Orange County SC will look to clinch its postseason berth as it plays host to Oakland Roots SC on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC
The penultimate week of the 2023 USL Championship regular season kicks off with a three-game slate on Wednesday night that includes two key games in the Western Conference as Orange County SC looks to seal its place in the postseason, and El Paso Locomotive FC and Oakland Roots SC try to improve their position.
Here’s a look ahead at the action.
Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Hartford Athletic and Rio Grande Valley FC will hope for a pleasant evening as they square off in a game that was rescheduled from September 9 after lightning and heavy rain forced the game to be postponed. The game will be played in full from the opening kickoff as Hartford (4-23-4, 16pts) tries to break a nine-game losing streak after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Miami FC this past Saturday night. The Athletic haven’t claimed victory since a 2-1 result against New Mexico United on August 12, while the side has been held scoreless in three consecutive games as its season nears a conclusion. The Toros (9-10-12, 39pts) remain in with an outside chance of reaching the USL Championship Playoffs, meanwhile, as Taylor Davila’s stoppage-time equalizer against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday night salvaged a 1-1 draw and ran the side’s undefeated run to three games. The Toros are three points out of the playoff positions as they head back to Hartford, and will be hoping for both El Paso Locomotive FC and Oakland Roots SC to drop points in their games later in the night as they try to jump back up the standings going into a key home game this weekend against Sacramento Republic FC.
Hartford Athletic – Elvis Amoh: The Ghanaian had his breakout season for the Toros in 2021, recording double-digit goals, and will be hoping to break his current side’s scoring drought as it looks for a positive performance.
Rio Grande Valley FC – Taylor Davila: The attacking midfielder has recorded six goals and five assists this season and has more than double the chances created of any of his teammates with 61 this campaign.
Venue: Southwest University Park
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC and San Diego Loyal SC will both be aiming to build on victories last time out as the hosts try to move closer to securing a postseason berth, and SD Loyal tries to close the gap to second place. Locomotive FC (12-12-7, 43pts) rallied for a 3-2 victory against the Charleston Battery on Saturday night as Eric Calvillo recorded a goal and assist to lead the side back above the playoff line and into seventh place. El Paso is now two points ahead of Monterey Bay F.C. in ninth place and would move into a position to clinch a postseason berth should it find a repeat of its 2-1 victory against San Diego earlier this season that saw Ricardo Zacarias and Denys Kostyshyn find the net at Torero Stadium. SD Loyal (14-9-8, 50pts) booked its postseason berth on Saturday, meanwhile, as Ronaldo Damus scored the second hat trick in club history in a 4-1 win against Monterey Bay. Sitting in third place in the West, the visitors would move within two points of San Antonio FC with a victory in this outing as they aim to add to a current three-game undefeated run. With six wins away from him in then campaign, San Diego has shown itself more than capable of earning a result on the road.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Denys Kostyshyn: The Ukrainian playmaker notched his first assist since July in El Paso’s victory against Charleston this past weekend and will look to build on a solid display to help his side move closer to a playoff berth.
San Diego Loyal SC – Blake Bodily: The winger has notched seven assists this campaign to take the team lead after providing the cross for Ronaldo Damus’ opener on Saturday night and has been a consistently positive threat in wide positions for the side.
Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
The Lowdown: Orange County SC will try to clinch its postseason berth as it plays host to an Oakland Roots SC side that remains above the playoff line but arrives on a six-game winless streak to face its SoCal rival. OCSC (14-11-6, 48pts) played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night against Phoenix Rising FC as Milan Iloski scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season, and now just needs a point to secure its return to the playoffs with three games to go in the season. The hosts will be eager to turn the tables on Oakland from earlier this season, however, and pick up all three points to move ahead of Phoenix and into a top-four position going into the weekend’s action with Orange County currently winless in its last three games against Roots SC and winless in four overall. Oakland (11-11-9, 42pts) has also been in a funk of late, but showed positive signs with consecutive draws in its last two outings after a 2-2 result against second-placed San Antonio FC on Saturday night. After sweeping to a 3-0 victory against OCSC in May that included a goal for Tarek Morad, the visitors could seriously boost their playoff chances if they can complete a season sweep of the series.
Orange County SC – Kevin Partida: The holding midfielder has been a solid presence for the side this season, winning 38 tackles and posting an 86 percent passing accuracy rate, and he could have an important role to play in limiting Oakland’s attack.
Oakland Roots SC – Johnny Rodriguez: Roots SC’s leading goalscorer has 12 tallies this season, including two in the past four outings, and will look to challenge OCSC’s back line regularly this time out.