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Gameday Previews – Saturday, September 30

By Staff, 09/29/23, 3:30PM EDT


Busy night of action brings intriguing interconference clashes, top-four battles in focus

Phoenix Rising FC hosts Orange County SC in a battle for a top-four finish in the Western Conference on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

The USL Championship is set for an 11-game slate of action on Saturday night that includes a crucial game in the battle for a top-four spot in the Western Conference, a first-time interconference clash in El Paso, and numerous games that will shape the standings and playoff race ahead of the final two weeks of the campaigns.

Here’s a look ahead at all the action.

Indy Eleven vs. Detroit City FC

Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Indy Eleven will try to break a three-game winless streak and clinch a place in the postseason as it plays host to a Detroit City FC side aiming to rebound from a midweek setback as it fights to remain above the playoff line. Indy (11-11-9, 42pts) fell 1-0 last Sunday evening to Rio Grande Valley FC and remains in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with three games to play. The Boys in Blue would clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2019 if they can replicate their 1-0 victory against DCFC earlier this season at Keyworth Stadium when Bryam Rebellon scored a second-half goal to lift the side to victory, as all three points would move Indy clear of both Detroit and Miami FC in the lower third of the Eastern Conference. Le Rouge (10-14-7, 37pts) are in major need of a victory as well, however, after falling 3-0 at home to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Wednesday night. Detroit is currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference but sits only one point ahead of FC Tulsa and two ahead of Miami FC going into this weekend’s action. With only three wins away from home this season, DCFC will need to find a big performance to maintain its edge as it bids for a second consecutive postseason berth.

Spotlight Players
Indy Eleven – Cam Lindley:
The central midfielder has taken over most set piece duties with Aodhan Quinn sidelined with a knee injury and could need to play a major two-way role against Detroit’s solid midfield corps.

Detroit City FC – Stephen Carroll: The longtime DCFC center back could anchor a change in shape for the visitors with fellow defender Michael Bryant set to be suspended on Saturday after his red card against Colorado Springs on Wednesday. 

Miami FC vs. Hartford Athletic

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

The Lowdown: Miami FC will try to claim its third consecutive victory after a crucial win on the road last time out as it plays host to last-placed Hartford Athletic in South Florida. Miami (9-14-8, 35pts) took a 2-0 victory against Birmingham Legion FC last Sunday evening as goalkeeper Jake McGuire posted a 12-save shutout, one of the best single-game goalkeeping performances in the league’s history. McGuire’s performance was backed by a pair of goals by Ben Ofeimu and Kyle Murphy as the shot-stopper moved to 200 career saves on the night while his side moved within two points of Detroit City FC for the eighth and final playoff place in the East. The host will be aiming to complete a season sweep of the Athletic after Joaquin Rivas recorded his first hat trick in the USL Championship at Trinity Health Stadium last month. The defeat for Hartford (4-22-4, 16pts) was part of a current eight-game losing run that continued on Wednesday night in a 2-0 setback to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Eliminated from playoff contention, Hartford is winless in its last five games against Miami FC overall, a run the visitors would love to end in addition to ending their current downward trajectory.

Spotlight Players
Miami FC – Gabriel Cabral:
The Brazilian midfielder has recorded goal contributions (1 goal, 2 assists) in the past three games and will look to maintain his creativity in the final third for the hosts.

Hartford Athletic – Prince Saydee: The former Miami player has been a bright spot in attack for Hartford this season with seven goals and three assists and will likely be key to his side getting a result on the road.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. FC Tulsa

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

The Lowdown: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will try to maintain its advantage at the top of the Eastern Conference standings as FC Tulsa visits Highmark Stadium looking to break a three-game winless streak in the series between the clubs to boost its postseason hopes. The Hounds (17-5-9, 60pts) clinched at least a top-three finish in the Eastern Conference last Saturday night with a 2-1 win against New Mexico United that saw Kenardo Forbes notch a pair of assists on goals by Joe Farrell and Arturo Ordonez. Pittsburgh has won three games in a row, putting the side three points ahead of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for first place in the Eastern Conference. With the Hounds and the Rowdies set to meet next weekend in a potential decider for top spot, the hosts will be aiming to continue their current winning streak after the sides played to a scoreless draw when they met in Tulsa in March. Tulsa (9-13-9, 36pts) is looking to rebound, meanwhile, after falling 2-1 to the Charleston Battery last Saturday night at Patriots Point. A late Eric Bird goal provided some hope for the visitors in that outing, but an equalizer was not forthcoming as the Battery held on for victory to send Tulsa back below the playoff line. Sitting one point behind Detroit City FC for eighth place with three games to play in the regular season, Tulsa will be hoping to pick up something from its trip north before closing out the season with games against Indy Eleven and Hartford Athletic.

Spotlight Players
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Arturo Ordonez:
The Spanish center back has been a consistent presence and will need to be at his best to try and contain Phillip Goodrum and the FC Tulsa attack, and should also provide an attacking threat from set pieces.

FC Tulsa – Phillip Goodrum: Tulsa’s leading scorer is set to return to the lineup after a one-game suspension and will want to get back on the scoresheet to boost his side’s chances of a postseason berth.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Loudoun United FC 

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

The Lowdown: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will try to build on a midweek victory as they look for a season sweep of Loudoun United FC, which has only pride left to play for after its mathematical elimination from playoff contention last weekend. The Rowdies (17-6-8, 57pts) moved within three points of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for first place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 victory against Hartford Athletic on Wednesday night. The victory came about through a pair of own goals that were caused by Lewis Hilton and Cal Jennings, while Rowdies goalkeeper Connor Sparrow recorded his ninth shutout of the season. Tampa Bay took a 4-2 victory when it visited Loudoun earlier this season with Jennings scoring a pair of goals, a result that marked the seventh consecutive victory for the side against United in the all-time series between the teams. Loudoun (7-20-4, 25pts) arrives on a five-game winless streak, meanwhile, after falling 2-1 against Louisville City FC last Saturday night to seal its playoff fate. Having conceded 55 goals so far this season, the visitors will be hoping to spring a surprise as it heads south, a result that Pittsburgh and the third-placed Charleston Battery would greatly appreciate.

Spotlight Players
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Forrest Lasso:
The three-time Championship Defender of the Year could return to the lineup after a brief absence due to injury after being an unused substitute on Wednesday night at Hartford.

Loudoun United FC – Tommy Williamson: The forward recorded a goal and assist in a losing effort when Loudoun faced Tampa Bay earlier this season and could get a chance to start alongside Zach Ryan once again.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC

Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will try to build on a three-game winning streak – and potentially clinch a third consecutive postseason berth – as it plays host to a Rio Grande Valley FC side trying to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Switchbacks (14-13-4, 46pts) took a 3-0 victory on Wednesday night against Detroit City FC as Romario Williams scored twice after Juan Tejada had opened the scoring at Keyworth Stadium. The victory moved Colorado Springs six points clear of ninth-placed El Paso Locomotive FC in the Western Conference, and a win against RGV FC combined with Monterey Bay F.C. dropping points against San Diego Loyal SC later in the night would clinch a playoff spot for the hosts. The Toros (9-10-11, 38pts) remain alive in the playoffs hunt, however, after a 1-0 victory against Indy Eleven last Sunday evening moved the side within three points of both seventh-placed Oakland Roots SC and eighth-placed Monterey Bay. Frank Lopez has scored the decisive goal for RGV FC in each of its past two victories, and also proved the difference when the Toros took a 1-0 win against Colorado Springs at H-E-B Park earlier this season. A season sweep for the visitors would continue their late bid for a third consecutive trip to the playoffs.

Spotlight Players
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Romario Williams:
The Jamaican international has scored three goals in the past two games, moving to 13 goals overall this season as he continues his impressive USL Championship career.

Rio Grande Valley FC – Frank Nodarse: The Cuban center back scored when the Toros visited Weidner Field during the 2022 regular season and will need to be at his best against an attack currently clicking into form.

Memphis 901 FC vs. Birmingham Legion FC

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

The Lowdown: The second edition of the Southern Harm rivalry this season sees Memphis 901 FC return home aiming to maintain its drive toward a top-four finish and Birmingham Legion FC looking to lock up its fifth consecutive playoff berth. Memphis (13-8-10, 49pts) took a 4-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday night as Rodrigo Da Costa became only the second player to record a hat trick for the club in its USL Championship history at Al Lang Stadium. The result sealed 901 FC’s return to the postseason while keeping the club in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with three game remaining. Memphis is winless in its last three league meetings with Birmingham, however, after Aiden McFadden’s second-half equalizer answered Prosper Kasim’s opener for Legion FC when the teams met in a 1-1 draw at Protective Stadium earlier this month. That stands as the lone point Legion FC (12-15-4, 40pts) has earned in its past three outings overall, however, after the side was stymied in a 2-0 defeat last Sunday night against Miami FC. Birmingham can clinch a postseason berth with a win in Memphis, however, should other results go the side’s way elsewhere on Saturday night, while three points would also provide some confidence and momentum for Head Coach Tom Soehn’s squad.

Spotlight Players
Memphis 901 FC – Samuel Careaga:
The young Argentine recorded a goal and assist against Tampa Bay last Saturday, continuing the impact he’s made off the bench since arriving on loan from Lanus, and could be in line for a first start.

Birmingham Legion FC – Enzo Martinez: The veteran playmaker had a penalty kick saved and missed another key opportunity in the second half against Miami and will be aiming to rebound with a strong performance this time out.

New Mexico United vs. Louisville City FC

Venue: Isotopes Park
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will try to build on a dramatic late victory last time out as it squares off with New Mexico United for the first time since the 2021 season in its first trip to Isotopes Park. New Mexico (10-14-7, 37pts) faces another top Eastern Conference side for a second consecutive outing after falling 2-1 to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Saturday night at Highmark Stadium. Justin Portillo scored a second-half penalty kick for United, but the side was unable to complete the comeback to remain four points outside the playoff positions with three games to go in the season. LouCity (14-10-7, 49pts) took a 3-1 victory when these teams last met two years ago as Paolo DelPiccolo scored twice at Lynn Family Stadium, and the side is coming off a key 2-1 victory last Saturday against Loudoun United FC that clinched a ninth consecutive postseason berth for the club. Dylan Mares had a goal and assist for LouCity coming off the bench last time out before Wilson Harris scored a late winner, with Harris now on a four-game goalscoring streak to equal a club record. With LouCity battling for a top-four finish, it will be hoping to pick up another three points as it closes out its away schedule for this regular season.

Spotlight Players
New Mexico United – Amando Moreno:
The El Salvador international scored when these teams last met two seasons ago and currently leads United with nine goals this season, one off his individual single-season high.

Louisville City FC – Wilson Harris: The former Championship Young Player of the Year has scored in four consecutive games and is one goal away from reaching 50 regular season goals in the league, with the potential to become the youngest player to reach the landmark in Championship history.

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. Charleston Battery

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

The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC will try to get back into the win column on home turf as it pushes for a place in the USL Championship Playoffs as it squares off with the playoff-bound Charleston Battery for the first time. Locomotive FC (11-12-7, 40pts) was held to a 1-1 draw by Phoenix Rising FC last Saturday night as Josue Aaron Gomez’s goal early in the second half was canceled out by a late equalizer at Southwest University Park. El Paso is now winless in its last eight home contests, with its two wins since the start of July coming on the road, but remains only one point out of the playoff positions going into the weekend’s action with a game in hand on eighth-placed Monterey Bay F.C. The Battery (16-7-8, 56pts) have been the best road team in the league so far this season, meanwhile, picking up 29 points on the road this campaign as it enters its final away game of the season. Charleston is undefeated in its last five games currently, having earned a 2-1 victory against FC Tulsa last Saturday night as Fidel Barajas recorded the first two-goal performance of his young career. The 17-year-old has now notched a combined 12 goals and assists this season, and the visitors can clinch a top-three finish with a win against El Paso this weekend. With El Paso fighting for a return to the postseason, however, the Battery should get a strong test this weekend.

Spotlight Players
El Paso Locomotive FC – Erik McCue:
The 22-year-old center back has put together a solid season for his new club and will now face a Battery side he suited up for in the 2021 campaign while on loan from Houston Dynamo FC.

Charleston Battery – Nick Markanich: The attacking midfielder could return to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension against FC Tulsa having recorded eight goals and two assists for the Battery this campaign.

Oakland Roots SC vs. San Antonio FC

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

The Lowdown: Oakland Roots SC will try to build on a dramatic late point last time out while trying to end a four-game winless streak against San Antonio FC as the defending Championship title holders head west for the second meeting between the clubs this season. Roots SC (11-11-8, 41pts) grabbed a 2-2 draw against Monterey Bay F.C. last Saturday night as Neveal Hackshaw scored a 90th-minute equalizer at Pioneer Stadium to keep the side above the playoff line in the West. The result broke a four-game losing streak for Oakland, but the side is still winless since a 2-1 win against New Mexico United more than a month ago, a run that might be difficult to break against a San Antonio side that has had Roots SC’s number of late. SAFC (14-5-12, 54pts) enters off an emphatic 4-0 victory against Orange County SC last Saturday night that saw Tani Oluwaseyi and Nathan Fogaça each record a goal and assist as the side clinched its return to the postseason. San Antonio is now only a point behind Sacramento Republic FC for first place in the Western Conference and would put pressure on Sacramento to match its performance with a win on Saturday night, with Republic FC not in action until Sunday afternoon against Las Vegas Lights FC.

Spotlight Players
Oakland Roots SC – Neveal Hackshaw:
The Trinidad and Tobago international is arguably Oakland’s most experienced player and his defensive qualities in midfield could be key to try and slow down San Antonio’s high-flying attack.

San Antonio FC – Tani Oluwaseyi: The Nigerian forward bagged his 15th goal of the season against Orange County to move only two goals back of the league-lead, and Oluwaseyi will be looking another big performance this time out.

San Diego Loyal SC vs. Monterey Bay F.C.

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

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will try to secure its place in the postseason as it squares off with Monterey Bay F.C. in a rematch of one of the key games so far in the playoff race this campaign. SD Loyal (13-9-8, 47pts) will look to complete a season sweep of MBFC on Saturday night after rallying for a dramatic 3-2 win when the sides last met on September 20 at Cardinale Stadium, when Xavi Gnaulati’s goals in the 90th minute and third minute of stoppage time earned the side all three points. San Diego was unable to follow up that result with another win, playing to a 1-1 draw against Las Vegas Lights FC last Sunday afternoon, but the side remains in third place in the Eastern Conference and would book a playoff berth pending the results elsewhere of Rio Grande Valley FC or El Paso Locomotive FC. Monterey Bay (11-12-8, 41pts) will be looking to pick up a key victory in its pursuit of a first postseason berth, however, after playing to a 2-2 draw against Oakland Roots SC last Saturday night in another game that went down as a missed opportunity for the side. MBFC led twice against its NorCal rivals, but a late equalizer by Oakland saw the points shared and Monterey Bay under pressure to maximize its points the rest of the way with ninth-placed El Paso Locomotive FC sitting one point behind with a game in hand.

Spotlight Players
San Diego Loyal SC – Adrien Perez:
The right-sided midfielder has scored in consecutive games – including the goal that began SD Loyal’s comeback in Monterey Bay – and has been an essential piece all season.

Monterey Bay F.C. – Hugh Roberts: The veteran center back became the USL Championship’s all-time leader in regular season minutes last Saturday night and will be aiming to lead a strong defensive display on the road.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Orange County SC

Venue: Phoenix Rising Stadium
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC and Orange County SC will both try to get back in the win column in a contest that could see either team book its postseason berth while gaining the upper hand in the race for a top-four finish in the Western Conference. Rising FC (12-8-11, 47pts) grabbed a point on the road last time out as Dariusz Formella notched an equalizer in second-half stoppage time of a 1-1 draw against El Paso Locomotive FC. The result extended Phoenix’s undefeated streak to seven games, but the side has drawn its last two outings to miss out on opportunities to take control of third place in the West. Rising FC took a 1-0 win against Orange County earlier this season, however, as Manuel Arteaga scored the only goal, a result OCSC (14-11-5, 47pts) will be looking to reverse this time around as it tries to rebound from a 4-0 defeat on the road to San Antonio FC last Saturday. Orange County is winless in its last three games since an eight-game winning streak propelled the side into the top four in the West but could regain control over its path to a home game to start the playoffs if it can pick up its eighth away win of the season.

Spotlight Players
Phoenix Rising FC – Carlos Harvey:
The Panamanian international was key in his side’s two results a week ago, notching a goal and assist to highlight to two performances, and should again be essential this time out.

Orange County SC – Milan Iloski: OCSC’s leading scorer has been held off the scoresheet in the past three games and will be eager to repeat his two-goal performance in Orange County’s last trip to Phoenix a season ago.

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