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Gameday Previews – Saturday, September 9

By Staff, 09/08/23, 5:20PM EDT


Eastern, Western Conference Final rematches from past campaign highlight 10-game slate of action

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and San Antonio FC will square off in a rematch of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs this Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

Rematches of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals in the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs highlight a 10-game slate of action on Saturday night as the Tampa Bay Rowdies play host Louisville City FC in their first meeting since last November, and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC tries to turn the tide in its series with San Antonio FC.

Elsewhere there are key games around the playoff line in both conferences, highlighted by Detroit City FC’s clash with Miami FC at Keyworth Stadium, while a notable interconference clash brings together two current top-four sides as the Charleston Battery host San Diego Loyal SC with the Battery having a chance to seal their postseason spot.

Here's a look ahead at all the action.

Hartford Athletic vs. Rio Grande Valley FC

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

The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC will head to face Hartford Athletic in need of a win to boost its chances of returning to the postseason as it faces an Athletic side that has lost five consecutive games. Hartford (4-19-4, 16pts) narrowly missed out on claiming a draw last Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Rowdies but conceded in second-half stoppage time to suffer a 2-1 defeat at Al Lang Stadium. Elvis Amoh opened the scoring for the Athletic, his fifth goal of the season, only for the side’s defense to fail to hold the Rowdies as the hosts rallied for victory. With a 16-point gap to make up to the playoff places the club’s fifth campaign is set to end without postseason action for a third consecutive year. The Toros (7-10-11, 32pts) remain in with a chance of the postseason, meanwhile, but need to break a three-game winless run that continued last Saturday with a 2-0 setback against Phoenix Rising FC. RGV FC is three points outside the playoff places but has just six games to play in the regular season, which makes this a must-win contest for the visitors as they look for their first road win since June 29 against Oakland Roots SC, one of only three away wins this campaign in 14 games for the side.

Spotlight Players
Hartford Athletic – Elvis Amoh:
The Ghanaian starred for the Toros in the 2021 season, bagging 13 goals to help them to a playoff berth, and will now get the chance to try and strike against one of his former clubs.

Rio Grande Valley FC – Christian Pinzon: The Mexican forward has two goals and one assist in 14 appearances this season and needs to provide an attacking spark for the side in the manner he did during their playoff push 12 months ago.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Loudoun United FC

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

The Lowdown: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will look to retain its place on top of the Eastern Conference as it returns to action against Loudoun United FC, which has dropped its past two outings. The Hounds (14-5-9, 51pts) clinched its sixth consecutive trip to the postseason last weekend while on a bye, and remains one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for first place as it kicks off its final stretch of the regular season. Pittsburgh has won five consecutive games against Loudoun, including a 1-0 win at Segra Field earlier this year that saw Arturo Ordonez score the only goal with 12 minutes to go. Loudoun (7-18-3, 24pts) is now eight points out of the playoff positions with six games to go in the season after its bye last week, with the side having most recently suffered a 2-1 defeat to Indy Eleven. The visitors have been bolstered this week by a pair of loan arrivals, however, with a familiar face in Jacob Greene joining from D.C. United and midfielder Chris Hegardt arriving from Charlotte FC. Both could feature on Saturday as Loudoun looks to spring a surprise against one of the Eastern Conference’s favorites.

Spotlight Players
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Arturo Ordonez:
The Spanish center back has produced a stellar campaign and will want to help keep things tight defensively with the Hounds set to be without regular starting goalkeeper Jahmali Waite due to international duty.

Loudoun United FC – Kalil ElMedkhar: The left winger has notched six goals and three assists this season which could make for an intriguing matchup against Hounds right back Luke Biasi in this contest.

Charleston Battery vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Venue: Patriots Point
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: The Charleston Battery and San Diego Loyal SC will each try to build on victories last time out as they meet in a clash of top-four sides in their respective conferences at Patriots Point. The Battery (14-7-7, 49pts) took a 1-0 win on the road against New Mexico United last Saturday night as Augustine Williams bagged his 11th goal of the regular season. The result moved Charleston within range of clinching its return to the postseason. A win against SD Loyal would secure the spot for the side, while results elsewhere could also see the Battery into the playoff field should they miss out on all three points, but the hosts will likely get a stern challenge from San Diego as it looks for a second consecutive victory in the series between the sides, having won 4-1 when they met a year ago at Torero Stadium. SD Loyal (12-7-7, 43pts) took a 3-0 victory against Birmingham Legion FC last Sunday to retain its place in the top four of the Western Conference as goals by Blake Bodily, Tumi Moshobane and Collin Martin secured the result at Torero Stadium. SD Loyal is now six points behind second-placed San Antonio FC, but with two games in hand could make a late push up the standings. Undefeated in its last three games overall, the visitors are unbeaten in their last four road games, winning three, and have lost only three times on the road all season.

Spotlight Players
Charleston Battery – Beto Avila:
The 22-year-old has started three consecutive games and is set to lead the attacking line again with Williams away on international duty with Sierra Leone for Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying.

San Diego Loyal SC – Tumi Moshobane: The South African has scored 24 goals across the regular season and playoffs for the club and would be the first to reach a quarter-century with his next tally.

Detroit City FC vs. Miami FC

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

The Lowdown: Detroit City FC and Miami FC square off in a crucial contest in the Eastern Conference playoff race with the hosts looking to build on a three-game undefeated streak. Le Rouge (8-12-7, 31pts) played to a 1-1 draw with Memphis 901 FC last Saturday night at Keyworth as Devon Amoo-Mensah struck first for the side before the visitors leveled in the second half. The result dropped DCFC into ninth place in the Eastern Conference following FC Tulsa’s win on Sunday night, and the hosts could need to break a three-game winless streak against Miami to move back above the playoff line after the sides played to a 0-0 draw in South Florida earlier this season. Miami (7-12-8, 29pts) is in even greater need of a win, however, after falling 1-0 to Indy Eleven last Saturday night for its third defeat in the past four games. The side is three points behind Tulsa with a game in hand but will be without two key figures this weekend as center back Paco Craig is suspended following a red card against Indy, and leading goalscorer Joaquin Rivas is with El Salvador on national team duty. A defeat for Miami would be a serious blow to its playoff aspirations, one DCFC will be eager to deliver.

Spotlight Players
Detroit City FC – Richie Ballard:
The right-sided midfielder has notched one assist and 15 chances created since joining DCFC this season but could be due for a big performance against his former club.

Miami FC – Kyle Murphy: The veteran forward has notched only five goals this season and will need to lead the line with both Rivas and Trinidad and Tobago international Ryan Telfer away with their respective countries. 

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Louisville City FC

Venue: Al Lang Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC will square off for the first time since last year’s Eastern Conference Final with playoff position front of mind for both squads. The Rowdies (15-7-5, 50pts) will try to rebound from a midweek setback against Memphis 901 FC that saw the side concede twice after the 85th minute in a 3-2 defeat, keeping the side in second place in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay got goals from Charlie Dennis and Cal Jennings to twice take the lead, with Jennings’ goal his team-leading 12th of the season while also marking his fourth consecutive game with a goal. LouCity (12-8-7, 43pts) is coming off a successful last outing, meanwhile, as Carlos Moguel Jr. recorded the first two assists of his professional career in a 3-2 win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field last Saturday. The victory was Louisville’s second in a row and included a goal by Elijah Wynder, who also scored the decisive goal when the side defeated Tampa Bay 1-0 after extra time last November to lift its fourth Eastern Conference title. With the potential to maintain a top-four position, and close the gap to the top three, the visitors will be looking for just their second win all-time at Al Lang Stadium, with the first having come five years ago in 2018.

Spotlight Players
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Cal Jennings:
The shifty forward has scored in four consecutive games and found the net in his lone prior contest against Louisville City FC while with Memphis 901 FC late in the 2020 campaign.

Louisville City FC – Paolo DelPiccolo: The veteran midfielder could become the seventh player in the Championship’s history to reach 250 regular season appearances and will have an important role to play in the center of the park.

Memphis 901 FC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

Venue: AutoZone Park
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Memphis 901 FC will try to build on a dramatic midweek victory as it plays host to a Monterey Bay F.C. side that is coming off consecutive victories in its drive back into the Western Conference playoff picture. Memphis (11-7-9, 42pts) moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night with a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies that saw Jeremy Kelly scored an 88th-minute equalizer before an own goal in the aftermath of a penalty kick by Aaron Molloy that was initially saved sent the side to victory. The result broke a three-game winless streak for 901 FC, which is now a point behind Louisville City FC and a point ahead of Indy Eleven in a congested middle of the playoff pack in the East. Monterey Bay (9-11-7, 34pts) is a point behind eighth-placed El Paso Locomotive FC, meanwhile, after Sean Okoli’s second-half goal earned a 2-1 win against El Paso at Southwest University Park. Alex Dixon also found the net for MBFC last Saturday, moving him to a team-high 10 goals this season, and as the sides prepare to meet for the first time in their respective histories, another three points would be a major boost to both in what should be a hard-fought clash.

Spotlight Players
Memphis 901 FC – Samuel Careaga:
The recent arrival on loan from Argentina’s Lanus made an impact as a late substitute against the Rowdies, completing 14 of 15 passes and aiding the side’s comeback with a sharp debut performance.

Monterey Bay F.C. – Christian Volesky: The veteran forward has nine goals and four assists this campaign and should continue to lead the line in another must-win game for the side.

FC Tulsa vs. Phoenix Rising FC

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

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa will look to build on one of its best wins of the season last time out as it plays host to a Phoenix Rising FC side that has won three consecutive games for the first time this season as it heads to Oklahoma for the first meeting between the sides since 2019. Tulsa (8-12-8, 32pts) moved back into the playoff positions last Sunday night as both Marcus Epps and Eric Bird recorded a goal and assist in a 2-1 win against San Antonio FC. The victory broke a six-game winless streak for the side, putting it one point ahead of Detroit City FC in the East as Epps moved to eight goals this season, an individual single-season best. Phoenix (11-8-8, 41pts) took a 2-0 win against Rio Grande Valley FC last Saturday night, meanwhile, that saw both Danny Trejo and Manuel Arteaga continue their recent strong runs of attacking form. Both players have scored in three consecutive games – helping fuel the club’s current winning run – while Trejo now leads the Championship with 15 goals this regular season and Arteaga sits one goal back in a tie for second place. With a two-point gap to fourth-placed San Diego Loyal SC ahead of them, Rising FC will look to equal its longest winning streak of a season ago on Saturday night in a bid to boost its chances of opening the playoffs at home.

Spotlight Players
FC Tulsa – Keegan Hughes:
The center back put in a stellar display against San Antonio FC last Sunday and will need to produce more of the same against another potent attacking group from Phoenix.

Phoenix Rising FC – Danny Trejo: The Championship’s leading goalscorer has found the net in three consecutive games and has seven goals in his past seven appearances overall, one of his best individual runs in the Championship.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. San Antonio FC

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

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and San Antonio FC will both look to rebound from setbacks last time out as last year’s Western Conference Finalists square off for the second time this season. The Switchbacks (11-13-3, 36pts) remained in seventh place in the Western Conference after suffering a 3-2 defeat to Louisville City FC despite a pair of goals by leading scorer Romario Williams. The Jamaican moved to 51 goals in the USL Championship for his career in the contest but is set to be unavailable on Saturday after a call-up to join the Jamaica Men’s National Team for its Concacaf Nations League games this week. San Antonio (13-5-10, 49pts) dropped to second place in the standings, meanwhile, as it fell 2-1 to FC Tulsa as Rida Zouhir’s eighth goal of the season wasn’t enough to help the side rally late. SAFC could regain top spot this weekend with Sacramento Republic FC on a bye, and the side could also clinch a postseason berth should it take victory in Colorado Springs and see other results go its way. After earning a 1-0 win at Toyota Field through Mohamed Abu’s goal and a late penalty kick save by Jordan Farr, San Antonio is on a nine-game undefeated streak against the Switchbacks overall, a run the hosts will be eager to break as it looks to secure its own place in the postseason.

Spotlight Players
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Juan Tejada:
The Panamanian forward has notched three assists in the past three games as a wide player but could be called on to lead the attacking line in Romario Williams’ absence this weekend.

San Antonio FC – Jorge Hernandez: The attacking playmaker moved into a tie for the league-lead with his eighth assist of the season last Sunday and will look to provide a spark in the attacking third once again.

Orange County SC vs. El Paso Locomotive FC

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

The Lowdown: Orange County SC will try to add to a club-record eight-game winning streak as it plays host to El Paso Locomotive FC, which held the longest winning streak in the league this season until OCSC’s current surge in form. Orange County (14-9-4, 46pts) romped to a 5-1 win against Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday night as five different players found the net. Milan Iloski led the way with his 12th goal of the season, notching the opening goal of a game for the ninth time, as he moved to 39 regular season goals in his career in the USL Championship. OCSC is now only three points behind second-placed San Antonio FC while holding a game in hand, but it could get a strong test from El Paso, which took victory when the sides in April when Luis Solignac scored the only goal of the game at Southwest University Park. Locomotive FC (10-11-5, 35pts) fell 2-1 against Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday night, meanwhile, as a standout finish by Petar Petrovic wasn’t enough to secure a share of the spoils. With only a one-point edge over MBFC for eighth place in the Western Conference, the visitors will be looking to get back in the win column having previously picked up six road wins in 12 games in the league this season.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Kevin Lankford:
The German forward notched a goal and assist off the bench a week ago in Las Vegas for his first of both for the club since arriving on loan from Victoria Koln 1904 in July and will look for more this time out.

El Paso Locomotive FC – Denys Kostyshyn: The Ukrainian playmaker last notched a goal contribution with an assist on July 22, going six games without, and will need to put in a strong display on the road to help Locomotive FC get back on track.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Oakland Roots SC

Venue: Cashman Field
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC will look to rebound after consecutive defeats as it tries to complete a season sweep of Las Vegas Lights FC, which enters on a five-game winless streak while on the verge of mathematical elimination from playoff contention. Lights FC (2-16-9, 15pts) suffered a 5-1 defeat to Orange County SC last Saturday night at Cashman Field with a bright spot being the continued good form of Daniel Rios, who scored the lone goal for the hosts. Rios has now scored four goals in the past three games, with the 20-year-old now tied for the club lead this season. Roots SC (11-9-7, 40pts) dropped to sixth place in the Western Conference last Saturday as it fell 1-0 to NorCal rival Sacramento Republic FC at Pioneer Stadium but remains in good position to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season with seven games to play. Oakland has a six-point cushion on the teams below the playoff line as it looks for a repeat of its 1-0 victory when it last faced Las Vegas in July when Anuar Pelaez scored the winner with 14 minutes to go. With the fourth-placed San Diego Loyal SC only three points ahead of Roots SC in the standings, it will be looking to add to Lights FC’s poor home form, with Las Vegas having won only once in 13 games at Cashman Field this season.

Spotlight Players
Las Vegas Lights FC – Justin Ingram:
The central midfielder has put together a solid season despite the side’s challenges, completing 80 percent of passes and notching 27 chances created while notching one goal and one assist.

Oakland Roots SC – Jeciel Cedeno: The mid-season acquisition signed a new multi-year contract this week with Roots SC and will look to celebrate by adding to his one goal and one assist for the side so far this campaign.

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