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Indy’s streak continues, and the rest of Week 15’s key storylines in the USL Championship

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/17/24, 8:16AM EDT


Find out who’s up, who’s down, and what else we took away from the action

Hunter Sulte's penalty save for Indy Eleven proved pivotal in the side's 1-0 win against San Antonio FC to stretch the club's winning streak to eight league contests and 10 in all competitions. | Photo courtesy Matt Schlotzhauer / Indy Eleven

Over the past weekend in the USL Championship, the top four in the Eastern Conference came a little bit closer together, two new clubs surged into the top four in the Western Conference, and two of the league’s major rivalries delivered high-quality action and late drama.

Here are the three big storylines we took away from the action, our picks for who’s up and who’s down coming out of the weekend, and thoughts on everything else we saw around the league.



Indy Eleven Head Coach Sean McAuley admitted himself that he looks at games like the rest of us – how his team plays in possession – and in that respect his assessment of his side against San Antonio FC was “we were pretty poor with the ball tonight.”

But on the other side of the ball, Indy was immense in taking a 1-0 victory that extended its winning streak in the league to eight games and in all competitions to 10. San Antonio had most of the early momentum and got a golden opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot in the 16th minute when Callum Chapman-Page handled in the area, only for Indy goalkeeper Hunter Sulte to make a low, diving stop to deny San Antonio playmaker Jorge Hernandez’s shot to the bottom-right corner.

“They were in charge of the game at that moment,” said McAuley, “and I thought that save lifted as a little bit and give us a little bit of a kick where we needed it to get back into the game.”

After a superb corner kick delivery by Aedan Stanley caused an own goal to give the Boys in Blue the lead, Sulte had to come up again big with a one-on-one denial of SAFC’s Jake LaCava, while with 11 minutes to go Machop Chol was unable to control his finish after a great ball in by Hernandez and shot over. Those were the only big looks San Antonio got at an equalizer, though, as Indy blocked four of SAFC’s 13 shots to keep their remarkable run intact.

For a team that’s been as balanced as Indy has over its current run, the ability to be sub-par and still find a way to win is a trait any club would be delighted to have.

“That weakness [in possession] was outweighed by the strength of how we defended and the desire and drive to stop the ball from going in the net was first class,” said McAuley. “When you see the character and the desire of the players to wear the shirt and get the result at home, I’m really pleased with that.”


With high three-man defensive lines a feature for both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC, the adjustment the Rowdies made in their deployment of Joshua Perez in the first half proved a key in the side’s eventual 3-2 victory at Al Lang Stadium, a win Head Coach Robbie Neilson was thrilled to come away with and that on balance his side likely deserved.

As Lewis Hilton and Danny Crisostomo were relied on the find ways through Louisville’s pressure, Perez ability to find pockets of space between the midfield and back line and then deliver precise passes into the right and left channels for Cal Jennings and Manuel Arteaga put the Rowdies in the ascendency as he notched on assist and could have had more.  

“I think with these games, where you’ve got two top teams, you can almost negate each other,” said Neilson. “Louisville are a very aggressive pressing team, as we are ourselves, and when teams do that the space isn’t in the middle, it’s in behind the defensive line. With the pace of Cal and Manu as well, it was definitely an area we wanted to try and utilize when we are playing.”

“Anytime you can put a team on the backfoot, that's a big deal because then they have to adapt to you,” added Jennings. “I thought we did a really good job. Josh put me in behind a number of times, others as well, and at that point, I’m just looking in the box and probably should have done a better job finishing, but we got what we needed today.”

The timing Jennings and Perez in particular showed was impressive, and that vertical threat will be worth watching when these teams square off again in mid-October.


My friends at the social media team asked on Saturday night whether Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s 4-2 victory against Orange County SC at a sold-out Weidner Field was the Game of the Year in the Championship.

Push comes to shove, I’m probably going to take Louisville City FC’s 5-3 win against Indy Eleven in the first LIPAFC of the campaign on April 6 right now, but the swings in momentum and quality of goals in this contest put it right up there with a game where you had to check out the highlights if you missed it and gave our friends at TUDN a banger for their opening night broadcasting the Championship.

And in the end, thanks to both Maalique Foster and Yosuke Hanya each bagging a pair of goals – including one apiece in the final 10 minutes to grab all three points and send Colorado Springs into the top four in the Western Conference – the Switchbacks came out on top while extending their undefeated run to eight games.

“I thought in the first half Yosuke [Hanya] and Maaliqe [Foster] looked really threatening,” said Switchbacks Head Coach James Chambers. “I thought they were brilliant as players, and then the second half, you know Yos had a worldy in the first half and then the next three goals came from the two boys. They were exceptional, they really were, and they were a threat all night. They got tired as the game wore on, but they bailed us out tonight, they bailed the team out tonight.”

As Chambers pointed out, the Switchbacks have needed their defense to come through during this run – see goalkeeper Christian Herrera’s display in Memphis last weekend. Getting Foster on the scoresheet for the first time this season and the attack into gear overall is a great set-up for a double match-week on the road against Las Vegas Lights FC and first-placed New Mexico United.

Three Up

Photo courtesy Hartford Athletic

1. Michee Ngalina, Hartford Athletic – That’s the former Championship Young Player of the Year we remember. Ngalina’s brace inside the opening 16 minutes against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC got everyone feeling good and set up a big win for the hosts at Trinity Health Stadium.

2. Bryce Jamison, Orange County SC – The 18-year-old U.S. youth international didn’t end up on the winning side, but his two finishes – one from his left foot, the other from the right, as noted in the second highlight by USYNT teammate Duran Ferree – were superb. Silver lining for the visitors.

3. Lindo Mfeka, Oakland Roots SC – The South African chose the best possible moment for his best performance of the season so far with a brace in Oakland’s 3-2 victory against Sacramento Republic FC, its first at Heart Health Park in club history. That’s four wins in the last five overall for Roots.

Three Down

1. Charleston Battery – Yes, things could have absolutely been different if Nick Markanich’s shot with six minutes to go finds the back of the net instead of the crossbar, but that’s three consecutive games without a goal for Charleston. After conceding twice late to Le Rouge, the Battery have been caught by Indy in second in the East.

2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Luck – It’s hard to go closer than the Hounds did to scoring on Saturday night – how Kazaiah Sterling’s first-half strike didn’t spin into the net off the left post instead of through the six-yard area and wide of the other upright was unbelievable – but they’re just snakebit right now.

3. Republic FC’s Two-Man Attack – With the options available currently, Sacramento will likely persist and see if two of Kieran Phillips, Trevor Amann and Sebastian Herrera can find some chemistry, but before Herrera was removed on Saturday for Cristian Parano it posted a 0.19 Expected Goals mark. After Parano’s introduction with Phillips and then Amann playing as a lone forward, Sacramento produced 1.58 Expected Goals in the final half-hour.


- It was great to see Oalex Anderson bring the confidence scoring twice on international duty back with him to North Carolina FC on Sunday night. Tremendous entertainment, and a run of four consecutive games with a goal for club and country.

- Bless your heart, Talen Maples, what a mistake to make. New Mexico United is still top of the Western Conference – and Greg Hurst gave Memphis 901 FC everything it could handle before it saw out a big 2-1 win – but I’m guessing it was a long plane ride back to Albuquerque for the center back.

- There aren’t many players with the versatility to go from playing center back on a Wednesday night to center forward on Saturday night. Tip of the hat to Memphis 901 FC’s Lucas Turci.

- When it rains, it pours for San Antonio FC. When it doesn’t even go right for Jorge Hernandez – who continues to be among the league’s best this season – then there’s not much you can do except keep trying.

- We had a suspicion Loudoun United FC and Las Vegas Lights FC would be sneakily good on Friday night, and it didn’t disappoint. Great action, and you could see why the Lights went out and got Nicholas Ammeter as a goalkeeper. Some big saves in there.

- Still no home wins this season for El Paso Locomotive FC, but the last two outings have shown an improvement defensively in terms of the chances they’re offering up to opponents. The playoff spots aren’t as far as they were.

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