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9 Top Stories from the USL Championship’s 14th weekend

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/10/24, 3:55PM EDT


Dariusz Formella shows Rising what it was missing, LouCity and New Mexico keep their perfect home records

Darius Formella's brace in his first start since the birth of his daughter propelled Phoenix Rising FC to a much-needed win against Orange County SC on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Ashley Orellana / Phoenix Rising FC

There are still two teams with perfect home records three months into the USL Championship’s regular season, while this past weekend also saw Sacramento Republic FC and Phoenix Rising FC take big victories out West and Indy Eleven’s relentless pursuit of wins continue.

Here are nine key storylines we took away from the action, and some additional thoughts on what we saw over the weekend.


There was good reason for Dariusz Formella’s absence from Phoenix Rising FC – over the month between appearances for the club, he was given leave to return home to Poland for the arrival of his daughter.

His return to the starting lineup on Saturday night, though, couldn’t have been more timely. From being in the right spot to put home the finish on a beautifully constructed move early on to bagging a late winner for his first two-goal performance since the 2023 postseason, Formella delivered in a game that had a bit of everything but ended up with the hosts taking a 2-1 win against Orange County SC.

“It's the reason why we love the game. It's the excitement of it. And listen, sport is emotional, and sport is exciting and sport is unpredictable.” said Rising Head Coach Danny Stone. “The game tonight, I think, had all of that in it. The excitement and the emotion is, in the end, why we began and why we keep doing this.”

There’s still a lot for Phoenix to do to feel convincing as the defending title holders – see the contrast between the first and second half performances – but the high points this side can achieve will make you believe a little bit more.


After its first setback of the season, Sacramento Republic FC looked its regular, reliable self in a 2-0 win against Monterey Bay F.C. that saw the temperatures rise at time, which gave a sense of the rivalry building between the NorCal sides.

There were a lot of good performances to go around – Nick Ross rebounded with a fine display and Justin Portillo looked right at home in the midfield alongside him in his Republic FC debut – but the entrance of Cristian Parano at halftime provided a jolt that carried the visitors to a lead they’d not relinquish at Cardinale Stadium. The Argentine’s finish in the 62nd minute after Kieran Phillips had struck first eight minutes previously was beautifully taken and was backed up by a strong 45-minute display.

“On the second goal, Cristian [Parano] is a special player,” said Ross, whose header sent Parano in to finish. “I think once we get him fit and get him going, he’s going to be a real benefit for us and give us a big boost. Every time he plays, we know he’s going do something so I knew that I just needed to get the ball to him and he could give us a real good chance to score.”

Even with Russell Cicerone and Rodrigo Lopez sidelined, Parano’s quality on the ball isn’t unique to Sacramento – just see Damia Viader’s assist to set up Phillips’ opener – but he’s a player that draws attention and provides a buzz where you can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.


The thing about Indy Eleven’s victory on Sunday evening against Birmingham Legion FC was that Legion knew what was coming. The hosts just couldn’t do what it needed to earn a result.

“We scouted them and knew they were going to that,” said Legion Head Coach Tom Soehn. “I don’t think we did a real good job with our transitions in stretching the backline early on. Hopefully, we’ll get a better understanding of that and if we face a team like that again, we’ll do better to beat it.”

The reality is right now, Indy is in a great spot when it comes to its structure sitting in a deep block defensively and has the explosiveness to create chances going the other way in transition that others struggle to manufacture against it. It’s tied for the league-high with 15 shots off fast break opportunities alongside Louisville City FC and Memphis 901 FC and uses that to set the game to its advantage.

Now on a seven-game winning streak, the Boys in Blue have found a blueprint for success at home and away. It’s up to the rest of the league to adjust.


While New Mexico United and Sacramento Republic FC have created some distance at the top of the Western Conference and the teams below them, the team we’re keeping a close eye on to break out from that pack currently is Memphis 901 FC.

After a tough road defeat to San Antonio last weekend, a point at home against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC after a 1-1 draw came through a strong performance that easily could have earned the side all three points at AutoZone Park. 901 FC outshot their visitors 28-6 and if not for a stellar performance by the Switchbacks’ Christian Herrera in goal the outcome could have been much different.

“I think their goalkeeper was fantastic tonight,” said Memphis Head Coach Stephen Glass. “I’d imagine he’s man of the match and he deserves to be. You run into that sometimes and it’s a difficult thing to legislate for. The one thing we could control that we’re disappointed in was the set piece goal. The response from the team was first class. Any time you’ve got a team that responds like that to adversity, you’re in a good position. We were pleased with the overall performance, disappointed to only get a point. But it speaks to the quality of the team.”

901 FC is currently in eighth position in the West, but it’s only one win and some favorable results elsewhere from being in third, such is the logjam on 17 points right now. Given their underlying numbers and the chemistry Zach Duncan and Emerson Hyndman are showing in midfield, this is a team poised for good things.


North Carolina FC didn’t get its doors blown off in the same way as other visitors to Louisville City FC’s Lynn Family Stadium have this season, but what LouCity’s 2-1 victory showed was the quality in depth the side has to overcome potential obstacles and ensure its keeps winning.

Leading scorer Wilson Harris wasn’t available on the night, so Adrien Perez started in his stead before a 13th-minute injury saw him give way to Sam Gleadle. And of course, Gleadle seized his moment (funny how that always seems to happen for players when their family is in town?) as he headed home his first goal of the season to set LouCity on its way to victory.

“Obviously it’s my first one at a big club like this, which is very exciting,” said Gleadle. “Just to be able to help the team and get three points and keep the train moving was a big moment for me — and having my family here was very special.”

LouCity is now 7-0-0 to start the league campaign at home, tied for the second-longest winning streak in the Championship’s history to the nine-game winning run posted by Real Monarchs SLC in 2017 on its way to a Players’ Shield. LouCity will hope the likes of Harris aren’t out for long, but Saturday showed the side still has what it takes to set to pace at the top of the standings.


LouCity isn’t the only team with a perfect home record so far this season, although New Mexico United left it late to keep it that way before Daniel Bruce’s 86th-minute winner against Hartford Athletic lifted the side to a 1-0 victory at Isotopes Park, sending the venue into delirium.

What stands out most about New Mexico’s record is all five of its league victories have come by a single goal. It may not make for the gaudy record that LouCity boasts, but the patience the side showed, and ability to create its own luck with Bruce’s finish coming as he gambled on a redirection of an effort by Marco Micaletto from long-range to flick home his third goal of the season, is a trait most sides would dearly love to have.

“We’re respecting what this crowd means to us and playing at home, and we’re grinding,” said United Head Coach Eric Quill. “We’re putting full games together. What I’ve been most proud of is us being in the lead and not conceding to tie or conceding to lose. We're closing games out when we've got the lead. That’s a true sign of a team that has a lot of talent and is a contender.”


If you wanted to understand what Oakland Roots and Soul mean to sports fans in the East Bay right now, you just needed to take in the scene at Pioneer Stadium on Saturday.

Playing a day-night doubleheader, a club-record crowd of 6,408 fans across the two games saw a six-point day that included Roots taking a 1-0 victory against a Tampa Bay Rowdies side that entered on a three-game winning streak in which it had posted three consecutive shutouts.

Roots’ performance wasn’t flawless – the Rowdies had their chances but failed to take advantage in a subpar performance – but Oakland showed how it’s coming on with interim Head Coach Gavin Glinton. The side has now won three of its last four outings to get into the mass of teams around the playoff line.


After the downswing of recent week – especially with last week’s defensive implosion – it must have been good for Detroit City FC fans to see the side get back to the sort of performance that launched it out of the gates so strongly early this season. Le Rouge’s 2-0 win at Rhode Island FC at Beirne Stadium was impressively complete in all areas, with Maxi Rodriguez’s opening goal a classic example of the side benefitting from the sort of bounces that go your way when you’re doing things right.

As important for Le Rouge, the late return to action of Elvis Amoh – who almost capitalized on a gift turnover from Rhode Island to put a capper on the display, only to be denied brilliantly by Koke Vegas – was a big positive on its own. The Ghanaian forward’s potential presence as the No. 9 moving into the next few games should allow the rest of the attacking pieces to fall into place as they were earlier this campaign.


If there was a game Las Vegas Lights FC needed to win, this past Saturday’s against Miami FC at Cashman Field was it.

Thanks to a pair of goals by Khori Bennett, another sterling midfield display by Valentin Noël capped by a late insurance goal, and quality in possession that allowed the hosts to control tempo and possession to suit their aims, Lights came away with a 3-1 win that snapped an eight-game winless run to give their playoff chances a jolt.

“Look, it’s never easy to win,” said Lights Head Coach Dennis Sanchez. “My message to them over the last four or five games is to just continue to trust the process and put ourselves in positions to be successful. If you look at where our group’s at, the next step in our evolution is learning how to win together. We’ve had good performances throughout the year and good moments in games; we’ve shown we can compete with some of the best teams in the league, but now it’s time to start turning these performances into wins.”

With the side on the fringe of the playoff positions, the next few games for Lights are going to be important, starting with Friday night’s visit to similarly ambitious Loudoun United FC.

And now some other thoughts on what we saw this weekend…

- Credit to FC Tulsa and Diogo Pacheco, a couple of good finishes in an important win. We need to see it more consistently to believe it’s for real.

- San Antonio is going to pack up the past week and burn it. It’s only the second time the side has lost consecutive regular season games under Alen Marcina, but the duress the side is under with injuries and call-ups make it understandable.

- As hot as the Charleston Battery’s attack was, the past month its scored twice in four league games. The M&M Boys need to get back on track.

- It’s going to be hard to top Sacramento Republic FC’s Jack Gurr’s red card this season. Talking your way into a second caution from the bench just isn’t it, man.

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