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Gameday Report: July 28, Week 20

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 07/28/18, 9:04PM EDT

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Monarchs sweep past Phoenix in top-two clash; San Antonio notches first win against Energy FC


Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. In one of the biggest matches of the season so far, Real Monarchs SLC’s sharpness in front of goal proved the difference as it took a 4-1 victory against Phoenix Rising FC and ran its home record this season to 9-0-1 to remain in control at the top of the USL’s Western Conference. While both sides had first-half chances, the Monarchs ended with a 10-2 edge on Phoenix in shots on target for the contest, which helped Real claim its eighth consecutive home victory against what was its closest rival going into the night.

2. San Antonio FC couldn’t had asked for a better moment to make club history as it finally notched its first victory against OKC Energy FC in the eighth regular-season meeting between the sides and as a result moved into the playoff places in the USL’s Western Conference. Rallying back to take victory on Ever Guzman’s winner inside the final 10 minutes, San Antonio has now claimed three consecutive victories and has a clear inside track to the postseason on the rest of its rivals after Saturday night’s results.

3. Wuilito Fernandes proved the man of the hour for North Carolina FC as his first goal for the club arrived at the perfect moment to lift the hosts to a 2-1 victory against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to continue to breathe life into NCFC’s hopes of reaching the USL Cup Playoffs. Having been pegged back by the visitors on a sensational strike by Christiano Francois, things weren’t looking great for an NCFC side that was in major need of victory, but Fernandes provided just that with a well-taken finish which could end up as a key moment in the club’s season.

GAME REPORTS

RENO 1868 FC (1), SAINT LOUIS FC (2)

RENO, Nevada – Sam Fink scored late in stoppage time as Saint Louis FC took a 2-1 victory at Greater Nevada Field and ended Reno 1868 FC’s 16-game undefeated streak. Saint Louis went close to in the 10th minute as a free kick toward the left corner by Lewis Hilton was punched to safety by Reno goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski, but then 1868 FC was reduced to 10 men just five minutes later as Eric Calvillo was shown his second yellow card in four minutes to earn an early shower. Kyle Greig went close for STLFC with a header as the visitors looked to take advantage, but in the first minute of first-half stoppage time Chris Wehan put Reno ahead as he put away the rebound from Brian Brown’s powerful initial shot from the top of the penalty area. Hilton almost leveled for Saint Louis in the 69th minute, only for his shot to go just wide of the right post, but soon after the visitors were awarded a penalty kick that Wal Fall converted low to the right corner to even the score with 16 minutes to go. That set up Fink’s stoppage-time winner as the center back headed home off a long throw-in by Corey Hertzog that was flicked on at the right post by Fall to end Reno’s undefeated streak.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Sam Fink, Saint Louis FC
– Fink’s late game-winner capped a strong all-around display that saw him complete 77 of 86 passes and record two key passes in Saint Louis’ comeback. 

REAL MONARCHS SLC (4), PHOENIX RISING FC (1)

HERRIMAN, Utah – Real Monarchs SLC scored twice in either half to bolster its lead at the top of the Western Conference with a 4-1 win against Phoenix Rising FC at Zions Bank Stadium. Phoenix had a pair of chances in the opening half-hour as Chris Cortez first fired just wide of the right post and Billy Forbes hit a volley high off a cross by Cortez from the right, but the Monarchs took the lead in the 37th minute as Sebastian Velasquez and Maikel Chang combined to set up Velasquez for a finish to the top-left corner. Real doubled its lead six minutes later as Chang’s cross from the right was turned into his own net by Phoenix defender Mike da Fonte, and Rising FC was then reduced to 10 men just past the hour-mark as Gladson Awako was sent off after an altercation following a foul on Chang. The Monarchs didn’t take long to use their man-advantage as Chandler Hoffman scored in the 66th minute to make it a three-goal lead, and while Rising FC pulled a goal back through an own goal by Kalen Ryden 10 minutes later the Monarchs put the game away for good with six minutes to go through Andrew Brody’s strike that caromed in off the underside of the crossbar.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Sebastian Velasquez, Real Monarchs SLC
– Velasquez produced an outstanding opening goal, recorded one key pass and completed 38 of 44 passes overall in a fine team performance all-around.

OKC ENERGY FC (1), SAN ANTONIO FC (2)

OKLAHOMA CITY – San Antonio FC took its first victory in club history against OKC Energy FC in a 2-1 win at Taft Stadium that saw the visitors rally for all three points. Energy FC almost took the lead in just the second minutes as Atiba Harris put a header off the post before Callum Ross had the rebound cleared off the line, and the hosts again went close midway through the first half as Alex Dixon cut inside and forced a low save by SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo at the left post. OKC took the lead in the 58th minute as Philip Rasmussen curled a beautiful free kick just inside the left post from 20 yards, but San Antonio hit back 15 minutes later from the penalty spot as Mikey Lopez rolled his finish into the right corner of the net. The visitors then took the lead with nine minutes to go as a cross from the left was turned in at the top of the six-yard area off Charlie Ward’s cross, and while Energy FC had a late chance to equalize through Christian Volesky, SAFC held on for a big victory in the race for the USL Cup Playoffs.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Ever Guzman, San Antonio FC
– Guzman’s late winner secured a crucial victory for SAFC as it moved into the top eight in the Western Conference with its third consecutive win.

TULSA ROUGHNECKS FC (1), FRESNO FC (1)

TULSA, Okla. – Isaac Diaz scored a stoppage-time equalizer as Tulsa Roughnecks FC earned a 1-1 draw with Fresno FC at ONEOK Field. The Roughnecks went close to taking the lead in the 15th minute as Josh Morton’s header was turned away by an excellent save from Fresno goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, while Christian Chaney hit the crossbar for the Foxes moments later with a good volleyed finish from 12 yards out. The Foxes went ahead in the 63rd minute as a chipped free kick by Juan Pablo Caffa deflected in off Roughnecks defender Brandon Servania and into the net for an own goal, and the visitors almost doubled their lead three minutes later when Chaney again flashed a shot just over the crossbar from just outside the penalty area. As the game entered stoppage time, however, Diaz found space for a low shot to the left corner from the top-right side of the penalty area to earn the hosts a point.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Isaac Diaz, Tulsa Roughnecks FC
– Diaz had put together a solid game with two chances created and completing 30 of 35 passes before his late equalizer to earn Tulsa a point.

RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (1), COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC (0)

EDINBURG, Texas – A late goal by Pablo Aguilar lifted Rio Grande Valley FC to a 1-0 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at H-E-B Park. The Switchbacks almost took the lead in the ninth minute when Jamal Jack’s header off a corner kick from the left was just tipped over the crossbar by Toros goalkeeper Michael Nelson. Jordan Schweitzer also flashed a shot just over the crossbar soon after, while Jordan Burt was denied by a fingertip save by Nelson on a low shot in the 19th minute. Despite those chances the game went to the halftime break scoreless, and Carlos Small had the first good chance for the Toros in the 67th minute on a close-range finish that was turned away by Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouaty. Colorado Springs’ Josh Suggs rang the crossbar with a free kick with 18 minutes to go, but in the 83rd minute the Toros grabbed the lead as Aguilar fired home into the left corner of the net. Aldo Quintanilla almost added a second for the hosts on a curling shot with a minute to go that just missed the target, but the lone goal proved enough as the Toros ran their undefeated streak to six games.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Pablo Aguilar, Rio Grande Valley FC
– Aguilar produced a big game-winner for the Toros to earn the side victory and cap a solid individual display of his own.

TORONTO FC II (2), NASHVILLE SC (0)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Toronto FC II took its first victory of the season as goals shortly either side of halftime earned a 2-0 win against Nashville SC at Marina Auto Stadium. Nashville appeared to have taken an early lead only for Brandon Allen to be ruled offside on a close-range finish, and it was Toronto that ended up striking first 11 minutes before halftime as Luca Uccello converted from the penalty spot after Matthew Srbely had been brought down in the area. Srbely then doubled Toronto’s lead two minutes into the second half as he controlled a long throw-in and found space for a turning shot into the left corner. Nashville tried to get back into the game with 16 minutes to go on a first-time shot by Ropapa Mensah that was saved, but chances that flew off-target by Tucker Hume and Liam Doyle late on proved Nashville’s last hope as it came up empty.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Matthew Srbely, Toronto FC II
– Srbely helped Toronto earn its first victory of the season, first earning the penalty kick that put the side ahead and then producing a fine finish for the second goal of the night.

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (2), NEW YORK RED BULLS II (2)

ST. PETERBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Red Bulls II played to a 2-2 draw as Stefano Bonomo scored twice for the hosts at Al Lang Stadium against his former club. The Red Bulls II took the lead inside 90 seconds as the ball fell to Jared Stroud on the left side, allowing him to cut onto his right foot and hit a curling shot into the top-right corner for an early lead. The Rowdies hit back from the penalty spot after Junior Flemmings was brought down in the area, allowing Bonomo to level in the eighth minute, and a minute later Bonomo had a second to put Tampa Bay on top after a low cross by Flemmings to the center of the penalty area. The Rowdies were reduced to 10 men just before halftime, however, as Flemmings was sent off, and New York pulled level just past the hour-mark as Brian White put home a flicked header at the top of the six-yard area. Neither side found a late winner, however, as the Red Bulls II added a valuable road point to their pursuit of a place in the USL Cup Playoffs.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Stefano Bonomo, Tampa Bay Rowdies
– Bonomo took both goals sharply against his former side to give him three goals in his past two games for Tampa Bay.

CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE (1), PENN FC (1)

MATTHEWS, N.C. – The Charlotte Independence and Penn FC exchanged goals in the second half as they played to a 1-1 draw at the Sportsplex at Matthews. The game remained scoreless until just past the hour-mark when the Independence took the lead on a headed finish by Eamon Zayed after excellent work down the left by Alex Martinez to create space for the back-post cross. Aaron Dennis hit back for Penn FC with 18 minutes to go with a tremendous strike from the top of the penalty area into the top-right corner of the net, and the visitors looked to try and grab all three points as the game wound down as both Paulo Jr. and Jorge Rivera just missed the target with chances. Honors ended even, however, as neither side found a late breakthrough.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Aaron Dennis, Penn FC
– Dennis produced an outstanding finish to earn Penn a point they likely deserved on the road after carrying more of the attacking play on the night.

NORTH CAROLINA FC (2), PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (1)

CARY, N.C. – Wuilito Fernandes scored in the first minute of second-half stoppage time as North Carolina FC defeated Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 2-1 in dramatic fashion at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. North Carolina took the lead in the 25th minute when a quickly-taken throw-in gave Kyle Bekker space to find Daniel Rios breaking into the penalty area, and the Mexican cut back onto his right foot and fired low into the right corner for his 11th goal of the season. Riverhounds SC hit back 12 minutes into the second half as Christiano Francois drifted in from the right side and then produced a perfect curled finish to the far corner with the outside of his right foot to level. But while the visitors pushed to take the lead as the second half wore on, North Carolina grabbed a late winner as Fernandes fired home on the half-volley in the first minute of stoppage time after a free kick had been punched away at the top of the six-yard area by Hounds goalkeeper Dan Lynd.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Wuilito Fernandes, North Carolina FC
– Brought on with six minutes to go, Fernandes made the most of his opportunity to send the hosts to a big victory in their push for the USL Cup Playoffs

CHARLESTON BATTERY (3), RICHMOND KICKERS (0)

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery got a pair of goals by Nico Rittmeyer as they took a 3-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers at MUSC Health Stadium. The Battery took the lead in the 15th minute when Rittmeyer found plenty of space on the left to receive a pass from O’Brian Woodbine and shoot low into the right corner past advancing Kickers goalkeeper Travis Worra. Richmond almost hit back just before halftime as Yudai Imura’s low shot was tipped just wide of the left post by Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky, but Rittmeyer doubled Charleston’s lead in first-half stoppage time as he tucked home a chance after Worra couldn’t corral a low cross from the right cleanly. The Battery added to their lead seven minutes into the second half as Ataulla Guerra headed home his 12th goal of the season, and despite the Kickers creating some chances to try and pull a goal back in the final half-hour Charleston held firm to pick up a fourth consecutive victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Nico Rittmeyer, Charleston Battery
– Rittmeyer scored the opening two goals of the game as O’Brian Woodbine also featured prominently in another good win for the Battery on home turf.

LA GALAXY II (3), PORTLAND TIMBERS 2 (4)

CARSON, Calif. – Foster Langsdorf scored twice after coming on as a halftime substitute to lead the Portland Timbers 2 to a 4-3 victory against the LA Galaxy II at StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium. The game go out to a fast start as Ethan Zubak scored after just 43 seconds to put the Galaxy II ahead after a clever piece of play by Miguel Aguilar and Portland answered two minutes later on a header by Jeremy Ebobisse from a corner kick. Los Dos regained the lead in the 10th minute as Justin Dhillon scored on the rebound after his penalty kick had been saved by Portland’s Kendall McIntosh, but again T2 hit back as Eryk Williamson put home a first-time finish into the right corner from Ebobisse. Portland took the lead nine minutes into the second half as Langsdorf headed home Andre Lewis’ cross from the right. Langsdorf then added his second and T2’s fourth of the contest in the 63rd minute as he beat the Galaxy II offside trap and finished low for his 10th goal this season, but the Galaxy II pulled a goal back with 12 minutes to go when Frankie Lopez’s effort from a tight angle on the left deflected off Modou Jadama for an own goal. Los Dos were unable to find an equalizer, however, as T2 walked away with a big three points.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Foster Langsdorf, Portland Timbers 2
– Langsdorf’s two second-half goals proved the difference in the contest as T2 completed a season sweep of its series with Los Dos.

OTTAWA FURY FC (0), LOUISVILLE CITY FC (3)

OTTAWA – Louisville City FC picked up a second consecutive victory as it defeated Ottawa Fury FC 3-0 on Saturday afternoon at TD Place. Louisville took the lead in the 13th minute when Paolo DelPiccolo headed home a corner kick delivered to the top of the six-yard area by Oscar Jimenez. Ottawa almost answered midway through the first half as Tony Taylor flashed a shot just wide of the left post from the right side of the penalty area, and the hosts had other chances to level before the halftime break that went astray. Louisville doubled its lead just two minutes into the second half, however, as Paco Craig tucked away Jimenez’s free kick after having space to control in the penalty area. Speedy Williams then added a third for Louisville in the 57th minute with a sharp left-footed finish from 15 yards, and while the visitors had Alex Souahy sent off with 17 minutes to go there was no way back for Ottawa into the contest.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Oscar Jimenez, Louisville City FC
– Jimenez produced two excellent set piece deliveries to provide the assists on the opening two goal for the visitors to pave the way to victory.

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