TAMPA, Fla. – Three top seeds fell in the opening weekend of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs as surprise road victories reduced the field vying for the 2017 USL Cup to eight on a weekend that saw two penalty shootouts, another contest finish after extra time, and some standout finishes as teams advanced to the Eastern and Western Conference Semifinals.
The 2017 USL Regular Season-champion Real Monarchs SLC were the first favorite to fall on Friday night as No. 8-seed Sacramento Republic FC claimed a 3-1 victory in a penalty shootout after the teams had played to a 1-1 draw through extra time. Republic FC will visit the defending Western Conference champion Swope Park Rangers in the Western Conference Semifinals after the No. 4-seed Rangers also advanced in a penalty shootout, defeating No. 5-seed Phoenix Rising FC 4-2 from the spot after rallying to equalize in extra time after Didier Drogba had given Phoenix the lead in a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.
The defending USL Cup champion New York Red Bulls II claimed the next big road victory, as the Eastern Conference’s No. 7-seed took a 4-0 victory against the No. 2-seed Charleston Battery on Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium. The Red Bulls II will now head to Florida to face the No. 3-seed Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night after former German international Marcel Schäfer scored twice in the Rowdies’ 3-0 victory against No. 6-seed FC Cincinnati at Al Lang Stadium.
The hottest team going into the USL Cup Playoffs, OKC Energy FC, continued its winning streak from the regular season into the postseason as Wojciech Wojcik’s goal late in the first half gave the No. 6-seed Energy FC a 1-0 victory against No. 3-seed Reno 1868 FC at Greater Nevada Field on Saturday night. Energy FC will now head to face No. 2-seed San Antonio FC, which got a test from No. 7-seed Tulsa Roughnecks FC, but rallied to take a 2-1 victory in stoppage time as Ever Guzman converted from the penalty spot after Billy Forbes had been brought down in the area.
Form held consistent in the upper half of the Eastern Conference bracket as No. 1-seed Louisville City FC put in a comprehensive 4-0 victory against No. 8-seed Bethlehem Steel FC that saw defender Tarek Morad record his first two-goal game for the club. The No. 4-seed Rochester Rhinos got a sterner test from the No. 5-seed Charlotte Independence, but a deflected goal by Stefan Defregger in the 113th minute sent the Rhinos through with a 2-1 victory after extra time and set up a second USL Cup Playoffs meeting with Louisville.
Action will resume in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs next Saturday night with all four Conference Semifinals as the final four teams left standing in the pursuit of the 2017 USL Cup are decided.
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The 2017 USL Cup will air live on ESPNU and SiriusXM FC on Monday, Nov. 13 at 9 p.m. ET
2017 USL Cup Playoffs
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Saturday, Oct. 28
No. 1. Louisville City FC vs. No. 4 Rochester Rhinos, 7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field
No. 3 Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. No. 7 New York Red Bulls II, 7:30 p.m. ET, Al Lang Stadium
Western Conference Semifinals
Saturday, Oct. 28
No. 4 Swope Park Rangers vs. No. 8 Sacramento Republic FC, 5 p.m. ET, Children's Mercy Park
No. 2 San Antonio FC vs. No. 6 OKC Energy FC, 8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field