skip navigation

9 Key Storylines from the second weekend of the USL Championship season

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/18/24, 11:30AM EDT


Monterey Bay maintains its positive home opener vibes, and Loudoun’s dynamic duo comes through again

Monterey Bay F.C. claimed its first victory in club history against Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday night in an impressive home opener. | Photo courtesy Kiera Winslow / Monterey Bay F.C.

Two weeks into the 2024 USL Championship season, there are only five teams with perfect records, and all of them have played only one game apiece. The second weekend of the campaign produced some more notable victories and individual performances, and an outstanding debut for the Championship’s newest arrival.

Here are nine things we took away from the action, and some additional thoughts on what we saw.


For Monterey Bay F.C., the opening night vibes at Cardinale Stadium have always been impeccable.

Head Coach Frank Yallop’s side made it three wins out of three in home openers on Saturday night and claimed inarguably the most impressive of the three wins over the years in its 1-0 victory against Phoenix Rising FC that saw the hosts deliver pressure and control the tempo against the defending Championship title-holders which led to Rafael Baca’s lone goal of the game.

“I thought we dominated them with our press,” said Yallop. “We’re trying to work on that, especially this year with the guys we have that are willing and able to fight and run and do the right things and listen to the coaching. It worked and it’s a start. We’re still early in our team being together with the new guys coming in, but the way we played tonight is the way we want to play from now on.”

Building off a late midweek equalizer against El Paso Locomotive FC by Tristan Trager, Monterey Bay was at its best in the first half against Phoenix. It won possession seven times in Rising’s defensive third, produced nine shots overall and kept the visitors from getting into a rhythm. When the game balanced out in the second half, MBFC’s defensive work remained solid, allowing Phoenix only one shot on target and four touches inside its penalty area.

There’s a long way to go, but defeating Phoenix for the first time in club history feels like the progress we wanted to see in Year 3 for the Union.


Are we getting a sense of déjà vu for Loudoun United FC from a season ago yet? Four points from two games to start the season? Check. Earned a draw against San Antonio FC? Check. Made the most of their attacking opportunities? Check.

Loudoun’s 3-1 victory against North Carolina FC on Saturday in its home opener was another clinic by Zach Ryan and Kalil ElMedkhar, two of the club’s returnees who provided much of the attacking spark a season ago. ElMedkhar’s diving header off Kwame Awuah’s cross in the first half and the connection between the two on Ryan’s go-ahead goal in the second half was indicative of what Loudoun can be when it’s clicking.

“When you have the pace and quality that Zach and Kalil do, it’s a very dangerous group to defend,” said Loudoun Head Coach Ryan Martin.

There are still a few concerns that this might go the same way as things did a year ago, however. Loudoun’s five goals have come on a 1.53 Expected Goals mark, and the side is currently narrowly a net negative in comparison to its Expected Goals Against mark (1.97xGA). Next week’s trip to Detroit City FC should be an interesting one.


There was almost an inevitability that upon another return to Weidner Field, Elvis Amoh would find the net for new club Detroit City FC. After all, one of the Ghanaian’s five goals last season for Hartford Athletic came against former club Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

But Amoh’s presence, and that of Ali Coote alongside him as a fellow newcomer in the attacking line, gave Detroit an attacking impetus that it sorely lacked last season. Only once in the 2023 season did Le Rouge record an Expected Goals mark higher than Saturday’s 2.21xG as Maxi Rodriguez was given more freedom to combine with the front line while James Murphy and Abdoulaye Diop provided cover in the center of midfield.

Le Rouge needed a late winner by Connor Rutz to come away with all three points in a 2-1 victory against the 10-player Switchbacks, but there was plenty to come away with feeling good about for the visitors overall.


There was plenty to like about Rhode Island FC’s debut in the USL Championship. The stands were packed by a sellout crowd at Beirne Stadium for the visit of New Mexico United to provide a tremendous atmosphere, and the side lived up to its preseason expectations with an impressive on-field display that included attacking flair and the right level of midfield bite – RIFC’s 27 tackles won was the third-most in a USL Championship regular season game on record.

And yet, without the late equalizer that was credited as an own goal by New Mexico’s Chris Gloster as Mark Doyle prepared to pounce on Noah Fuson’s cross, the game might have ended on a down note. Instead, the side earned the result it certainly deserved, and showed it can be a side to be reckoned with this season.

“A lot of people put in a lot of work for us to get here, so I’m just grateful to them,” said RIFC coach Khano Smith. “The fans, they showed up with an amazing atmosphere and they definitely helped us in the end.”


In all honesty, Louisville City FC’s clash with El Paso Locomotive FC wasn’t a game to put in a time capsule. The decisive finish by Wilson Harris that lifted LouCity to a 1-0 victory at Southwest University Park, though? That was one to savor.

The 24-year-old became the youngest player to record 50 regular season goals in the USL Championship’s history with a beautifully placed header off Sean Totsch’s delivery midway through the second half on Saturday night. The finish was a classic No. 9 goal, and one that after a down campaign a season ago got the standout forward off to an ideal start to the season.

“It’s something I’ve been chasing,” Harris said of reaching the landmark. “I was a little disappointed not to get it last year, but I couldn’t ask for a better start this year. I’m really excited about that but also excited about three points with this group of players right now.”

Louisville had to battle to get an opening win on the road. Thanks to Harris’ moment of class, the visitors picked up a valuable three points.


Indy Eleven wasn’t rewarded with a result in its opening game of the season despite an enterprising first-half display, but the tide turned in favor of the Boys in Blue in its 2-1 victory against Memphis 901 FC on Saturday afternoon at AutoZone Park as Jack Blake was once again the dynamo in the center of midfield that made everything move.

The English midfielder bagged his second goal of the season from the penalty spot after having himself been felled in the penalty area and was solid all-around in addition to his contribution in the final third. With Cam Lindley and Tyler Gibson currently making up a strong midfield trio – and the potential of Aodhan Quinn’s return from injury to come – this is shaping up to be a more consistent Indy side than a season ago.

“It was a very similar performance to last week in the first half and I felt like we got our reward, what we deserved,” said Blake. “I felt like we left chances on the table in the last game, and we said before the game today we really wanted to put them away and take the chances, and that’s what we did. We set ourselves up and put ourselves in a good position.”


Miami FC pulled off one of the results of the opening weekend with its victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, but the young side got a taste of reality in its second outing of the season as Sacramento Republic FC put in a dominant display that the 1-0 scoreline didn’t truly reflect.

Trevor Amann’s third goal in two games to start his Republic FC tenure off a beautiful cross by Jack Gurr proved the difference, but the control Sacramento showed throughout the 90 minutes meant that aside from one remarkable sequence late in the first half, the hosts rarely got a clear look at goal. Miami completed only 27 passes in Sacramento’s half in the second half, and only 12 in the final third, as Republic FC closed out a solid victory.

“I thought it was a fantastic win on the road,” said Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs. “To travel to the other side of the country across different time zones, dealing with the humidity, on turf. I thought the guys stuck together and held on for a fantastic three points. I'm really pleased with the performance from the whole group. I thought the subs made a huge impact when they came in and allowed us to keep some momentum.”


You could hardly have asked for a more efficient attacking display from Orange County SC on Saturday night. Two high-quality chances created, two shots, two goals, and a 2-0 victory on the road against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC that spoiled the home opener for the Hounds at Highmark Stadium. Brian Iloski’s goal in the third minute was the third-fastest on record for OCSC before Cameron Dunbar’s late insurance goal put the game away late.

In-between the two finishes there was plenty of work for Orange County to do defensively. After his goalscoring heroics in Week 1, goalkeeper Colin Shutler was solid in net with two important saves and the back line that for a second consecutive week included 19-year-old OCSC Academy product Ashton Miles had to withstand a barrage of Hounds pressure that at least gave the hosts something to build on after a winless start to the season.

It’s likely that Orange County is going to need more in the attacking third overall – Ethan Zubak and Bryce Jamison in particular will want to try and get more involved in the build-up to create attacking pressure – but to get three points on the road this performance produced when it mattered to set up an impressive victory.


With the tumultuous January the side experienced, including the appointment of a new Head Coach in Mario Sanchez, the departure of two players who were expected to add to the squad this season in Jeremy Kelly and Charlie Adams, and the other ins and outs the roster took, it could have taken a game or two for FC Tulsa to find its feet.

Against Las Vegas Lights FC, though, two of the side’s returnees put together standout performances that carried the visitors to a 3-1 victory at Cashman Field, reminding everyone the quality this side still possesses. Phillip Goodrum’s superb strike from outside the penalty area, which came off one of two assists in the game by Blaine Ferri, highlighted a great first-half display that delighted Sanchez.

“I am really happy for the guys,” he said “They have been amazing to work with during the last few weeks. … We need to continue to improve and build on our identity. It’s a long season and it's important that we keep our focus on who we want to be.”

There are going to be bigger tests to come – the state of Las Vegas as a work-in-progress remained evident on Saturday, even with Riki Alba’s nicely taken finish. With a week to continue to work before heading to face Orange County on March 30, we’re looking forward to how this takes shape.

And now some other thoughts on what we saw this weekend…

- If you’re North Carolina FC right now, is your glass half-full or half-empty? There seem to have been enough good things to take away from the opening two games, so we’re leaning toward the former.

- The Charleston Battery looked a much more dangerous side in the attacking third against Oakland on Saturday, but it didn’t quite pay off with a win. That should come sooner rather than later, though.

- What’s the concern level for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Phoenix Rising FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and El Paso Locomotive FC after the first two weeks?

- It felt like if the Tampa Bay Rowdies had been in Game 3 of 4 of their season rather than their opener, they’d have had a better chance to hold on against San Antonio. That’s a pretty long injury list for Game 1, too.

- Have a week, Rafael Baca. The Mexican veteran was excellent in both of Monterey Bay’s outings, winning possession as well as linking play beautifully.

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos