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8 Key Storylines we took away from the USL Championship’s 11th weekend

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/20/24, 1:44PM EDT


Rowdies show attacking qualities, Indy’s fast start sets up success, and Oakland breaks through under Glinton

The Tampa Bay Rowdies' Manuel Arteaga recorded his seventh and eighth goals of the season as the Rowdies' romped past FC Tulsa on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

The past weekend of the USL Championship season saw the second coaching change of the campaign, two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference show off their attacking prowess, and a landmark first win for Oakland Roots SC’s current man at the helm.

Here are eight key storylines we took away from the action and a few additional thoughts on what we saw.


On balance, the Tampa Bay Rowdies could have come away with at least a point from their contest against Birmingham Legion FC in Week 10, only for the chances they squandered to cost the side in a one-goal defeat.

This past Saturday night, the Rowdies showed exactly what they can be capable of in a 5-0 win against an FC Tulsa side that didn’t do a ton wrong, but still ended up on the wrong end of a lopsided defeat. A pair of goals each for Manuel Arteaga and Forrest Lasso and quality deliveries from the flanks by Blake Bodily, Charlie Dennis and Lewis Hilton showed how good Tampa Bay can be at its best.

“We came back with a chip on our shoulders, and we definitely showed why we can be a top team and really push on up the table now, that’s what it’s about,” said Dennis. “We need to keep putting points on the board, so tonight was a step in the right direction.”

An underrated element of the result, though, was the Rowdies’ defensive approach. There was still a willingness to press high when the opportunity was there – Tampa Bay won possession six times in the attacking third – but the side’s willingness to drop in shape and limit Tulsa’s ability to stretch the field consistently resulted in the visitors getting into the attacking third but finding little success, recording only six shots overall and two on target.

In the long-term, the combination of the two approaches could yield further success for one of the league’s most explosive attacks.


Making a strong start at home is typically the prerogative for clubs, but for Indy Eleven Head Coach Sean McAuley it seemed particularly important against a Hartford Athletic side that had been struggling for form despite on paper having a strong squad to call on.

“We recognized that they were probably going to come in and have a go for it,” said McAuley. “They’re away from home, they lost their last game at home, and they’ve got a good squad, and I thought to myself, ‘this might be one where we might get caught cold a little bit early on.’ We made them aware of that and said, ‘right, let’s go for it the first 10, 15 minutes, let’s see what they’ve got.’”

Indy’s opening could hardly have been more ideal. A penalty kick awarded for a handball after just 91 seconds gave Jack Blake the chance to put the side ahead, and while there was back-and-forth between the side for the remainder of the first half a second goal by Ben Ofeimu shortly before the halftime break set Indy on the way to a 4-1 victory, its fifth in a row across all competitions.

The Boys in Blue have cemented themselves in the top four in the Eastern Conference during their recent run of form. They’re now aiming to carry that into Wednesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup clash against a Detroit City FC side that took victory at Michael A. Carroll Stadium when the sides met earlier this season.

It’s an opportunity to make more Indy history – the side has never advanced to the Quarterfinals in the Open Cup previously – and McAuley hopes his side takes advantage.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re not afraid of being successful,” said McAuley. “This is an unbelievable opportunity for us, and we’ve got to make sure we have a go for it.”


Sometimes, you just need a moment to push you over the line.

Despite having an excellent second half, Oakland Roots SC was on the verge of missing out on victory again as it was unable to capitalize on the chances it created against Orange County SC. At the last, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Gagi Margvaleshvilii – up from the back as the hosts threw the kitchen sink at OCSC in search of a winner – delivered with a nice piece of control and finish to give Roots interim Head Coach Gavin Glinton his first win at the helm.

Coming from a goal down after Thomas Amang had given Orange County the lead midway through the first half, Oakland had the upper hand for most of the second half in terms of possession and chances. For a side in desperate need of a win – its most recent in the league having come on April 13 – the performance provided a boost for the side to keep in touch with the Western Conference playoff positions.

“The goal against was a big deflator for us for a minute, but the guys took a deep breath and got right back to it and I was really happy with that pause – that moment – to just kind of regroup and then get back on with the job,” said Glinton. “I thought they did a good job of not letting it affect them and continuing to impose themselves on the opposition. It would have been nice to go in with a lead at the half, but excellent job coming back out and continuing to push and fight in the second half, win second balls and not stop until the end. So, I’m proud of the group.”


Whatever you want to say about Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s five-game losing streak to the season, everything continues to seem pointed in the right direction.

Friday night’s 3-1 victory at home to Rhode Island FC was the latest example, with the Switchbacks making the moments they needed to count to pick up a fourth consecutive league win, this one in front of a sellout crowd of 8,023 at Weidner Field.

“We felt we were doing the right things, the luck wasn’t really going our way,” said Switchbacks defender Duke Lacroix after the game. “We weren't lackadaisical, but we weren't able to put all the pieces together for the full 90 minutes. The last couple of games we were able to do that for the full 90, so it’s great to see the turnaround, and we’re still climbing.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we’re nowhere near where we want to be – but it feels good to put a couple wins in a row, especially for a home game.”

The Switchbacks’ run has been aided by Ronaldo Damus catching fire for the first time this season. The Haitian has scored five goals in the past three league outings, and while three of those have come from the penalty spot, it’s seemingly provided a confidence boost to the Haitian as he becomes more connected to his new teammates.  


If Loudoun United FC’s midweek performance against North Carolina FC was a reminder of the side’s struggles to snap out of winless funks in the last few years, Saturday night’s 3-0 victory against Monterey Bay F.C. was another sign that things might be changing for the better at Segra Field.

An impudent – and cleverly-taken – finish by Riley Bidois backed up by a second-half finish by Kalil ElMedkhar and an own goal that capped a mightily disappointing display by the visitors set United up with a morale-boosting victory. Ahead its trip to face Los Angeles FC in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night, where it can now take aspirations of an all-timer of an upset, the result couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It's massive,” said ElMedkhar. “Three points from tonight, now going into the Open Cup, it's massive for the momentum and for the confidence of this group going into a big road trip to California against some big opponents. Definitely a close to perfect result for us.”

ElMedkhar’s presence was a welcome boost after his recent struggles with injury. He’s recorded two goals and two assists in 373 minutes of action this campaign as well as providing an assist in Loudoun’s Open Cup victory against Orange County SC in the prior round. His ability to impact a game could be key in California this week.


Having suffered its most lopsided defeat of the season against the Charleston Battery a few weeks ago, the test for Las Vegas Lights FC at home to Louisville City FC on Saturday night was to remain organized against the league’s other highest-flying attack.

It wasn’t a perfect performance in that regard as LouCity’s second-half pressure produced an equalizer and might have earned the visitors all three points.

At the same time, coming away with a 2-2 draw after holding a halftime lead against the perennial contender after largely outplaying San Antonio FC a week ago showed the progress the Lights continue to make while sitting in the playoff picture one-third of the way through the season.

“We knew going into the second half that if we can find one more goal, we can put the game away,” said Lights Head Coach Dennis Sanchez. “We also knew that there were going to be moments of suffering. We knew that Louisville was a good team and was going to respond. We were fortunate to make it out of that period without conceding a second goal. … We’re not going to get too high, we’re not going to get too low. We’ll take the point.”


If you’re a Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC supporter, being undefeated in the last seven league games is certainly something to hang your hat on.

Coming out of Saturday night’s 1-1 draw in front of a sellout crowd of 5,113 fans at Highmark Stadium against North Carolina FC after the first-half display the side put in, however, probably didn’t feel all that good.

The Hounds created two outstanding opportunities to find the net, dominated possession and territory overall but couldn’t put their visitors away, resulting in another frustrating night for Head Coach Bob Lilley.

“There were a lot of bright spots in the first half, but we’ve got to be more clinical,” said Lilley. “I’m really happy with some of the things we saw in the first half, but we’ve wasted a lot of chances. I look at some of the chances we’re missing, we’ve been doing that pretty regularly, and we’re talking about shots inside the 6-yard box that we’re not finishing. They’re getting blocked off the goal line or we’re hitting the crossbar. This is happening too much, and you don't get those goals back; you don't get those points back. Hopefully, we keep working on it, and we see results from that work.”

So far this month, Pittsburgh’s Expected Goals mark in three games is 7.47xG, but the side has only four goals to show for it. In theory, we should expect to see the Hounds get on track. In practice, that moment can’t arrive soon enough for most around the club.


It felt almost inevitable.

The curtain came down on the Brian Clarhaut era at El Paso Locomotive FC after Memphis 901 FC grabbed a stoppage-time victory on Friday night, a move that given the timing of the announcement after the game seemed like was in the works regardless of what had happened. The result kept Locomotive with the fewest points in the Championship and only one win in 11 games this season having dropped a league-high 13 points from winning positions this season.

Take nothing away from Memphis, which saw its dynamic front duo of Marlon Santos and Bruno Lapa once again pave the way to an important three points on the road. But the lack of focus and control for the hosts – which saw 901 FC rack up four big chances and capitalize on its last opportunity of the night – was a recurring theme this season for El Paso.

Locomotive has allowed the third-most shots in the Championship this season (148) and is tied for the third-most shots on target faced (54). Former Rio Grande Valley FC Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera has been tabbed as Clarhaut’s replacement with an eight-point gap to the playoff positions and two-thirds of a season to go. It’s going to be an uphill climb from here.

Here are some other thoughts on what we saw this weekend…

- Fede Varela’s finish was delightful, but otherwise that felt like a comfortable job well done by Phoenix Rising FC against Miami, leaving plenty in the gas for Seattle on Wednesday night.

- LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz wasn’t happy with his side’s defensive work against Las Vegas in the first half on Saturday night, and suddenly there’s a bit more pressure to win those two games in hand on the Battery.

 - What can you say if you’re FC Tulsa? At least there’s the opportunity on Tuesday night to wash away that performance going to Sporting Kansas City, but it’s going to have to be more incisive in the attacking half.

- Memphis 901 FC’s Marlon Santos putting up four goals and five assists in the last four games? That’ll play.

- Hartford Athletic has conceded 16 goals in its five-game losing streak in the league. That’s just not going to get it done at any level.

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