skip navigation

How Oakland Roots continues to rise, and the other key storylines from Week 18 in the USL Championship

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 07/08/24, 9:30AM EDT


The Battery look like their old selves again, and San Antonio is finally back in the win column

Oakland Roots SC added another marquee victory to its resume as Johnny Rodriguez scored the winner against Louisville City FC on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Oakland Roots SC

The Fourth of July holiday weekend delivered some eye-catching result, outstanding individual displays and the end of one of the most perplexing streaks we’ve seen in the USL Championship for a while.

Here are the three big storylines we took away from Week 18’s 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.



If there were any questions about Oakland Roots SC’s potential as a serious challenger in the Western Conference, its latest statement victory should leave no doubt. Roots not only took a 1-0 victory against Players’ Shield leader Louisville City FC on Saturday night at Pioneer Stadium but did so by stifling the best attack in the Championship this season.

  • SHUT UP SHOP: Oakland was disciplined in its own half as its midfield dropped into coverage to give LouCity little space to create in its usual manner. Louisville’s 0.83 Expected Goals mark wasn’t its lowest of the season – that came in its opening game of the year in El Paso – but the visitors were held to a season-low nine shots and only created one big chance having averaged 2.47 per game previously.

  • JOHNNY ON THE SPOT: Once again, Johnny Rodriguez was the player to deliver the winner for Roots as his 62nd-minute finish off a nifty piece of play by Lindo Mfeka decided the game. Rodriguez now has six goals this season and has scored in each of the past three games.

  • ONWARD AND UPWARD: Roots now sits in second place in the Western Conference and has marquee victories under its belt against LouCity, Sacramento Republic FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies during its current run of five wins in six games. Interim Head Coach Gavin Glinton keeps finding the right combinations, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if he gets handed the reins full-time.


The Charleston Battery's Nick Markanich and Leland Archer each took care of business in Friday night's 2-0 win against Birmingham Legion FC. | Photo courtesy Michael Wiser / Charleston Battery

The Charleston Battery came back to life in its victory against North Carolina FC in Week 17, but against Birmingham Legion FC on Friday night the reigning Eastern Conference title holders looked like the side that had dominated the opening two months of the season. Nick Markanich’s two goals proved the difference in the 2-0 victory, but the hosts also hit the woodwork twice as the final score could have been more decisive.

  • SETTING THE TEMPO: When the Battery are at their best, they’re dictating how the game is going to be played. That was true for most of Friday night’s game, where the hosts dominated possession, completing more than 500 passes with central midfielder Aaron Molloy as the pivot completing 92 on his own. That kept Legion from finding a rhythm of its own and left the visitors few chances to capitalize on.

  • MARKANICH’S FLOW: After breaking his scoring drought against North Carolina, Markanich was ready to fire at any opportunity. His eight shots tied for the most by an individual player in a game in the Championship this season and accounted for one-third of the Battery’s overall attacking efforts.

  • WINNING THE BATTLES: The Battery were also strong across the field in winning possession. The hosts won 65.2 percent of overall duels and 71.4 percent of aerial duels, and it wasn’t just Molloy (5 of 6) and Chris Allan (7 of 8) doing the work. Center forward MD Myers won 5 of 7 duels and Arturo Rodriguez 3 of 3 after coming on as a substitute, not bad for a pair of attacking pieces.

“I thought we played an excellent game,” said Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann. “Candidly, we were on top of them. Enzo [Martinez] had a really good chance in the first half, but other than that, it was really one-way traffic. That's a good team, really well-coached. They were the number one team in the league on the road, so to handle them like we did shows a lot of improvement.”


San Antonio FC's Juan Agudelo and Jorge Hernandez are on the same page, and that's going to be a big plus for the 2022 title winners moving forward. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

The most unwanted streak in San Antonio FC’s history is finally over. Thanks to Juan Agudelo’s second consecutive two-goal performance, the hosts took a 2-1 victory against Phoenix Rising FC at a soggy Toyota Field on Saturday night in a much-needed boost to the side’s confidence.

  • SAME WAVELENGTH: Agudelo’s opening goal of the game six minutes before halftime was another example of the chemistry he and 2023 Golden Playmaker Jorge Hernandez have developed. Hernandez’s teasing free kick from the left picked out Agudelo for a sharp volleyed finish back across goal, moving Hernandez into a tie for the league lead with seven assists this season.  

  • HOLDING FIRM: San Antonio had to weather pressure from Phoenix to open the second half and worryingly let the lead slip on a fine header by Fede Varela just before the hour-mark. There were other caution flags, too, as Phoenix won 65.8 percent of duels and 14 of 17 tackles, but SAFC held on determinedly until a rash challenge by Phoenix’s Dariusz Formella felled Hernandez just inside the penalty area, allowing Agudelo to convert with nine minutes to go.

  • CAUSE FOR RELIEF: There’s still work for San Antonio to do, but all that mattered on Saturday night was finally getting back in the win column. The rest should come given the squad SAFC has when at full strength.

“We understand we are where we are right now,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina, “but as I mentioned on Friday, if there’s a team, a group of players and a coaching staff that can dig out and position yourself to be in playoffs, it’s right here in San Antonio.”

Three Up

Monterey Bay F.C.'s Carlos Herrera made his first appearance of the season on Saturday night and delivered a nine-save shutout. Pretty, pretty, pretty good. | Photo courtesy Mallory Neil / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Evan Conway – The North Carolina FC forward’s two goals in 77 seconds paved the way to victory against Miami FC on Saturday night, and he’s now notched three goals and one assists in the past two outings.

Bryce Jamison – The United States youth international scored his fourth goal of the season and drew a penalty kick in a big victory for Orange County SC against Memphis 901 FC. It’s a big year for the 18-year-old, and he’s putting in some big performances.

Carlos Herrera – The Monterey Bay F.C. goalkeeper stepped in for his first game of the season and delivered a nine-save shutout against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. That’s only one fewer than the most saves in a game this season.

Three Down

Miami FC’s Defense – Miami’s defense simply cannot sustain a 90-minute performance right now. After allowing four against North Carolina FC, it has conceded 28 second-half goals this season, 11 more than any other club.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Attack – We’re up to a 573-minute scoreless streak for the Hounds after their defeat to Monterey Bay, and it’s showing. Kenardo Forbes, of all people, lashing wide late summed it up on Saturday.

Abdoulaye Diop – We love what the Senegalese midfielder brings to the table, but he’s got to keep his head and avoid needless yellow cards. It ended up being costly for Detroit City FC against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.


Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC's Zach Zandi's new hairstyle had him looking like a winner as he scored the decisive goal against FC Tulsa on Thursday night. | Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

#COSvTUL: Zach Zandi apparently went to the hair salon and asked for the Goku Super Saiyan look recently. It definitely worked, given that last-minute winner against Tulsa.

#RIvIND: Great comeback for Rhode Island to back up its recent form, and a little concerning for Indy ahead of its Open Cup game against Atlanta United FC. The Boys in Blue are going to have to tighten up.

#DETvTBR: Giving up the late equalizer was tough for Detroit City FC – and probably deserved for the Rowdies – but Elvis Amoh keeps putting in strong shifts for Le Rouge. If he stays healthy, there will be more where that came from.

#NCvMIA: North Carolina was feeling pretty good about itself on Saturday night, but in honesty that’s what a good team should be doing against a Miami side that’s now taken one point from its last 10 games.

#OCvMEM: Orange County’s finishing was on point – shout-out to Owen Lambe’s banger in particular – and produced one of the results of the weekend. Memphis will need a good response in Detroit.

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos