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9 Top Storylines we took away from the USL Championship this weekend | Talking Points

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/22/24, 2:10PM EDT


Detroit City FC stays perfect as Ben Morris steps into the spotlight; Hounds pick up a big first win on the road

Detroit City FC's Ben Morris had a goal and assist as Le Rouge remained perfect this season with a fifth consecutive victory in league play. | Photo courtesy Jon DeBoer / Detroit City FC

Some clubs bolstered their resumes as serious contenders this season with impressive victories on Saturday while others managed to get results on the board to maintain their progress on the first day of the campaign that saw all 24 teams in action.

Here are nine top storylines we took away from the action, as well as thoughts from the key protagonists, as well as some other observations on what unfolded.


The drum we’ve been banging on about Detroit City FC’s transformation is becoming as well used as one you’d find in the Northern Guard’s section, but that didn’t make Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Oakland Roots SC any less impressive as Le Rouge maintained their perfect start to the season with a great all-around display.

With 10 goals in five games, DCFC is already one-third of the way to its total number of regular-season goals a season ago as Maxi Rodriguez was joined on the scoresheet by Ben Morris and Vincent Bezerra, both of whom put home great finishes to boost the side.

For Morris, who struggled for form a season ago and had yet to find the net this season, the goal was also a needed boost in confidence.

“I feel like I’m improving each time I get on the pitch,” said Morris. “The positive attitude with everyone is just crazy, through the roof every day in training. Everyone’s just demanding on each other to improve each day and get better and just continue this run.”

With Elvis Amoh currently sidelined, getting Morris into gear is going to be important for Detroit as it tries to continue its longest winning streak since joining the USL Championship in 2022.

“I sat down with Ben this week and we went over what he thinks is bugging him at the moment,” said DCFC Head Coach Danny Dichio. “He was pretty positive, and I just said, ‘Look, I have huge belief in you, I think you’re one of the best finishers in this league, you just need to keep your confidence going and things will turn around for you.’

“He’s been asked to play in different positions this year, positions where we feel like he can be a threat, and he showed that today. We know he’s a No. 9 by trade but he can play in those wide areas. He stepped to the ball really well today, intervened with that pass and went on a finished the goal really well.”


With only one goal in its first five games of the season, it had taken a little time for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s attack to adapt to life without 2023 Championship Player of the Year Albert Dikwa.

After showing positive signs in two scoreless draws over the past two outings, it all finally clicked together for the 2023 Championship Players’ Shield winner in a 3-1 victory at Phoenix Rising FC that saw Kazaiah Sterling and Babacar Diene open their accounts for the club and Edward Kizza put together a stellar all-around display alongside Sterling with a goal and assist.

“I think we created better chances than against Rhode Island or in some of the earlier games,” said Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley. “The Tampa Bay [game] was really good in terms on chance creation and expected goals, and in Phoenix, again, we had better chances created. We’re improving at getting numbers in the box, and I think our forwards, when they have company, the defenders have more to deal with. It opens up opportunities for them and for others as well.”

The other key to Phoenix’s performance was that of Junior Etou, who moved up to a left-wing position in a 4-2-3-1 system after sitting further back as part of a Hounds’ back five previously this season. Playing as a left winger isn’t unfamiliar to the Congolese player – he did so on occasion a season ago before settling in as the side’s consistent starter at left back – but his role in the attack was key to not only providing an outlet but also providing more space for others to operate.

Pittsburgh heads home to face Detroit City FC next Saturday night in what should be a great matchup. The Hounds appear to be back in business, we’ll find out more soon.


Whatever league you’re in, getting off to a fast start is the ideal for any club.

What happened after Sacramento Republic FC set a club record with Trevor Amann’s goal after just 15 seconds against Orange County SC, however, said the most about the last undefeated team in the Championship’s Western Conference.

“It’s always good when we start off with a goal so early,” said Republic FC midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, who provided the assist on Amann’s goal. “The quality of our team and the way we managed the game I thought was really good. We played a great opponent, but the boys showed why we're on top of the West. I think last week we had an unfair result, but the boys showed character this week to get the win.”

Sacramento allowed only one shot to its hosts at Championship Soccer Stadium in the first half, and one shot on target for the game. With Aldair Sanchez’s first goal for the club coming in the 25th minute, it was more than enough for Republic FC to secure victory in what felt like its most characteristic display of the season so far.

Certainly, for Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs, it was a display the club can hang its hat on.

“I’m really proud of the guys and the performance they put in,” said Briggs. “I thought we were better in every single phase of the game. We came to play tonight, and we put on a performance that I think everyone associated with our club should be proud of.”


When Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were wrecking opposing pitchers for the New York Yankees in the 1960s, they picked up the nickname of the M&M Boys.

For the Charleston Battery, the duo of Nick Markanich and MD Myers is proving just as devastating so far this season.

Myers bagged his fourth and fifth goals of the season while Markanich had a goal and assist as the Battery’s undefeated streak reached eight games to start the season with a 4-1 win against FC Tulsa at ONEOK Field as the duo showed off the chemistry that’s coming together between the two.

Myers got the Battery out in front as he timed his run perfectly to receive Markanich’s flicked header on to get in behind the Tulsa defense and finish. Markanich almost played provider again for Myers four minutes before halftime, but instead followed his teammate’s finish and tapped home after the initial shot hit the post for his seventh goal of the season, tied for the league-lead. Myers then wrapped up a convincing win with a well-placed header off Aaron Molloy’s cross with six minutes to go.

“Staying consistent, trusting my teammates, putting in the work, and getting the right spots helped me get my first brace tonight,” said Myers. “We've been dominant, so the boys are finding me. I'm just doing my job to finish it off. I think I could have had a brace in a couple of other games, so to get the two goals tonight felt good. I could have even had a third, but we'll save the hat trick for another day.”

Markanich has now bagged four goals and two assists in the Battery’s current three-game winning streak, while Myers has four goals in that span. Charleston’s acceleration pedal is flat on the floor right now.


As close as Rhode Island FC had come to earning its first win in club history, only to miss out, it had to have been nervous in the second half as Las Vegas Lights FC pushed forward in search of an equalizer. Riki Alba’s finish for the Lights that hit the woodwork with seven minutes to go at Cashman Field almost undid all of the good work that RIFC had put in to stake itself to a two-goal lead at the halftime break.

In the end, though, that first-half performance stood as the difference between the sides and made Noah Fuson the main character in a 2-1 victory for the visitors that gave Head Coach Khano Smith his first official victory as a Head Coach.

After a few quiet performances in the league, Fuson came through with a standout display to lead the side to victory. He delivered the assist on Stephen Turnbull’s opening goal and then forced home a rebound for what proved to be the winner. While Las Vegas battled back – a testament to the Lights’ upgrades this offseason – this should be a starting point for Rhode Island to go from a team that’s difficult to beat to one that can consistently win.


After more than eight months on the sidelines, just getting back on the field felt good for San Antonio FC forward Luis Solignac. Getting to reopen his account for San Antonio FC – and in turn icing a 3-1 victory on the road against Hartford Athletic – was the icing on the cake for the Argentine after his long road back from injury.

“It’s been a long time without playing, so coming into the game and being able to produce a goal and help the team win, for me, was amazing,” said Solignac. “I’m happy because it was a tough game.”

Solignac hadn’t appeared in the USL Championship since last August when he was with El Paso Locomotive FC, with an offseason transfer bringing the veteran Argentine back to Toyota Field. The 33-year-old has been one of the most consistent goalscorers in the USL Championship when on the field with 44 goals in 96 regular season appearances in his career.

As good as Solignac can be, he could add another key target for San Antonio’s front line of the rest of this campaign.

“I’m just so happy for Lucho,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina. “He’s been out for months and months, and he’s worked incredibly hard to get back, overcome so many obstacles, and to step on the field was a special moment for him.”


Having earned a good home victory in its last league outing, Loudoun United FC was probably hoping for more from its clash with Louisville City FC on Saturday afternoon. After the 1-0 defeat the side suffered on an unfortunate own goal midway through the second half, the hosts had a good argument for getting something out of the game.

The performance at least provided a silver lining that while LouCity had again come out on top – as it has now in seven of eight meetings between the clubs – Loudoun is showing signs of being a much more competitive squad than it was a season ago.

“I think we went about this challenge the right way,” said Loudoun forward Zach Ryan. “Going up against probably the best team we’ve faced so far, I thought we went toe to toe with them and created some really good chances, especially in the first half. I think this week was a week of growth.”

Loudoun has two more major tests of its potential in the next two weekends. It visits Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday night before returning to host Detroit City FC to open May’s slate with both opponents undefeated this campaign. While United is still in seventh place in the East’s early going, turning good displays into results must be the next step for this group.


As important as putting wins on the board for the Tampa Bay Rowdies is during its current run of four home league games in five at Al Lang Stadium, there was barely anything the side could find fault with in a 1-1 draw against El Paso Locomotive FC that easily could have seen the hosts take victory if not for a sterling display in the El Paso net by Jamaican international Jahmali Waite.

Building on their five-goal outing against Miami FC on April 11, Tampa Bay was on top for almost the full contest. It took a stupendous goal by El Paso’s Javier Nevárez from his own half to put the visitors ahead, but after Manuel Arteaga produced an equalizer with 14 minutes to go off Danny Crisostomo’s cross, the hosts had nine of the final 10 shots of the game with Waite’s brilliant denial of Arteaga with three minutes to go holding them at bay.

“The boys were outstanding,” said Rowdies Head Coach Robbie Neilson. “I think that was probably the most chances we’ve created in a game. We just couldn’t get that wee final moment. If we play like that throughout the season, we’ll be in a happy place throughout the season.”

Tampa Bay was as clean as it has been across the field on Saturday, with Crisostomo taking a leading role alongside Lewis Hilton. Next Saturday’s clash with New Mexico United should be a treat.


There’s always been a flair for the dramatic about New Mexico United – sometimes good, and sometimes not. With consecutive 3-2 wins in the Championship through stoppage-time winners – the latest courtesy of Sergio Rivas’ volleyed finish against North Carolina FC on Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park – the trend is currently a positive one for Head Coach Eric Quill’s side.

“That's one of the things I love about this group,” Quill told the Albuquerque Journal’s Ken Sickenger. “We don't want to come on the road and tie. We believe we can win every game and we're going for it.”

New Mexico was been a good side at delivering last finishes a season ago, scoring almost half of its 30 second-half goals in the final 15 minutes and stoppage time of games. This season, three of its four second-half goals have come in the same timeframe, so far resulting in two victories. As good as this side could be, you can’t switch off against them.

Here’s what else we took away from the action around the league this weekend…

- While the rivalries in the Championship can be strong, there’s nothing like seeing clubs come together to support one another. Hat tip to the staff and players at Orange County SC for this.

- Birmingham Legion FC looks night and day different to the side that was giving away chance after chance over its first three games, and Kobe Hernandez-Foster is really starting to find a positive groove.

- Louisville City FC’s Sean Totsch said after his side’s 1-0 win at Loudoun United FC, “We said when we go on the road, it doesn’t matter how we win.” This was better defensively from Louisville, but it wasn’t completely convincing.

- Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC has its first point of the season, but Wahab Ackwei’s got to be smarter than the lunging challenge that resulted in his red card and took momentum away from the hosts in their 1-1 draw against Indy Eleven.

- Monterey Bay F.C. is looking more and more of a threat each passing week. The Open Cup Round of 32 game with Sacramento Republic FC in a couple of weeks is one to circle.

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