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One Question for every team entering Week 8 of the USL Championship season

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/26/24, 1:55PM EDT


Ahead of a full slate of games, here’s what we’re watching for at each club around the league

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and forward Kazaiah Sterling will look to build on their first win of the season when they host Detroit City FC on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

This weekend brings us almost to the quarter-season mark of the 2024 USL Championship season and we’ve got a full slate of games as the standings start to take shape in the Eastern and Western Conference.

Here’s one question we have for each club or one of its players going in. Ready to find out how they answer? Check out our weekly viewer’s guide to all the action.

Birmingham Legion – Can Legion maintain its Southern Harm edge?

Birmingham Legion FC has come into its own over the past four games, going undefeated in all competitions after addressing its balance issues defensively. That’s a big positive heading into one of its biggest games of the season with Memphis 901 FC arriving at Protective Stadium on Saturday, as is the fact that Legion is 4-0-1 in its last five meetings with its Southern Harm rival.

With only one regular season meeting this season between the clubs due to 901 FC’s move to the Western Conference, Birmingham is going to want to make this count and assert its top-four credentials.

Charleston Battery – Will Nick Markanich wrap up a Player of the Month bid?

Nick Markanich was a finalist for the Championship’s Player of the Month award in March, but in April he’s come on even more strongly with four goals and two assists in the past three outings – all Battery victories. With Las Vegas Lights FC coming to Patriots Point on Saturday, the 24-year-old has the chance to seal a second consecutive nomination if he continues his scoring streak as Charleston aims to remain undefeated.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Is this the moment for a first win?

This is not the start to the season the Switchbacks envisioned for themselves, with one point from six games to sit winless at the bottom of the Western Conference. This weekend they head to face Oakland Roots SC, which while having its own struggles has at least picked up a couple of wins. If Colorado Springs doesn’t earn all three points, though, we might be looking at a meeting of winless sides to start May when it visits El Paso.

Detroit City FC – History beckons, can Le Rouge down the Hounds?

There might be no better story than Detroit City FC in the first month-plus of this season. Now DCFC gets a chance to do something that’s not happened in the Championship since 2012 and reel off six consecutive wins to start a season. Going back to face Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Highmark Stadium after last year’s playoff upset is another big storyline for this game, as is the nascent rivalry. Will Le Rouge rise to meet the moment?

El Paso Locomotive FC – Can Locomotive turn its battling spirit into a result?

Say one thing for Locomotive’s two road games last weekend – they were under the cosh against both Union Omaha and the Tampa Bay Rowdies and managed to stick together. That’s an important sign for a club that’s under pressure to get its first win, now it has to turn that determination into on-field quality to continue a six-game undefeated streak (4-0-2) against FC Tulsa.

Hartford Athletic – Can Hartford’s finishing test LouCity’s back line?

Hartford Athletic's Enoch Mushagalusa is one of the speed merchants that will look to test his former club Louisville City FC's defense on Saturday at Lynn Family Stadium. | Photo courtesy Lewis Gettier / North Carolina FC

Hartford’s speed has been on full display over its first five league games, creating plenty of scoring chances. The problem has been in putting those chances away – Athletic ranks third in the league with a 10.87 Expected Goals mark but has scored only eight times. Against a Louisville City FC defense that hasn’t always been airtight the chances could be there for Hartford and former LouCity man Enoch Mushagalusa to spring a surprise, if only the visitors can take advantage at Lynn Family Stadium.

Indy Eleven – Does Sebastian Guenzatti still have NCFC’s number?

Sebastian Guenzatti might not be among the Championship’s top forwards anymore, but when he was with the Tampa Bay Rowdies he regularly found a way to deliver against North Carolina FC. The veteran has five goals in five appearances in the Championship against NCFC in his career. If he can make it six in six, it could go a long way to boosting the Boys in Blue to a needed win.

Las Vegas Lights – How do you solve a problem like Aaron Molloy?

The Lights showed some gumption in trying to rally back for a result against Rhode Island FC last Saturday but now step up to one of the toughest trips it’ll make this season to Charleston. For the side’s midfield group, which has come together well despite up-and-down results this month, the challenge will be to limit the influence of Backheeled’s best player in the USL Championship, Aaron Molloy. For someone like Valentin Noël, that potential duel is a chance to burnish his own rising reputation.

Loudoun United FC – Can United keep its nerve in Sacramento?

Here’s the thing about Loudoun United’s loss to Louisville City FC last weekend – United probably deserved a draw and might even have taken victory with improved finishing. Taking that silver lining on the road to face Sacramento Republic FC and sticking to their guns is exactly what Head Coach Ryan Martin’s group needs to do here. Who knows, this time it could get its reward?

Louisville City FC – High Five at Home?

It’s a cliché you’ll hear a lot – something along the lines of, “we want to make our stadium a fortress” – but it’s something Louisville City FC has accomplished impressively so far this season. Louisville has scored 16 goals in four home wins across all competitions at Lynn Family Stadium so far this season and is going to be out for more as it hosts Hartford Athletic on Saturday.

Memphis 901 FC – Is this the turning point your season needs?

United States youth international Nighte Pickering and Memphis 901 FC need a turnaround in form as they visit Southern Harm rival Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Eric Glemser / Memphis 901 FC

901 FC had hoped its victory in the Third Round of the Open Cup was the turning point it needed to turn around its league form. Unfortunately, it was unable to hold onto a lead against Monterey Bay F.C. and has now lost five in a row in the Championship. Saturday marks Memphis’ one regular season shot at Birmingham Legion FC, a side it is winless against in five games. Win here and there’s the potential for a new dawn. Fail to do so? It could get ugly.

Miami FC – Is there another miracle up your sleeves?

You wouldn’t have found many takers for Miami FC being the side that ended San Antonio FC’s lengthy home undefeated streak last season, but an incredible performance by goalkeeper Adrían Zendejas and an early goal by Ryan Telfer made it happen. Miami is in some serious strife right now while San Antonio is starting to roll after a 3-1 win on the road last weekend. Can the hosts defy the odds again?

Monterey Bay F.C. – Is this the moment you show us you’re for real?

Monterey Bay F.C. is second in the Western Conference and has won four games in a row in all competitions going into its visit to Orange County SC this Saturday. Where the question comes is the caliber of competition those wins have come against – Monterey Bay’s one loss has come against the best opponent it has faced this season in San Antonio FC. If Head Coach Frank Yallop’s side goes into Orange County and picks up a win, it’s time to chalk them up as a serious challenger.

New Mexico United – Are you ready, Dayonn Harris?

Whenever a player moves to a new club, there tends to be a spotlight on their return to face the team that moved them on. For New Mexico United’s Dayonn Harris, that arrives on Saturday as the speedy Canadian goes up against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on familiar turf at Al Lang Stadium. New Mexico acquired Harris via transfer this offseason and he’s already made a positive impact on the left flank. After coming off the bench last week, we’re intrigued to see what happens here.

North Carolina FC – The numbers say you might be due. Are you?

North Carolina has some of the best underlying numbers in the USL Championship so far. It ranks seventh in the league in Expected Goals (8.89xG) and fifth in the league in Expected Goals Against (5.63xGA). Unfortunately, it’s also currently got a minus-three goal differential after conceding 10 times and only scoring seven. Going to Indy Eleven on Saturday, will its fortunes change?

Oakland Roots – How much has Dom Dwyer got in the tank?

Up front, I’ve known Dom Dwyer since he was at the University of South Florida and have always enjoyed his company. After more than 18 months since his last competitive game, though, we’re about to find out how that translates to a comeback attempt at 33 years old. The competitive fire will be there, I’m sure, but is that going to be enough to deliver what Roots needs up front?

Orange County SC – Can you set the tempo early?

Orange County SC has experienced more of a slow burn to get into games and find the net this season. The side has scored only once in the opening 15 minutes of both halves so far. Against a Monterey Bay F.C. side that has conceded three times in the opening 15 minutes so far this season, getting on top early and setting the tempo from there could be key at Championship Soccer Stadium in one of this weekend’s big games.

Phoenix Rising FC – Can Panos Armenakas find his rhythm?

Phoenix Rising FC's Panos Armenakas was a surprise omission from his side's starting lineup last weekend in its loss to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. | Photo courtesy Ashley Orellana / Phoenix Rising FC

As influential as he’s been since arriving in Phoenix last season, it was a bit of a surprise to see Panos Armenakas on the substitutes bench against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC last weekend. Yes, the Australian has one goal and no assists in five starts, but it consistently feels like Rising is a more dangerous team when he’s on the field. Finding a way to put Armenakas in dangerous positions to feed Remi Cabral feels essential for Rising to get some momentum, starting on Friday night in Rhode Island.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Was last weekend the launchpad for this season?

After scoring only once in their first five games, the Hounds finally started taking their chances in their first win of the season last Saturday, a 3-1 victory against Phoenix Rising FC. The goal now must be to build on that success for Edward Kizza and Kazaiah Sterling as they try to become the first side to derail Detroit City FC this campaign. If they do, we could see Pittsburgh go on a run of its own in short order.

Rhode Island FC – Can you produce last week’s first half for a full 90?

Rhode Island got its first win in Las Vegas last weekend, but arguably didn’t put in as complete a performance as some of the others it has in four draws that preceded that result. The first half was dominant, and in the second half the side had to resist serious pressure from the Lights that almost delivered an equalizer. Sustaining that first-half intensity should be easier in front of a home crowd but it’ll need to happen against a Phoenix Rising FC side that really needs a win.

Sacramento Republic FC – Can you show us a shift through the gears?

Sacramento is undefeated through its first seven games, but it hasn’t truly made its mark this season, especially at Heart Health Park where it’s been held to two draws in three games, dropping points on both occasions. After last week’s complete performance in Orange County, it’s time for Republic FC to shift through the gears against a solid Loudoun United FC side and show us what it’s got when it hits its stride fully.

San Antonio FC – Are you ready for La Revancha in South Florida?

As detailed above, San Antonio was shocked at home last season by Miami FC, ending a streak the club wanted to stretch to rank among the best in the Championship’s history. We saw what this side can do on the road when it was in full flight last season, this might be the moment for another of those statements.

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Is this the night where it all comes together?

The Rowdies looked like a much more complete product than in some of their previous outings this season against El Paso Locomotive FC last week, but a brilliant goalkeeping display kept them from all three points. With a better opponent coming in New Mexico United – and the pressure to put some home wins on the board during this current homestand – Tampa Bay needs to turn its chances into goals and three points this time out.

FC Tulsa – Is it Arthur Rogers’ moment to shine?

The Golden Playmaker award-winner the last two seasons in USL League One, Arthur Rogers has made a solid start to his time with FC Tulsa. This Saturday might be his chance for a breakout moment as the side visits El Paso Locomotive FC aiming to rebound from last week’s setback against Charleston. With Rogers’ ability to get forward on the flanks – and El Paso’s three-man defensive system – there could be space and opportunity for the right back to thrive. If he can, Tulsa can pick up all three points on the road.

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