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Gameday Previews – Saturday, October 7

By Staff, 10/06/23, 7:45PM EDT


Packed night of action sees focus trained on top of the standings, playoff line in both conferences

San Diego Loyal SC and Oakland Roots SC square off in one of the weekend's key games in the Western Conference on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC

The penultimate weekend of the 2023 USL Championship regular season features an 11-game slate of action that includes a meeting between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and crucial games elsewhere up and down the Eastern and Western Conference standings.

Here’s a look ahead at all the action.

Charleston Battery vs. Miami FC

Venue: Patriots Point
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Miami FC will try to set a new season-best winning streak, and potentially claim a berth in the USL Championship Playoffs, as it heads to face a Charleston Battery side looking to rebound after a setback last weekend on the road. The Battery (16-8-8, 56pts) suffered a 3-2 defeat against El Paso Locomotive FC last Saturday despite getting goals from Augustine Williams – his 12th goal of the season – and Aidan Apodaca to hold a second-half lead before the hosts rallied at Southwest University Park. Charleston has yet to lose consecutive games this season, however, and grabbed a 1-1 draw earlier this season when it visited Miami on Andrew Booth’s equalizer deep in second-half stoppage time. Miami (10-14-8, 38pts) took a 2-0 victory in its last outing, meanwhile, as Florian Valot notched a goal and assist and Joaquin Rivas scored his ninth goal of the season for the club’s third consecutive win. The result moved Miami above the playoff line into eighth place, one point ahead of Detroit City FC and two ahead of FC Tulsa. Should Miami take victory, it would seal a playoff berth with a Detroit loss and Tulsa draw with one game to go in the regular season, and the visitors have had a history of success against the Battery of late, going undefeated (4-0-2) in their past six meetings.

Spotlight Players
Charleston Battery – Fidel Barajas:
The Mexico U-17 international recorded his ninth assist of the season in El Paso to move one off the league-lead, and will be looking to add to his resume as a candidate for Championship Young Player of the Year.

Miami FC – Aedan Stanley: The young defender put in a stellar display against Hartford, including notching his third assist of the season, and will look for another good performance against a strong Battery attack to hold down the back line.

Loudoun United FC vs. Detroit City FC

Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Detroit City FC will try to rebound from consecutive defeats as it heads to face Loudoun United FC with Le Rouge’s playoff chances hanging in the balance going into the final two games of the season. Loudoun (7-21-4, 25pts) saw its winless streak reach six games last Saturday night as it fell 1-0 on the road against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, with the side now locked into an 11th-placed finish in the East after Hartford Athletic’s draw in midweek. The hosts have shown positive attacking signs this season, however, with Zach Ryan leading the side on 10 goals, including the game-tying penalty kick in a 1-1 draw when these sides met earlier this season at Keyworth Stadium. Detroit City (10-15-7, 37pts) dropped below the playoff line last Saturday, meanwhile, as it suffered a 3-0 defeat to Indy Eleven at Michael A. Carroll Stadium that allowed Miami FC to jump past it in the standings. With a one-point deficit to make up on the South Florida club, but the head-to-head tiebreaker between the clubs – Le Rouge will be looking for all three points here and hoping Miami slips up to give Detroit control of its playoff fate going to the final game of the regular season.

Spotlight Players
Loudoun United FC – Chris Hegardt:
The attacking midfielder has notched a goal and assist since arriving on loan from Charlotte FC and will look to have another positive impact in his side’s final home game of the season.

Detroit City FC – Aaron Bibout: The LA Galaxy II loanee made his first start for DCFC last Saturday in Indy and will be looking to provide the goals to send his side to victory after bagging 15 tallies in MLS NEXT Pro this season.

Louisville City FC vs. Hartford Athletic

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

The Lowdown: Louisville City FC will try to rebound from a serious setback last weekend as it plays host to Hartford Athletic, which picked up a midweek point in a spirited display on Wednesday night. LouCity (14-11-7, 49pts) missed out on a chance to claim fourth place in the Eastern Conference last time out as it fell 2-0 to New Mexico United at Isotopes Park. The run continued an up-and-down run of form for the side, which has alternated losses and wins in its last six games (3-3-0) to remain in fifth place in the East. Louisville has historically held the upper hand on Hartford, winning five of six prior meetings, but Hartford held the defending Eastern Conference title holders to a 0-0 draw when they met in June, the first time the side had secured a point in the series. The Athletic (4-23-5, 17pts) played to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night with Rio Grande Valley FC, a result that ensured it will finish in last place in the East this season, but with nothing to lose a group that includes forwards Elvis Amoh, Prince Saydee and Antoine Hoppenot will be hoping to spring a surprise and make club history this time out.

Spotlight Players
Louisville City FC – Brian Ownby:
The veteran winger has recorded three goals and four assists and will look to use his speed to challenge Hartford’s back line centrally and on the right flank.

Hartford Athletic – Antoine Hoppenot: The former LouCity player could return to Lynn Family Stadium hoping to propel his side to victory after coming on as a second-half substitute against RGV FC on Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

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

The Lowdown: The top two teams in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference will square off on Saturday night with the first silverware of the season up for grabs as the Tampa Bay Rowdies host Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC after each took victories last time out. The Rowdies (18-8-6, 60pts) took a 1-0 victory against Loudoun United FC last Saturday as Cal Jennings scored his 17th goal of the season to earn the club its second consecutive win. Tampa Bay remains three points behind Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference, but would move into the conference lead with a multi-goal victory after the Hounds claimed the first encounter between the sides at Highmark Stadium with a 1-0 victory. Albert Dikwa found the net that night for the Hounds (18-5-9, 63pts) in that encounter, and bagged a pair of goals last weekend in a 3-2 victory against FC Tulsa that gave Pittsburgh a five-game winning streak and the Cameroonian a league-leading 19 goals this campaign. Should the visitors take victory, they would clinch the Players’ Shield with a game to go in the season, but any other result would leave the door open for both the Rowdies and Sacramento Republic FC to claim the crown on the final weekend of the season.

Spotlight Players
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Charlie Dennis:
The attacking playmaker has scored 11 goals this season and is second in the league with 64 chances created, and could be the key to Tampa Bay breaking down Pittsburgh’s Eastern Conference-best defense.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Kenardo Forbes: The Championship’s all-time leader in regular season assists notched another notable achievement last weekend, becoming the first player in league history to record consecutive seasons with double-digit assists, and will look to add to his total of 10 helpers here.

Memphis 901 FC vs. El Paso Locomotive FC

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

The Lowdown: Memphis 901 FC will try to rebound from a setback last time out as it faces an El Paso Locomotive FC side that could clinch a return to the postseason if it can find victory on the road after a scoreless midweek draw. Memphis (13-9-10, 49pts) fell 2-1 to Southern Harm rival Birmingham Legion FC despite holding a halftime lead through Rodrigo Da Costa’s 14th goal of the season. 901 FC remained in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, however, after Louisville City FC also suffered defeat, and with Memphis holding the head-to-head tiebreaker between the sides it would clinch a home playoff game with a win and a LouCity loss on Saturday. Locomotive FC (12-12-8, 44pts) is aiming for all three points to potentially clinch a playoff berth after playing to a scoreless draw on Wednesday night against San Diego Loyal SC last time out. Locomotive FC could clinch its playoff berth with a win should one of Oakland Roots SC or Monterey Bay F.C. drop points this weekend, and the visitors will be eager to try and close the door as it heads to face Memphis for the first meeting between the two clubs.

Spotlight Players
Memphis 901 FC – Jeremy Kelly:
The veteran midfielder has been influential throughout the season, notching three goals and one assist, and will look to produce another strong all-around display this time out.

El Paso Locomotive FC – Erik McCue: The center back was one of the bright spots in El Paso’s 0-0 draw with San Diego and will be looking for another solid display to keep Memphis’ attack at bay in a potential playoff-clinching outing.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC

Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC returns home in need of a win to ensure its chance at a playoff berth continues to the final weekend of the season but faces a Sacramento Republic FC side that would clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a victory of its own. The Toros (9-10-13, 40pts) missed out on a chance to move into eighth place in the Western Conference on Wednesday night as they played to a 2-2 draw against Hartford Athletic despite taking a first-half lead through goals from Christiano Francois and Christian Pinzon. RGV FC now must win to ensure its playoff bid remains alive in the final weekend, but could jump into eighth place should Oakland Roots SC, Monterey Bay F.C. and New Mexico United all fail to take victory in their respective games. Republic FC (16-6-10, 58pts) is looking to add to a 2-0 victory in its last outing against Las Vegas Lights FC, meanwhile, that saw Keko and Luther Archimede both find the net at Heart Health Park. With a three-point lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Antonio FC, Sacramento would be assured of the No. 1 seed in the West with a win, but the visitors are winless in their last three overall against the Toros, including a 1-1 draw earlier this season that saw Taylor Davila score a stoppage-time equalizer to level the game. That’s a run Republic FC will be eager to end on Saturday as they look to finish top of the Western Conference for just the second time in club history.

Spotlight Players
Rio Grande Valley FC – Christian Pinzon:
The Mexican forward found the net for the second time this season in Hartford and will be hoping that sparks a late run of form that can propel his side into the playoffs.

Sacramento Republic FC – Keko: The Spanish veteran continues to have a stellar season, and notched his fourth goal of the season to go with seven assists last time out.

FC Tulsa vs. Indy Eleven

Venue: ONEOK Field
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: FC Tulsa will try to boost its postseason chances as it plays host to an Indy Eleven side that secured its postseason return last weekend in one of Saturday night’s crucial games. Tulsa (9-14-9, 36pts) fell 3-2 to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last Saturday at Highmark Stadium, dropping the side to 10th place in the Eastern Conference and two points back of Miami FC in the eighth and final playoff place. The side saw Phillip Goodrum record his 11th goal of the season against the Hounds, but after consecutive victories the hosts will need to get back in the win column as a draw combined with a Miami victory would eliminate the side from playoff contention. Tulsa has shown positive form against Indy in recent outings, however, including a 1-0 victory when the sides met at Michael A. Carroll earlier this season that ran Tulsa’s undefeated streak to five games (4-0-1) in the series. The Boys in Blue (12-11-9, 45pts) secured their postseason berth last weekend, however, as they took a 3-0 victory against Detroit City FC behind Douglas Martinez Jr., Sebastian Velasquez and Roberto Molino. Indy could still claim a home playoff game as it sits four points behind both Memphis 901 FC and Louisville City FC but would need to win this time out to have a realistic chance. If the visitors end their winless run in this series, though, it could spell the end of Tulsa’s playoff chances.

Spotlight Players
FC Tulsa – Marcus Epps:
The speedy winger has recorded eight goals and five assists this season and will be hoping to deliver in the final third during a must-win game for the hosts.

Indy Eleven – Sebastian Velasquez: The veteran playmaker secured his side’s playoff berth with his first goal for the Boys in Blue against Detroit and could get another chance to impress this time out.

Orange County SC vs. San Antonio FC

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

The Lowdown: Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference will square off again in short order as Orange County SC tries to close the gap to second-place San Antonio FC by turning11 the tables from their first meeting. OCSC (15-11-6, 51pts) moved back into third place in the Western Conference on Wednesday night with a 3-1 victory against Oakland Root SC that saw Milan Iloski and Brian Iloski both find the net. The win snapped a four-game winless streak for OCSC, and positioned the side to clinch a home playoff game this weekend should it take victory and Phoenix Rising FC fail to take victory against New Mexico United, or if it plays to a draw should Phoenix lose to New Mexico, and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC drop points against Las Vegas Lights FC. OCSC suffered a 4-0 defeat to San Antonio when these sides met two weeks at Toyota Field, however, part of a current four-game undefeated run for SAFC (14-5-13, 55pts) that it will look to extend this weekend. After rallying for a late 2-2 draw against Oakland Roots SC, San Antonio would clinch a top-two position in the Western Conference with a win on the road, a result that would provide another boost in confidence for the defending title holders.

Spotlight Players
Orange County SC – Brian Iloski:
The elder Iloski brother bagged his second goal of the season against Oakland and has notched three assists and 28 chances created to help push forward OCSC’s postseason drive.

San Antonio FC – Tani Oluwaseyi: SAFC’s leading goalscorer had a goal and assist when these sides first met this season, and notched a crucial stoppage-time equalizer in their most recent outing against Oakland last Saturday night.

San Diego Loyal SC vs. Oakland Roots SC

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

The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC will try to clinch a home playoff game as it plays host to Oakland Roots SC, which is hoping to break a seven-game winless run but could clinch a playoff berth should it do so at Torero Stadium. SD Loyal (14-9-9, 51pts) played to a scoreless draw on Wednesday night against El Paso Locomotive FC to drop to fourth place in the standings, but would reach an unassailable position in the top four should it take victory against Oakland this time out, either through its head-to-head tiebreaker over Phoenix Rising FC, or through a potential three-way tiebreaker between itself, Phoenix and Orange County SC. San Diego fell 2-0 to Oakland when the teams met earlier this season, however, when Johnny Rodriguez and Anuar Pelaez provided the goals at Pioneer Stadium to send Roots SC (11-12-9, 42pts). The visitors could clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a repeat of that result, should all three of Monterey Bay F.C., New Mexico United and Rio Grande Valley FC fail to take victories, but Oakland is looking to end its recent downturn in form that continued on Wednesday night in a 3-1 defeat to Orange County SC. Having made the playoffs in each of its first two seasons in the league, Roots SC will try to deliver a big result on the road this time out.

Spotlight Players
San Diego Loyal SC – Ronaldo Damus:
The Haitian international recorded a hat trick in the side’s last home game and will look to produce another big display here to secure a home playoff contest.

Oakland Roots SC – Neveal Hackshaw: The Trinidad and Tobago international notched an early assist in his side’s loss in Orange County but will be key here in the center of midfield looking to keep SD Loyal’s attacking midfielders at bay.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Venue: Las Vegas Ballpark
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+

The Lowdown: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will look to celebrate clinching their third consecutive postseason berth in midweek as they visit Las Vegas Lights FC, which opens its final two-game homestand of the season at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin, Nevada. Lights FC (3-19-10, 19pts) is looking to rebound back on home turf after falling 2-0 to Sacramento Republic FC last Sunday evening at Heart Health Park. The result saw Las Vegas’ current winless run stretch to four games as the end of its campaign draws near. Colorado Springs (14-13-5, 47pts) is undefeated in its last five games, meanwhile, after playing to a 1-1 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC at Weidner Field that saw the side narrowly miss out on victory. The visitors clinched a playoff berth in midweek without seeing action as Rio Grande Valley FC’s 2-2 draw with Hartford Athletic left the Switchbacks clear of the bottom four teams in the standings, and the side still has a chance to finish in the top four if it wins its remaining two games of the season. After a 2-0 victory against Lights FC that saw Romario Williams and Maalique Foster find the net when the teams met in June – giving the Switchbacks three consecutive wins in the series – Colorado Springs will be hoping for a similar result this time around.

Spotlight Players
Las Vegas Lights FC – Azriel Gonzalez:
The local product has notched three goals this season, most recently finding the net against Monterey Bay F.C. on September 17, and could get a chance to shine again here.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Romario Williams: The Switchbacks forward bagged his 14th goal of the season against Rio Grande Valley FC and will be aiming to add to his tally before heading for international duty with Jamaica next week.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. New Mexico United

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

The Lowdown: Phoenix Rising FC will try to extend an eight-game undefeated streak as it plays host to a New Mexico United side that boosted its playoff chances with a key home win last time out. Rising FC (12-8-12, 48pts) played to a 1-1 draw with Orange County SC in its last outing as an outstanding finish by Emil Cuello leveled the score late at Phoenix Rising Stadium. The hosts enter this weekend in fifth place in the Western Conference, however, after OCSC’s midweek win against Oakland Roots SC, and needing to make up a three-point gap to both Orange County SC and San Diego Loyal SC over their final two games of the season. Phoenix took a 3-1 victory against New Mexico when the sides first met this season as Danny Trejo, Manuel Arteaga and Panos Armenakas each found the net, but United (11-14-7, 40pts) enters after a morale-boosting 2-0 victory against Louisville City FC at Isotopes Park last weekend. The visitors will be without two attacking pieces in this outing, however, with Shanyder Borgelin and Nicky Hernandez both suspended after being sent off for two cautionable offenses. With a two-point gap to eighth-placed Oakland Roots SC to make up, the visitors will need to put together a strong road performance as a draw or defeat could result in their elimination from postseason contention.

Spotlight Players
Phoenix Rising FC – Danny Trejo:
The club’s leading scorer with 17 goals, Trejo had a goal and assist when these sides met in June but is now two off the league lead after being held without a goal in the past three contests.

New Mexico United – Amando Moreno: The El Salvador international scored when these sides last squared off and will be looking to add to his team-high nine goals this campaign, one off his single-season best in the Championship.

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