saved when he had a chance to equalize early in the second half before the visitors pulled away late on. Las Vegas has won once on the road this season, but has lost its past four road outings as it sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings 13 points adrift from 11th-placed Monterey Bay F.C.

Spotlight Players
Detroit City FC – Dario Suarez:
The Cuban forward has made a positive contribution to DCFC since his arrival and will look to add to his tally this season against a Lights FC defense that has conceded the most goals in the Western Conference.

Las Vegas Lights FC – Tabort Etaka Preston: The Cameroonian winger has recorded five goals this season and will look to stretch the Detroit defense with his speed on the right flank.

Loudoun United FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC

Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will try to keep pace at the top of the Western Conference as it heads east for the second consecutive weekend to take on a Loudoun United FC side coming off a victory last time out. Loudoun (7-16-3, 24pts) remained in with a chance of its first playoff berth after a 3-0 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday that saw Kalil ElMedkhar, Wesley Leggett and Houssou Landry each find the net. The hosts are now five points out of the playoff positions but have only eight games to play in the regular season, making another victory essential. That could prove a challenge against Republic FC (12-3-9, 45pts), which took a 4-0 victory when these sides met a season ago in California. The visitors are coming off a 1-1 draw against Birmingham Legion FC last Saturday which saw Luther Archimede score a second-half equalizer, but Saturday could see Republic FC introduce its newest arrival in Argentine playmaker Cristian Parano, who joined the club this week after previously competing for San Antonio FC. With one point separating first-placed San Antonio and second-placed Sacramento with 10 games to go, every point is going to be essential as Republic FC looks to claim top spot and homefield advantage in the postseason.

Spotlight Players
Loudoun United FC – Kalil ElMedkhar:
The left winger has scored in consecutive games but will need to also do good work defensively to try and curtail the influence of Sacramento’s Jack Gurr on the flank.

Sacramento Republic FC – Russell Cicerone: The side’s leading scorer notched five goals in eight appearances against Loudoun previously in his career and will look to add to his 13 goals this campaign in pursuit of the Golden Boot at the end of the season.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC will try to rebound and gain ground on the teams above the playoff line as it hosts a Phoenix Rising FC side coming off an emphatic victory last time out. The Toros (6-8-10, 28pts) suffered a 2-1 defeat on Wednesday night to South Texas Derby rival San Antonio FC despite taking the early lead on Ian Cerro’s first goal for the club. The result marked the first setback for RGV FC this season when it scored the opening goal and left the side four points out of the playoff places entering a crucial contest back on home turf. Rising FC (8-8-7, 32pts) is one of two teams the Toros are chasing, but Phoenix claimed an emphatic 5-0 victory against El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday as Danny Trejo recorded a two-goal, two-assist game for the second time in his Championship career. Rising FC has now won two of its last three games, and will be hoping to reverse the outcome from its last trip to H-E-B Park a season ago when the Toros won 2-1 on a pair of goals by Jonas Fjeldberg, a result that proved pivotal for both teams in the playoff race a season ago.

Spotlight Players
Rio Grande Valley FC – Wahab Ackwei:
The experienced defender will be available for selection after serving a one-game suspension against San Antonio and will need to step up to help shut down Phoenix’s prolific attack.

Phoenix Rising FC – Danny Trejo: The versatile forward has recorded a team-high 12 goals this season after last-week’s brace and five assists and will be looking for another big display to boost his side’s playoff chances and his own standing in the race for the Golden Boot.

San Antonio FC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

Venue: Toyota Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: San Antonio FC will look to add to a four-game winning streak as it plays host to a Monterey Bay F.C. side that has been moving in the opposite direction in recent weeks. SAFC (13-4-7, 46pts) moved into first place in the Western Conference with a 2-1 win against Rio Grande Valley FC on Wednesday night, putting the side within range of retaining the Copa Tejas, as Santiago Patino scored his second goal in as many games before Rida Zouhir scored what proved to be the winner. Zouhir has now scored seven goals this season after bagging three in the past two games, while San Antonio has scored a league-best 49 goals in the campaign as it looks for a second consecutive league title. Monterey Bay (7-11-6, 27pts) has suffered five consecutive defeats, meanwhile, after falling 4-1 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. Mobi Fehr opened the scoring for MBFC on the road, but the side’s defense was overpowered in the second half as the side dropped to 11th place in the West. San Antonio claimed a third consecutive victory in the series between the sides earlier this season with a 2-1 win at Cardinale Stadium, a run the visitors must break to try and get back into the playoff conversation.  

Spotlight Players
San Antonio FC – Ish Jome:
The veteran left back has fit comfortably into the SAFC lineup, notching a pair of assists in nine appearances since his arrival, and should be a player to watch again this time out.

Monterey Bay F.C. – Kai Greene: The veteran center back previously played for San Antonio FC for two seasons and will return to Toyota Field aiming to try and help contain a strong attack.  

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. Indy Eleven

Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Indy Eleven will look to build on its positive momentum as Head Coach Mark Lowry returns to Southwest University Park for the first time since his departure from El Paso Locomotive FC at the end of 2021, with his former club currently struggling for form in the Western Conference playoff race. Locomotive FC (9-9-5, 32pts) suffered a fourth consecutive defeat last Saturday night, falling 5-0 to Phoenix Rising FC as it dropped into eighth place in the West, and is now winless in its last nine games overall having previously led the Western Conference in June. El Paso claimed victory when these teams last met two seasons ago in a 2-0 result at Southwest University Park, but Indy (8-9-7, 31pts) arrives this time on an upswing with consecutive victories in the past week that pushed the side into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Boys in Blue took a 1-0 win at fellow playoff hopefully Miami FC last Saturday night as Adrian Diz Pe scored the only goal on the 50th regular season assist of Aodhan Quinn’s career, putting Quinn and Solomon Asante as the only two players to have recorded at least 50 goals and 50 assists in the league’s regular season history. With a chance to continue its playoff drive, the visitors will be hoping for another positive outcome here.

Spotlight Players
El Paso Locomotive FC – Liam Rose:
The central midfielder has been one of the more consistent performers for El Paso this season, a strong display will be essential to helping his side turn its form around.

Indy Eleven – Sebastian Velasquez: The veteran playmaker has produced consecutive bright appearances for his current side as he prepares to face a club he helped take to the playoffs during both the 2019 and 2021 seasons.   

San Diego Loyal SC vs. New Mexico United

Venue: Torero Stadium
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN2

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will try to move back into the top four in the Western Conference as it plays host to a New Mexico United side in need of a return to the win column in the second half of Saturday’s ESPN2 doubleheader. SD Loyal (10-7-6, 36pts) dropped to fifth place in the standings after a 1-0 defeat to Memphis 901 FC last Saturday night. Joe Corona was denied from the penalty spot early as the side fell for the second time in the past three games on home turf, leaving it a point behind both Oakland Roots SC and Orange County SC in the fight for a top-three position in the West. San Diego and New Mexico have played to four consecutive draws to start their all-time series, including a 1-1 draw in April at Isotopes Park that saw Sam Hamilton open the scoring for United before Evan Conway leveled for SD Loyal early in the second half. New Mexico (8-10-4, 28pts) is on a three-game losing streak coming into this contest, however, after a 3-0 setback against San Antonio FC that saw the side go behind inside the opening two minutes. With a four-point gap to make up to the top eight, the visitors need to find a result on the road, which should make for an entertaining contest overall between these sides.

Spotlight Players
San Diego Loyal SC – Blake Bodily:
The 25-year-old has produced some stellar performances on the left flank this season, notching four goals and four assists, and will be looking to help his side rebound after last outing’s setback.

New Mexico United – Nicky Hernandez: A midseason arrival, Hernandez has two goals and one assist in seven appearances for United and will be looking to make his presence felt in the attacking third.

Oakland Roots SC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Venue: Pioneer Field
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC will try to complete a season sweep of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on home turf as the visitors return to action looking to gain ground on the third-placed side in the Western Conference. Sitting in third place in the West, Oakland (10-6-7, 37pts) also returns to action on Saturday night after taking a 1-0 win against the Charleston Battery on August 4 in its most recent outing, a result that moved the club’s undefeated streak to six games. Roots SC also took a 1-0 victory when it visited the Switchbacks in early June as Johnny Rodriguez’s early goal proved the difference at Weidner Field, one of his nine goals so far this season. Colorado Springs (10-11-3, 33pts) has taken four points from its past two outings, however, to solidify its place above the playoff line and will be looking to build on a 1-1 draw with FC Tulsa at the USL Summer Showcase on August 9 that saw Jonas Fjeldberg score his first goal for the club. With a five-point gap to the teams below the playoff line, the Switchbacks will be hoping to repeat their 3-0 victory when they last headed to face Roots SC and close the gap to the teams in the top four.

Spotlight Players
Oakland Roots SC – Jeciel Cedeno:
The 23-year-old has made a positive impact since his arrival in midseason from Hartford Athletic and will look to combine with Johnny Rodriguez in the attacking third to help the hosts to success.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Maalique Foster: The Jamaican forward notched his third assist of the season against FC Tulsa and can provide creativity for the visitors as they try to improve their road record this season.

Orange County SC vs. Charleston Battery

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Orange County SC will try to equal its club record regular season winning streak as it squares off with another top Eastern Conference club with the Charleston Battery boasting the best road record in the Championship this season as they arrive in California. Orange County (11-9-4, 37pts) moved back into the top four in the West as Milan Iloski’s 11th goal of the season proved the difference in a 1-0 win against Eastern Conference leader Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Wednesday night. OCSC has now won five consecutive games, one fewer than a six-game winning streak during the 2019 campaign that stands as the longest in club history. The Battery (12-6-7, 43pts) will try to break that run as they look to build on a 1-0 win against Detroit City FC last Saturday night at Keyworth Stadium that stood as the club’s seventh road win of the campaign. Augustine Williams scored the only goal of the game for Charleston in that contest, taking him to 10 tallies this season, while the Battery have notched a league-best 25 points away from home this season. With a four-point gap to the Hounds, Charleston should give their hosts another challenging contest in the first meeting between the sides in two seasons.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Thomas Amang:
The Cameroonian forward has notched five goals and two assists in support of Iloski this season and provides a central presence the side has been able to build around in the attacking third.

Charleston Battery – Emilio Ycaza: The 26-year-old has been a positive presence in the attacking third for his side in the past two games and will be a player OCSC needs to account for defensively.

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