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USL Championship Power Rankings – Week 28

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/18/23, 3:00PM EDT


Monterey Bay’s rise arrives at key moment in postseason race out West

I’ve got to be honest – the phrase, “our season’s been a rollercoaster ride,” doesn’t visually make sense.

On a rollercoaster, the thrills are when you’re screaming downhill, the pause for the next adrenaline rush coming when the coaster is moving back up to the top of the decline.

By contrast, when you're screaming down the USL Championship standings, that's not a good feeling.

Now that’s out of way, we go to Monterey Bay F.C., which is on a metaphorical thrill-ride at the moment with a four-game winning streak that has pushed the side back above the playoff line just when it all seemed like it might have gone wrong for the second-year side.

The current run – and its corresponding five-game undefeated streak – has matched a similar streak earlier this season, when MBFC took four consecutive wins including defeating Sacramento Republic FC on the road to make its case as a playoff contender.

In-between the two, there was a nine-game winless streak that saw MBFC sag toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Measure that as the slow, upward drag on the rollercoaster.

The player that’s made the biggest difference? Well, it might just be midfielder Rafael Baca, whose game-winner against Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday capped a positive run of overall play that has seen the 34-year-old find his feet at his new club after a decade in Liga MX.

These moves don’t always go as planned – I had a little skepticism at the time, especially after MBFC was run over in midfield by the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Baca’s second game – but there’s no better moment for a club to make its run, and the former LigaMX champion’s value as a distributor in the middle of the field is helping drive that.

None of Monterey Bay’s five remaining games look easy on paper, but it will be hoping the roller coaster doesn’t change course quite yet as the side bids for a first postseason berth.

Here’s how this week’s rankings look.

Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Detroit City FC El Paso Locomotive FC Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven Las Vegas Lights FC
Loudoun United FC Louisville City FC Memphis 901 FC The Miami FC Monterey Bay F.C. New Mexico United Oakland Roots SC Orange County SC
Phoenix Rising FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC San Antonio FC San Diego Loyal SC Tampa Bay Rowdies FC Tulsa

Biggest Movers






1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Week 29: @ NM
Last Week:
The Hounds conceded late to 10-player Miami FC, shrugged, and said ‘let’s just go and score again.’ They’re now back in control of the top of the Eastern Conference with one game with the Rowdies left.
2 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Week 29: v. MEM

Last Week:
Coming back to lead San Antonio FC from two goals down is a remarkable achievement, but the Rowdies will be disappointed they couldn’t make their lead stick in stoppage time.
3 Phoenix Rising FC
Week 29: v. IND, @ ELP
Last Week:
Rising FC has three games this season in which it’s scored five-or-more goals after Saturday’s romp past Detroit City FC, more than any other team this season. When it’s going, it really goes in Phoenix.
4 Orange County SC
Week 29: @ SA
Last Week:
Yeah, it’s a loss, but there was still a lot to like about the way Orange County played against the Switchbacks. One outstanding goal and a hot goalkeeper shouldn’t take away from that.
5 Charleston Battery
Week 29: v. TUL
Last Week:
The Battery went so close to grabbing all three points at Loudoun United FC, only for former goalkeeper Hugo Fauroux to deny them with a brilliant save. Still, they’re well set for a top-three finish.
6 Sacramento Republic FC
Week 29: v. NM, @ COS
Last Week:
Remember when Luis Felipe Fernandes was scoring clutch game-winners in last year’s Open Cup Run for Republic FC? Saturday night’s playoff clincher had more than a trace of that feeling.
7 Monterey Bay F.C.
Week 29: v. SD, @ OAK
Last Week:
Not a bad moment for the first time in club history Monterey Bay had rallied to win after trailing by a pair of goals, hey? Four consecutive wins for the second time this season is pretty good, too
8 Louisville City FC
Week 29: @ MIA, @ LDN
Last Week:
There wasn’t anything that spectacular about LouCity’s win against San Diego Loyal SC on Saturday, just a good solid victory that got things moving back in the right direction.
9 San Antonio FC
Week 29: v. OC
Last Week:
San Antonio FC can still lay claim to its lengthy undefeated run when scoring first thanks to Ignacio Bailone’s late equalizer, but letting the Rowdies back into the game after going two goals up showed the difference between this year and last year.
10 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Week 29: v. SAC
Last Week:
All Tyreek Magee does is score game-winning bangers. Add his finish against Orange County to the one against Oakland Roots SC in August, cracking strikes.
11 Memphis 901 FC
Week 29: @ BHM, @ TBR

Last Week:
Between Luiz Fernando and Rodrigo Da Costa, Memphis showed off how spectacular its attack can be. It’s going to need to cut out those defensive giveaways, though
12 Indy Eleven
Week 29: @ PHX, v. RGV
Last Week:
Hard to overstate how big Sebastian Guenzatti’s penalty being saved was in the context of Friday night’s game. He’s now 2 of 7 from the spot since the start of September, 2021.
13 San Diego Loyal SC
Week 28: @ MB, v. LV
Last Week:
SD Loyal had a couple of good chances denied in Louisville, but the combination of that defeat and Phoenix’s victory means San Diego must win its game in hand to regain control in the race for a top-four finish.
14 FC Tulsa
Week 29: @ CHS
Last Week:
It was far from pretty, but getting Phillip Goodrum back on the scoresheet and most importantly winning in Oakland was all that mattered for Tulsa on Saturday. Marcus Epps’ red card could hurt against Charleston on Saturday.
15 Detroit City FC
Week 28: v. HFD
Last Week:
Boy, that escalated in a hurry, didn’t it? At least Le Rouge have a chance to bounce back quickly with Hartford Athletic next on the schedule.
16 New Mexico United
Week 29: @ SAC, @ PIT
Last Week:
New Mexico’s victory was much-needed, but its impact was tempered by Colorado Springs and Monterey Bay both winning as well. Still an uphill battle to the playoffs.
17 Birmingham Legion FC
Week 29: v. MEM, v. MIA
Last Week:
One step forward last Sunday, one step back this. This isn’t the moment for Legion FC’s attack to cool off, even if its playoff spot is still looking very secure.
18 El Paso Locomotive FC
Week 29: v. PHX

Last Week:
El Paso almost held on for what would have been a valuable point in Sacramento. Now it’s looking up at its main rivals – at least Oakland’s in worse form, right?
19 Rio Grande Valley FC
Week 29: @ IND
Last Week:
The Toros were good value for their win against Birmingham Legion FC. Why haven’t they been able to produce more performances like that this season?
20 Oakland Roots SC
Week 29: v. MB
Last Week:
40 combined fouls, seven yellow cards, including one that led to a red for Lindo Mfeka. Saturday night didn’t feel like the sort of game that maximizes Oakland’s potential for success.
21 Loudoun United FC
Week 29: v. LOU
Last Week:
Chris Hegardt looks like a great addition for the stretch run. Will it help Loudoun make the postseason? Probably not, but still makes United more likely to trip someone like the Battery up
22 Miami FC
Week 29: v. LOU, @ BHM
Last Week:
Grabbing a late equalizer only to conceded again two minutes later might be the best summation of Miami FC’s season we’ve seen yet.
23 Las Vegas Lights FC
Week 29: @ SD
Last Week:
Saturday night reminded us of a cliché – good teams know how to win games, bad teams know how to give them away. Defeat in Monterey Bay was the first Lights FC had dropped after leading by two goals since 2020.
24 Hartford Athletic
Week 29: @ DET

Last Week:
Prince Saydee got everyone’s eyebrows raised for a moment on Saturday night, then Hartford’s defense sprung a leak once again.

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