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USL Insights – Duel in the Desert

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/20/17, 3:09PM EDT


SPR’s Oliveira continues comeback against Rising FC and Rooney

The Swope Park Rangers will take aim at a piece of USL history this Sunday night when they look for an eighth consecutive regular-season victory. Standing in their way is a Phoenix Rising FC side that is coming off its best performance of the season so far, and is set to introduce new addition Didier Drogba to its fans at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex.

While those two storylines dominate the contest, the undercard brings together two players who have shone brightly since the start of the 2016 season for their respective clubs. For the Swope Park Rangers, attacking midfielder Kevin Oliveira was one of the brightest players in the league until his season was cut short by a torn ACL. Last Saturday, Oliveira saw his first competitive action since that injury in SPR’s 1-0 win against Sacramento, and coming on as a second-half substitute made a satisfactory return to the lineup, completing 12-of-14 passes as he looked to reacclimate to live action.

Rooney’s last outing, meanwhile, was one of the history books. The scorer of both goals in Rising FC’s 2-1 victory against the LA Galaxy II, Rooney became the first goal scorer in the first win of the club’s new era. Surrounded by illustrious teammates like Omar Bravo and Sean Wright-Phillips, Rooney pulled together a strong all-around performance in addition to his two goals, completing 83 percent of his 40 passes and recording two successful dribbles.

Kevin Oliveira, Swope Park Rangers
Passes + Shots vs. Sacramento, 4/15/17

Luke Rooney, Phoenix Rising FC
PASSES + SHOTS VS. LA Galaxy II, 4/8/17

With the stage set for a memorable night for both clubs, both Oliveira and Rooney could be in the spotlight again on Sunday night.


Orange County SC will enter this weekend’s I-405 Derby in high spirits after taking two wins from its first three outings this season, with a variety of players having made a difference so far. Leading the way has been former Chicago Fire Homegrown player Victor Pineda, but with seven different players having recorded multiple chances so far this season, there’s plenty of praise to go around.

Pineda, though, is the one who has helped pull the strings most efficiently so far this season for Head Coach Logan Pause. The 24-year-old leads the team with an 85-percent passing completion mark, and is fourth on the team in passes attempted as he patrols the right-center side of the field for Orange County. Add in his Fans’ Choice USL Goal of the Week strike against Portland, and his impact since arriving has been impressive.

Pineda and his teammates have looked to get forward quickly so far this season, with 42 percent of their passes being made toward the opponents’ goal. A 50-percent completion rate on OC’s long passes has also allowed the side to find success on the counter-attack, which could prove important against the Galaxy II, who have already conceded two counter-attack goals this season.

Los Dos can counter-attack well, too, but have been apt to be more patient at times this season, moving forward with only 38 percent of their passes so far. With the side in a three-game losing streak, the Galaxy II will want to break out of their slump and find an answer to their recent struggles.

Victor Pineda, Orange County SC
Passes + Shots vs. Portland, 4/8/17

Establishing tempo, and keeping Orange County from accelerating away, will be critical. 

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