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9 Key Storylines from the third weekend in the USL Championship | Talking Points

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/25/24, 11:00AM EDT


Elvis Amoh’s impact in Detroit helps set up victory; Las Vegas tightens up its system, first wins show off Phoenix, Charleston, San Antonio potential

Detroit City FC's Elvis Amoh (center) didn't find the net against Loudoun United FC, but he was integral to his side's second consecutive victory to start the season. | Photo courtesy Jon DeBoer / Detroit City FC

Three weeks into the 2024 USL Championship season and we’ve got three teams tied with two wins apiece at the top of the Eastern Conference, and five undefeated squads still standing out West.

After an intriguing weekend of games, here are nine storylines that jumped out to us from the action.


Getting his first goal in Detroit City FC’s colors likely took a bit of weight off the shoulders of Elvis Amoh after the 2023 campaign he experienced, but the manner in which he influenced Le Rouge’s 2-1 victory against Loudoun United FC to give the side two wins from two to start the season was an even bigger indicator of how he can impact the side.

The Ghanaian forward did everything but score, creating three chances that included a nicely played layoff to set up Abdoulaye Diop’s ferocious strike to level the score in the second half. His pursuit and blocked attempted clearance resulted in Maxi Rodriguez scoring the easiest game-winner he’ll likely ever score, and highlighted the work Amoh put in to lead Detroit’s pressing actions.

“Elvis is an experienced guy and we saw last week, when he gets given the opportunity, he can put them away,” said Le Rouge Head Coach Danny Dichio. “But he’s also a handful. He’s a big profile. He can be a link, a platform for us to play off. And the boys love playing with him. And we've got a really good group now who are a threat towards goal and either assisting or scoring goals and we're happy to have him on our team.”


The first victory for Las Vegas Lights FC under the ownership of José Bautista might have come as a result of a nice slice of fortune as Fabien Garcia’s header off the post deflected in off the heel of El Paso Locomotive FC goalkeeper Javier Garcia, but the overall performance showed how Las Vegas overall is becoming a more difficult side to break down.

At the center of that on Saturday was midfielder J.C. Ngando, who helped closed down the center of the field for the Locos and won possession consistently throughout the contest. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC loanee won 10 of 16 duels overall and 2 of 3 tackles while also making five interceptions and 11 recoveries. In turn, it offered protection for center backs Garcia and Emrah Klimenta to step in and limit Locomotive forwards Tumi Moshobane and Justin Dhillon to three touches each in the Las Vegas penalty area.

Defending the central area at the top of the penalty area was the fatal flaw for Las Vegas in its season-opening defeat in Memphis. If Ngando and company can keep that area tidy moving forward, it’s going to make the Lights a much more difficult proposition for opponents.


The longer Phoenix Rising FC’s scoreless streak to start the season continued, the more questions might have been asked, so it was likely a relief that not only did Panos Armenakas break that spell early in the second half against Oakland Roots SC, but that it came in such a beautiful manner.

The passing and movement that sprang Juan Carlos Azocar into the left channel to provide a cross the Australian international tapped home was a tremendous team goal, and summed up an overall display where Rising looked as sharp as it had in its home opener and this time delivered all three points.

“It’s been a couple of weeks where we asked some questions and they continued to work,” said Rising Head Coach Danny Stone. “Tonight, I felt the team completely deserved a victory. The effort and performance they gave tonight was deserving of a victory.”

With three of the club’s next four games at home, this should hopefully be the launchpad the defending title holders are looking for.


Despite a pair of draws to open the season, there wasn’t really any concern that the Charleston Battery weren’t on a positive course going into their home opener. After an outstanding 90-minute display against New Mexico United on Saturday night that delivered a 4-0 victory, the potential for the reigning Eastern Conference champions was on full display as standouts old and new shone.

The chippy nature of the first half – which saw 26 fouls called between the two sides – gave way to a more entertaining second half, but the Battery simply seemed a step ahead of New Mexico for most of the contest. That was reflected in the opening goal where MD Myers and Nick Markanich both had far too much room on a quickly taken throw-in, and also in Arturo Rodriguez’s brilliant finish, which came after Aaron Molloy quickly won possession back as United tried to relieve pressure.

“Our counter-press was great, we played a great game, start to finish,” said Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann. “New Mexico are a good team, but we were on them. We’re appreciative of the effort from the boys. I think playing at home and just improving each week was really important. The boys played with courage, and then we scored some great goals.”   

Read More: 3 Takeaways from the Charleston Battery’s romp past New Mexico United


You could come away from Monterey Bay F.C.’s 2-2 draw with Rhode Island FC wondering if the glass was half-full or half-empty for the hosts. From this perspective, it’s definitely half-full and the impact the newcomers are making for the side was in evidence again at Cardinale Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The biggest impact so far has been made by super-sub Tristan Trager, whose sharp run and finish to tuck away Mobi Fehr’s low cross from the right leveled the score with 18 minutes to go. The incisive movement the former Charleston Battery man has shown should see him inserted into the starting lineup when he’s 90-minutes fit. Elsewhere on the field, though, the new pieces are making Monterey Bay look a much more formidable side than in its first two campaigns.

“It’s been good,” said MBFC Head Coach Frank Yallop. “Luther [Archiméde] started the game and had a couple of chances for us. Tristan [Trager] has scored two goals for us in the past three games. He’s had two good finishes and we’re very happy with him. Carlos [Guzmán] as well on the score sheet is always good and it’s from the set plays we work on. We’re very happy with all of our new guys.”


Albert Dikwa took the plaudits – and rightly so – for his two-goal performance for Rhode Island FC in Monterey Bay as he wrote his name into the club’s history book as its first official goalscorer, but the work being done by Noah Fuson shouldn’t go overlooked. The 24-year-old has put in some impressive work over the club’s first two games, building on the pedigree he showed competing for Columbus Crew 2 in the past two seasons.

Fuson would have had the assist on Rhode Island’s first goal in club history had it not been an own goal against New Mexico United in Week 2, and his back-line splitting pass to put Dikwa in one-on-one against Monterey Bay’s Antony Siaha on Sunday was a thing of beauty. That’s the sort of service that can allow the 2023 Championship Golden Boot winner to thrive and help push RIFC forward.


It’s pretty wild to think that as a 21-year-old, Ray Serrano is already in his seventh season in the USL Championship – that’s what making your debut for Tacoma Defiance as a 15-year-old will do for you – but on Saturday afternoon in Louisville City FC’s home opener he looked like a player ready for a breakout season.

Serrano’s energy on the flanks both in pressing opponents and driving the attack was a key element in Louisville’s 3-1 victory against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC as he first drew the decisive penalty kick that was dispatched coolly by Sean Totsch, and then showed composure of his own to put home his first goal in the regular season since August 31, 2022 against Indy Eleven.

With the numerous new faces at Louisville this season, the side’s 2-0-0 start is solid. If Serrano continues to be a driver in the attacking third, it could blossom into something great.

“We’re still growing,” said LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz. “There’s been a lot of changes, a lot of new faces, the culture is continuing to grow, and the culture is strong at the moment and making sure that through the ups and the downs we stick together. As I said, it’s not easy when you have that many new faces, but when you have guys who are hungry, who are bought in, that want to fight for the badge and each other it puts you in a position to do something special.”


The best way to describe Anderson Asiedu’s performance for Hartford Athletic against former club Birmingham Legion FC might be a “Remember Me?” game.

The Ghanaian was all over Hartford’s 1-0 victory on Saturday afternoon in soggy conditions, consistently winning possession in midfield, providing an inspired scooped assist for Michee Ngalina’s goal, and even drawing the ire of former teammate Matt VanOekel for a challenge on a 50-50 ball that left Jake Rufe smarting.

The 27-year-old had been one of Legion’s originals and was a fan-favorite over his five seasons there before moving to Hartford this offseason. It seemed from here there was a message he wanted to send, and he did so in emphatic style.

Read More: 3 Takeaways from Hartford Athletic’s victory against Birmingham Legion FC


Juan Agudelo’s penalty kick for San Antonio FC being saved by Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC goalkeeper Christian Herrera late in the first half on Saturday night at Toyota Field could have been an inflexion point for the hosts, who had had the better of the play but went to the halftime break scoreless while looking for their first win of the season.

If anything, though, the second half display might have been even better. That patience in possession and to let chances develop eventually paid off in a 2-0 victory that saw the side push through the finish line after Lucas Silva’s opener with 15 minutes to go.

“I think it shows a lot of maturity as a team when we were able to get that second goal tonight and close it out,” said goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega, who notched two saves for his first shutout for the side. “The first game where they were playing with 10 men, and we had opportunities to finish off the game, we didn't take them. Here, when we're up a goal, we got that second goal which kind of killed the game off, and I think it's very important to do that when it’s these tight games playing against good teams.”

And now some additional thoughts from the past weekend of action…

- Given his form in the opening two games of the season, you’d have banked on Sacramento Republic FC’s Trevor Amann banging home his opportunity in the 87th minute against Indy Eleven. He is human after all.  

- By contrast, the little shift Indy’s Augustine Williams put on Sacramento’s Conor Donovan to create space to turn and eventually finish was exquisite. Great way to introduce yourself to the Brickyard Battalion.

- Rafael Menzingen got the goal for North Carolina FC, but we were taken by the energy and defensive play by his teammate on the opposite flank, Ezra Armstrong. Just need a little more sharpness in the final third.

- One goal and one point from four games, this is now how this was supposed to go for El Paso Locomotive FC so far. Big week off before the Derby Del Camino Real on April 6 in New Mexico.

- Loudoun United FC hit a bump in the road on a WPIOOTBGW classic, hopefully it doesn’t hit their confidence too hard. There were positives to take out of Saturday’s performance as well.

- Two shots, two goals, we hope Miami FC’s Allen Gavilanes grabbed a lottery ticket after the flight touched back down in South Florida.

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