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USL Championship Power Rankings – Week 9

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/06/24, 4:30PM EDT


Under Lilley’s exacting leadership, Hounds are on the rise again after finding identity

On Saturday night, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC outshot visitors Miami FC 15-7, allowed only two shots on target, won the Expected Goals battle 1.69xG to 0.33xG, and picked up a third consecutive victory.

Was Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley happy? Not in the slightest.

“We didn’t work hard enough,” said Lilley. “I mean, the first 15-20 minutes there was no pressure. [Miami] dictated a lot of the game. They played through us. The beginning of the game, we weren’t willing to get in their face, they played through us, dribbled through us. We defended fairly well, but they were getting through us so easily. The game was stretched. Had Miami executed in those moments where they ran through our lines, we were vulnerable a lot.”

Want to understand why the Hounds are a perennial playoff contender, and at the peak of their cycles in the picture for silverware like last year’s Players’ Shield? There’s a big reason why.

With some key players gone this offseason – including 2023 Championship Player of the Year and Golden Boot Albert Dikwa and Defender of the Year Arturo Ordóñez – the Hounds looked like a side with questions to answer in three consecutive defeats to start the season.

But as always seems to happen, they’ve got a great idea now of who they are. Kazaiah Sterling is finding the net, Junior Etou is a revelation on the left flank, and the exacting standards that have followed Lilley’s path throughout his career have seen the side record three consecutive victories and move into the top half of the Eastern Conference with four shutouts in their last five games.

Give Lilley his due, he was happy the side was able to come away with three points despite being below par – “It’s good that we won when we did not have our best stuff, hard to be negative after a win,” he said – while also warning the performance the Hounds put in won’t be good enough to win most weeks.

Will the Hounds be a challenger to the Charleston Battery or Louisville City FC this season? That remains to be seen. What seems increasingly likely is they’ll be in the playoff picture, as they always find a way to be.

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Here’s how this week’s rankings look.

Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Detroit City FC El Paso Locomotive FC Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven
Las Vegas Lights Loudoun United FC Louisville City FC Memphis 901 FC The Miami FC Monterey Bay F.C. New Mexico United
North Carolina FC Oakland Roots SC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC
San Antonio FC Tampa Bay Rowdies FC Tulsa

On The Move






1 Charleston Battery
Week 10: ---

Last Week:
Nick Markanich’s moment of magic was the difference against a Hartford side that tried to batten down every hatch in its ship. That’s five consecutive league wins for the first time since 2013.
2 Sacramento Republic FC
Week 10: @ RI

Last Week:
Republic FC still hasn’t trailed for a minute this season, even though it would have wanted its lead in Phoenix to stick. This is a side that’s just difficult to get the better of.
3 Louisville City FC
Week 10: v. OC

Last Week:
We’re wondering if LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz had a Kentucky Derby betting slip with Mystik Dan’s name on it. Good payout if he did.
4 Orange County SC
Week 10: @ LOU
Last Week:
OCSC slipped a place in the standings to New Mexico United but is still looking well set in the West.
5 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Week 10: @ TUL
Last Week:
Pittsburgh probably could have had its victory against Miami secured sooner if not for Miami goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi. Three wins in a row and the Hounds are on the move.
6 New Mexico United
Week 10: v. OAK
Last Week:
Good win on the road for New Mexico behind Daniel Bruce’s brace in Las Vegas. Might need to hold auditions for a penalty taker, though, 1 for 3 from the spot so far this year.
7 Detroit City FC
Week 10: v. PHX

Last Week:
Based on the chances either side had, Detroit did well to come away with a point in miserable conditions in Loudoun. That’s the value of having Nate Steinwascher backing you.
8 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Week 10: v. BHM
Last Week:
The Rowdies’ high line came unglued thanks to Memphis’ deployment of Marlon to challenge it. Big week ahead against a Birmingham Legion side that can do similar things.
9 San Antonio FC
Week 10: v. LV
Last Week:
One of San Antonio’s hallmarks in its title-winning season was its ability to hold leads. It’s now dropped leads at home to two teams currently below the playoff line already this season.
10 Phoenix Rising FC
Week 10: @ DET

Last Week:
That missed penalty kick is going to come back to haunt Phoenix, which could have handed Sacramento its first defeat of the season. A point’s OK, but…
11 Indy Eleven
Week 10: @ MIA
Last Week:
Indy is one of only three teams in the Championship that has yet to be held scoreless this season, and Elliot Collier’s finish got the Boys in Blue a big three points in Monterey Bay.
12 Monterey Bay F.C.
Week 10: v. MEM
Last Week:
This is an important week for Monterey Bay. Say nothing of going to Sacramento for the Open Cup, it can’t fall into last year’s habit of extended losing runs when Memphis visits on Saturday.
13 Memphis 901 FC
Week 10: @ MB
Last Week:
Stephen Glass has found a combination that works in the attacking half and it’s produced seven goals in the past two games. Very positive development.
14 Birmingham Legion FC
Week 10: @ TBR
Last Week:
On balance, Legion probably deserved to take all three points against FC Tulsa. Getting a point at the death from Stefano Pinho is something, though.
15 FC Tulsa
Week 10: v. PIT
Last Week:
Tulsa finally succumbed to Birmingham’s pressure late on to leave with a point. That’s a good result as it stands, but letting a two-goal lead will sting a little bit.
16 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Week 10: @ HFD

Last Week:
Two wins in a row for the Switchbacks against opponents who have been struggling a little bit. They’ll be aiming to add to that with consecutive games in the northeast this week in the Open Cup and the league.
17 Loudoun United FC
Week 10: v. ELP
Last Week:
Loudoun came close to grabbing victory against Detroit City in the second half on Saturday night. It’s another positive performance without the reward of a win, though.
18 Rhode Island FC
Week 10: v. SAC
Last Week:
RIFC’s defense was solid, but the attack without Albert Dikwa? It was almost nonexistent.
19 Hartford Athletic
Week 10: v. COS

Last Week:
Hartford might have stolen a point in Charleston – Romario Williams’ effort off the post in the first half stands out – but this winless run is undoing the solid start the side made.
20 Oakland Roots SC
Week 10: @ NM
Last Week:
Round of applause for Oakland’s kids, who competed well enough to keep Roots in the game before the experienced heads grabbed a point in San Antonio. That’s set everything up for Tuesday in San Jose.
21 Miami FC
Week 10: v. IND
Last Week:
Miami was difficult to play against for the most part, but there just wasn’t enough attacking threat in Pittsburgh.
22 North Carolina FC
Week 10: ---
Last Week:
The chances were there for North Carolina to break its winless streak. The finishing was not.
23 Las Vegas Lights FC
Week 10: @ SA
Last Week:
Much better performance for the Lights but another defeat all the same. There’s much more to build on here than a week ago, though.
24 El Paso Locomotive FC
Week 10: @ LDN

Last Week:
El Paso had never lost in Colorado Springs before Saturday night. Still winless, and the frustration is evident.

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