El Paso Locomotive FC and Monterey Bay F.C. are both looking to build on victories last time out as they clash at Southwest University Park. | Photo courtesy Keira Winslow / Monterey Bay F.C.
A trio of key games between teams above and below the playoff line in the Eastern and Western Conference highlight a busy night of action in the USL Championship on Saturday, with the potential that the first two berth in the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs could be locked up by the end of the night.
Here's a look ahead at all the action.
Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Indy Eleven will try to continue its drive up the Eastern Conference standings as it plays host to a Miami FC side in desperate need of a victory to boost its playoff chances after falling a week ago. Indy (10-9-8, 38pts) moved into sixth place in the East as it rallied for a 2-1 victory against Loudoun United FC last weekend behind goals from Aodhan Quinn and Sebastian Guenzatti. The result continued a five-game undefeated run for the Boys in Blue, and also saw Solomon Asante record his fifth assist in August on Guenzatti’s game-winning goal with nine minutes remaining. Indy took a 1-0 victory against Miami when they met at Riccardo Silva Stadium last month as Adrian Diz Pe scored early in the second half, one of two defeats the South Florida club has suffered in its last three outings. Miami (7-11-8, 29pts) remains only one point outside the playoff positions after a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday, however, and with a win on the road could have the chance to be back above the playoff line by the end of the weekend’s action in a tight race for the eighth and final postseason berth in the conference.
Indy Eleven – Aodhan Quinn: The veteran midfielder has recorded a team-high nine goals this season, including seven from the penalty spot, and has been highly influential over the club’s current run of success.
Miami FC – Ryan Telfer: The Trinidad and Tobago international has notched three goals this season and will look to use his speed and guile to try and challenge Indy’s experienced back line.
Venue: Keyworth Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will try to maintain its position above the playoff line as it hunts for a third consecutive victory when Memphis 901 FC visits Keyworth Stadium for the second meeting between the clubs this season. Le Rouge (8-12-6, 30pts) took a 3-2 victory on Sunday evening against Birmingham Legion FC as Ben Morris scored twice and played a key role in an own goal that proved the winner at Protective Stadium. The result gave DCFC consecutive wins for the third time this season, while moving Morris to a team-high five goals in the campaign, but with only a one-point lead over both FC Tulsa and Miami FC the hosts will be hoping to break a four-game winless streak against their visitors this time out. 901 FC (10-7-8, 38pts) has gone 2-0-2 against DCFC in their past four meetings, including a scoreless draw when the teams met at AutoZone Park in June, but Memphis will be trying to rebound from a setback last time out as it heads to Michigan after falling 1-0 to the Charleston Battery last Saturday. The result dropped 901 FC into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and with aspirations of a top-four finish and home game to kick off the playoffs, Head Coach Stephen Glass’ side will be aiming for all three points to that end.
Detroit City FC – Devon Amoo-Mensah: The experienced defender has put in another solid season with 51 clearances and 23 interceptions and will be hoping to help contain a talented Memphis attack this time around.
Memphis 901 FC – Graham Smith: The veteran center back scored twice against Detroit City last season – including in the playoff meeting between the sides – and will be a threat from set pieces as well as providing leadership on the back line.
Venue: Al Lang Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will look to maintain the upper hand on Hartford Athletic with the possibility that a win at home could secure the side’s place in the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs. The Rowdies (14-6-5, 47pts) earned a 2-0 win against Miami FC last Saturday behind goals from Cal Jennings and Charlie Dennis, leaving the side with the scenario that a win and a Miami FC defeat at Indy Eleven would send the side to the postseason. Tampa Bay is also looking to close the gap to first-placed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, with four points separating the sides but the Rowdies holding three games in hand on one of their rivals for the Players’ Shield. Having claimed victories in three of the past four games against Hartford, the hosts could be confident of more success. The Athletic (4-18-4, 16pts) arrive on a four-game losing streak after suffering a 2-0 setback to El Paso Locomotive FC, and with only two road wins so far this season the side would cause one of the major surprises of the season were it to come away with a result.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – JJ Williams: The veteran forward is tied for the club lead with 10 goals and five assists this season and will likely prove a handful for the Athletic’s back line.
Hartford Athletic – Triston Hodge: The Trinidad and Tobago defender has won 26 tackles this season with a success rate of 79 percent and will look for a good display before potential international duty next week for the Soca Warriors.
Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will look to build on an important win last time out as it heads to face Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, which will be without some key players as it tries to rebound from defeat. The Switchbacks (11-12-3, 36pts) conceded a pair of late penalty kicks in a 2-1 defeat to Monterey Bay F.C. despite a brilliant goal by Jay Chapman to open the scoring, and following Phoenix Rising FC’s midweek victory the side dropped to seventh place in the Western standings. Colorado Springs will also be without defender James Musa and forwards Maalique Foster and Jonas Fjeldberg, all of whom received red cards against Monterey Bay as they look to regain their footing in the race for the postseason. LouCity (11-8-7, 40pts) will hope to take advantage, meanwhile, after a morale-boosting 2-1 win against Oakland Roots SC last Saturday that saw Oscar Jimenez scored the winner in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time. The result moved Louisville into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of both Memphis 901 FC and Indy Eleven going into the weekend. After playing to a 1-1 draw when the teams last met two years ago at Weidner Field, the visitors will be eager to add another three points in one of the toughest venues to visit in the league.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Speedy Williams: The Jamaican veteran has notched one goal and three assists while serving as one of the side’s most consistent performances as he prepares to face one of his former clubs.
Louisville City FC – Jorge Gonzalez: The Spanish attacking midfielder made his first start since suffering an injury in June against Oakland and produced a bright display, recording four shots and two chances created.
Venue: Isotopes Park
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: New Mexico United will end a four-game homestand in need of a victory as it takes on a Charleston Battery side that has earned the most road points in the Championship so far this season as it heads to Isotopes Park for the second time. New Mexico (9-11-6, 33pts) was held to a 3-3 draw by Las Vegas Lights FC on Wednesday night as late goals by Amando Moreno and Will Seymore grabbed a point in the closing stages after Lights FC had taken a two-goal lead in the second half. United is now two points outside the playoff places with eight games to play but has played one game more than rival El Paso Locomotive FC, which currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot. New Mexico took a 2-0 win against Charleston a season ago at Patriots Point, but the Battery (13-7-7, 46pts) have been a very different proposition this season and currently sit third in the Eastern Conference after a 1-0 win at home to Memphis 901 FC last Saturday that saw Beto Avila score the only goal of the game. Charleston currently leads the Championship with 25 points in 14 road contests so far this season, and with the side in pursuit of a first home playoff game since 2018 down the final stretch of the season the Battery will be eager to add to their seven road wins this campaign.
New Mexico United – Andrew Thomas: The newly-acquired goalkeeper on loan from Seattle Sounders FC could be put into the lineup immediately and will want to make a big initial impression for the side.
Charleston Battery – Nick Markanich: The attacking midfielder has been lively in his past two outings but is looking for his first goal since June 30, a drought he will be eager to break this time out.
Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC and Monterey Bay F.C. will both look to build on important victories last time out as the hosts try to solidify their place above the playoff line in the Western Conference against one of the sides looking to chase them down. Locomotive FC (10-10-5, 35pts) broke a 10-game winless streak last Saturday with a 2-0 victory against Hartford Athletic in which Josue Aaron Gomez and Petar Petrovic both found the net. The result kept the side in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, and El Paso enters the weekend with a two-point lead over ninth place New Mexico United in a tight postseason race. Monterey Bay (8-11-7, 31pts) sits four points back after ending a lengthy winless streak of its own last Saturday as Christian Volesky scored two late penalty kicks to defeat Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 2-1 at Cardinale Stadium. Volesky’s brace moved him past 60 regular season goals for his career in the Championship and into a tie for the club lead this season alongside Alex Dixon on nine goals. After a scoreless draw between the two sides in California earlier this season, this game could prove pivotal for both clubs in the broader playoff race and should provide entertainment on Locomotive FC’s traditional Noche de Locos night.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Josue Aaron Gomez: The longtime Locos forward put in a big shift for the side in Hartford and will look to build on his fourth goal of the campaign as the side returns home.
Monterey Bay F.C. – Rafael Baca: The veteran midfielder has been bright in the center of the park guiding Monterey Bay’s attack since his arrival, notching four chances created and completing 87 percent of his passes overall.
Venue: Pioneer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC and Sacramento Republic FC will renew their rivalry with both teams looking to rebound from defeats as they chase a high finish in the Western Conference. Roots SC (11-8-7, 40pts) returns home after suffering a late 2-1 defeat last Saturday night against Louisville City FC, conceding the decisive goal deep in second-half stoppage time. The contest had previously seen Johnny Rodriguez record his 10th goal of the season for the side, but the result dropped Oakland to fourth place in the Western Conference standings as it looks to secure its first home postseason game since joining the USL Championship in 2021. Republic FC (13-5-9, 48pts) dropped into second place in the Western Conference, meanwhile, as it suffered a 2-1 loss to Phoenix Rising FC on Wednesday night, one point behind San Antonio FC for top spot. The result marked the first time this season Sacramento has suffered defeat in consecutive games, but Republic FC’s recent form against Oakland should offer optimism of a rebound performance. Sacramento is undefeated in its last three games against Roots SC including a 3-1 win at Heart Health Park earlier this season that saw Keko, Russell Cicerone and Sebastian Herrera find the net for the hosts. With SAFC in action on Sunday, Sacramento would regain top spot with a victory here and put pressure on its rivals to match them in a keenly fought battle for the conference lead.
Oakland Roots SC – Emrah Klimenta: The former Republic FC defender has continued to be a stellar part of Roots SC’s back line this season, recording 57 clearances and 34 interceptions, and will look to help keep things tight at the back for the hosts.
Sacramento Republic FC – Luis Felipe Fernandes: The Brazilian midfielder made his first start since an injury against Phoenix and could be a key figure in the center of the park for the visitors as he looks to return to his early-season form.
Venue: Cashman Field
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Orange County SC will try to continue its seven-game winning streak as it heads to face Las Vegas Lights FC, which narrowly missed out on victory in midweek ahead of its return home this weekend. Lights FC (2-15-9, 15pts) was unable to hold on late in a 3-3 draw against New Mexico United on Wednesday night despite another impressive attacking display at Isotopes Park. 20-year-old El Salvadoran Daniel Rios scored his third goal in the past two games while Bruno Lage and Tyler Bagley also found the net for the side, only for New Mexico to score twice in the final 15 minutes to earn a draw. Orange County (13-9-4, 43pts) moved into third place in the Western Conference last Saturday, meanwhile, as it took a 2-0 win against Sacramento Republic FC behind goals from Thomas Amang and Seth Casiple and a three-save shutout by 18-year-old goalkeeper Juan Santana in his professional debut. OCSC’s seven-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest in the Championship’s history, but the side is winless in its last three meetings with Las Vegas after a 2-2 draw at Championship Soccer Stadium earlier this season. With key games to come, the visitors will be hoping to end that run, add another three points, and try to close the gap to San Antonio FC and Sacramento Republic FC at the top of the standings.
Las Vegas Lights FC – Andrew Carleton: The former U.S. youth international notched an assist when these teams met earlier this season and has been somewhat luckless this campaign overall, sitting with only two assists on 42 chances created.
Orange County SC – Milan Iloski: The side’s leading scorer should return to the lineup after serving a suspension for caution accumulation against Sacramento, and will look to add to his goal and assist when the teams met back in March.
Venue: Phoenix Rising Stadium
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC will shoot for its first three-game winning streak of the season as it plays host to Rio Grande Valley FC, which needs a repeat of its victory when the sides last met to boost its postseason hopes. Phoenix (10-8-8, 38pts) moved up to sixth place in the Western Conference on Wednesday night with a 2-1 win against Sacramento Republic FC that saw Manuel Arteaga and Danny Trejo both find the net. Trejo is now tied for the league lead with 14 goals this season, while Arteaga is a goal back with 13 tallies this season, making them the highest-scoring duo in the league so far this campaign. Rising FC fell 1-0 to the Toros (7-9-11, 32pts) when the sides met at H-E-B Park on August 19, however, when Juan Galindrez scored the only goal of the game. Most recently, RGV FC played to a scoreless draw on Wednesday night against South Texas Derby rival San Antonio FC to leave the Toros three points out of the playoff positions with seven games to play in the regular season. With eighth-placed El Paso Locomotive FC having played two games fewer than the Toros, the pressure is on the visitors to break a six-game winless run on the road to maintain their pursuit of a third consecutive postseason berth.
Phoenix Rising FC – Gabriel Torres: The left-sided midfielder has notched assists in each of Phoenix’s past two contests and now sits tied for the team lead with five helpers this season.
Rio Grande Valley FC – Erik Pimentel: The Mexican veteran put in a good display to help limit Rising FC’s attack when these teams met for the first time and will aim to provide more of the same in a must-win game for the visitors.
Tag(s): News Game Previews CO Spring Switchbacks Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Hartford Athletic Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.