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Gameday Report: August 18, Week 23

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 08/18/18, 9:04PM EDT

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Foxes edge past STLFC, keep playoff hopes alive; first-half goals lead FCC past Charleston


Photo courtesy Kiel Maddox / Fresno FC

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. Fresno FC kept its hopes of a trip to the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs alive with a 1-0 win against Saint Louis FC that continued to tighten the race for position in the Western Conference as Zach Ellis-Hayden’s long-range blast proved the difference at Chukchansi Park. With OKC Energy FC also taking its third consecutive victory on the night, there are now just three points separating the sides sitting between seventh and 11th place in the conference standings going into another key game on Sunday night as the ninth-place Swope Park Rangers host the sixth-place Reno 1868 FC.

2. The margins between success and disappointment were never so well illustrated as FC Cincinnati took a 3-0 victory against the Charleston Battery before a crowd of 27,142 at Nippert Stadium that saw Cincinnati extend its lead at the top of the Eastern Conference. FCC had already taken a first-half lead through Emmanuel Ledesma’s fine strike from 20 yards, but the Battery came inches away from leveling just before halftime as Ataulla Guerra’s shot from just outside the penalty area rang off the crossbar for the visitors. Cincinnati immediately countered and worked perfectly to set up Corben Bone for a finish that provided the hosts their second of the night, a margin the Battery wouldn’t be able to overcome.

3. The last time the LA Galaxy II had defeated Sacramento Republic FC was in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2015 USL Cup Playoffs, on the way to becoming the Western Conference champion for the first time. While that’s not likely to be in Los Dos’ future this season, the club’s 4-1 victory on Saturday night at Papa Murphy’s Park in front of a sellout crowd of 11,569 fans was almost as shocking as the club’s last regular-season victory in Sacramento, a 4-0 win as Republic FC bid farewell to former Head Coach Preki. As with other upsets we've seen in recent weeks, the Galaxy II's victory this Saturday night was another reminder there are still going to be twists and turns throughout the remainder of the regular season.

GAME REPORTS

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC (0), PHOENIX RISING FC (2)

LAS VEGAS – Phoenix Rising FC scored early and late to take a 2-0 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC before 6,720 fans at Cashman Field. Omar Salgado almost put Lights FC ahead within the opening minute as a powerful shot to the top-left corner was just turned away by Rising FC goalkeeper Zac Lubin, but the visitors then took the lead in the 11th minute as Solomon Asante put home a finish after his initial header had been parried by Las Vegas goalkeeper Ricardo Ferrino. Las Vegas’ Daigo Kobayashi also tested Lubin with a low free kick just before halftime, while Phoenix’s Kevaughn Frater shot just wide of the left post in the 68th minute. Asante almost added his second of the night in the 81st minute as Ferrino made a good save to deny him, but with six minutes to go Rising FC was awarded a penalty kick as Billy Forbes was brought down in the area and Frater converted coolly to put away the victory for the visitors.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Kevaughn Frater, Phoenix Rising FC
– Frater was a workhorse up front for the visitors, winning 14 of 23 duels while finishing with two shots on target, and was rewarded with a late goal from the penalty spot.

SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC (1), LA GALAXY II (4)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The LA Galaxy II defeated Sacramento Republic FC for the first time since the 2015 season in a 4-1 romp before a sellout crowd of 11,569 fans at Papa Murphy’s Park. The Galaxy II took the lead in the seventh minute when Miguel Aguilar stole possession in the attacking and roofed his finish from the right side of the penalty area and went close to doubling the advantage when John Requejo forced a low save by Republic FC goalkeeper Josh Cohen 10 minutes later. The visitors struck from the penalty spot in the 20th minute, however, as Ethan Zubak converted after Frank Lopez was brought down in the area, and five minutes later Jean Engola made it three as he converted from the middle of the penalty area after a low free kick had been angled in. Lopez added a fourth in the 41st minute as he broke in alone after stealing possession near the halfway line and fired low into the left corner of the net. Sacramento pulled a goal back in the 56th minute when Requejo redirected a low cross by Villyan Bijev just inside his left post for an own goal, but that would be as close as the hosts got to a comeback as the side suffered its second consecutive loss.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Ethan Zubak, LA Galaxy II
– Zubak scored from the penalty spot, but also put in a well-rounded display that saw him record four key passes and win 9 of 14 duels to captain his side to an emphatic victory.

FRESNO FC (1), SAINT LOUIS FC (0)

FRESNO, Calif. – Fresno FC claimed a 1-0 victory against Saint Louis FC at Chukchansi Park on Saturday night to bring an end to STLFC’s four-game winning streak. Fresno hit the woodwork in just the second minute as a long-range free kick by Juan Pablo Caffa rang off the right post, while Saint Louis also went close just before the half-hour mark when Foxes goalkeeper Kyle Reynish was called on to make two big saves on Wal Fall’s initial effort and Albert Dikwa’s chance on the rebound. The hosts went ahead in the 33rd minute, though, as Zach Ellis-Hayden powered home a shot from 25 yards into the top-left corner of the net. The Foxes almost doubled their lead six minutes into the second half as Christian Chaney’s low shot was kept out by STLFC goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, and Saint Louis’ Kadeem Dacres also went close in the 66th minute with a shot that flashed wide of the far post from the left side of the penalty area. Fresno’s Jemal Johnson was the next to go close, his low shot being parries by Gomez to deny Chaney a chance at a close-range finish, while Reynish was sharp to get down to Fall’s free kick with 20 minutes to go that was bound for the bottom-right corner. Fresno again went close to a second in the 81st minute as Alex Cooper’s shot was just turned around the left post by Gomez, but the first-half goal by Ellis-Hayden stood as the winner in a vital three points for the Foxes.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Zach Ellis-Hayden, Fresno FC
– Ellis-Hayden scored the only goal of the game and also recorded three tackles, one interception and won six of nine duels overall to help the Foxes to a shutout defensively.

REAL MONARCHS SLC (3), TULSA ROUGHNECKS FC (2)

HERRIMAN, Utah – Real Monarchs SLC needed a late winner to take a 3-2 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Zions Bank Stadium after the Roughnecks had rallied back from a two-goal deficit to level inside the final 10 minutes. Monarchs playmaker Sebastian Velasquez almost gave the hosts the lead in the 11th minute, only to be denied by an acrobatic stop by Roughnecks goalkeeper Fabian Cerda, but a minute later off a corner Real broke through when Chandler Hoffman redirected home a low shot by Velasquez after a corner had been half-cleared to the top of the penalty area. Masta Kacher also went close for the hosts in the 18th minute with a curling finish that Cerda palmed wide, while Tulsa’s Josh Morton sent a header from a corner kick just over the crossbar as the visitors looked to answer on the half-hour mark, but five minutes later Hoffman had his second with a back-post header from Josh Heard’s cross from the right. Tulsa almost pulled a goal back inside a minute of the second half kickoff as Jesus Fereira’s shot was palmed over by goalkeeper Adam Grinwis, while Real’s Charlie Adams had a powerful shot from 20 yards turned wide by Cerda in the 49th minute and Hoffman saw his chance at a third come back off the right post four minutes later on a low finish, but the Roughnecks struck in the 55th minute as Fereira tapped home from close range on a low cross by Paris Gee. Tulsa then leveled with seven minutes to go as Eti Tavarez won a 50-50 challenge and finished into the left corner against his former side, only for the Monarchs to regain the lead three minutes later after Cerda brought down Juan Ignacio Mare for a penalty kick that Real’s Justin Portillo converted. Tulsa had one last chance in stoppage time to find another leveler, but Nemanja Vukovic’s free kick flew high of the crossbar as the Monarchs held on for victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Chandler Hoffman, Real Monarchs SLC
– Hoffman scored the opening two goals of the game and also completed 15 of 17 passes and recorded two key passes over the contest.

RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (2), OKC ENERGY FC (4)

EDINBURG, Texas – OKC Energy FC scored twice in either half as it took a 4-2 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC at H-E-B Park for its third consecutive win overall. Energy FC almost took the lead in the 32nd minute as Christian Volesky was denied by a good save from RGVFC goalkeeper Nico Corti, but just two minutes later Volesky fired into the top-right corner from the left side of the penalty area to leave Corti with no chance the second time around. The visitors added to their lead in the 36th minute as he lashed home a finish from the right side of the penalty area into the roof of the net, but the Toros pulled a goal back deep in first-half stoppage time as Matias Zaldivar fired home a low finish after the ball had pinballed around the penalty area following a corner kick. Volesky restored Energy FC’s two-goal lead nine minutes into the second half, however, with a volleyed finish off a cross by Dixon, and Adam Jahn added a fourth for the visitors in the 67th minute as he flipped a ball over the top past Corti before finishing. The Toros pulled a goal back from the penalty spot with 11 minutes to go as Todd Wharton shot into the right side, but that would be as close as the hosts came as Energy FC saw out the victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Christian Volesky, OKC Energy FC
– Volesky struck with a pair of fine finishes and ended the night with four shots on target as he led OKC to its third consecutive victory.
 

RICHMOND KICKERS (3), PENN FC (2)

RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers got a winner with 10 minutes to go by Fred Owusu Sekyere to claim a back-and-forth 3-2 victory against Penn FC at City Stadium before a crowd of 5,376. The game experience a lightning delay after just five minutes had gone, but once the game resumed Brian Shriver had the first good chance of the game in the 18th minute only to shoot just wide of the right post from the left side of the penalty area. Five minutes later, Penn took the lead as Lucky Mkosana converted from the penalty spot after a handball by the Kickers in the area, but the Kickers soon responded with a penalty kick of their own as Shriver found the net in the 27th minute to level. The Kickers then took the lead three minutes later as Heviel Cordoves tucked home a finish off Shriver’s assist, and Cordoves almost added a third three minutes before halftime only to be denied by a good save by Penn goalkeeper Romuald Peiser. The visitors almost leveled three minutes into the second half as Isaac Osae’s shot was blocked by Mekeil Williams with Kickers goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg beaten, but Penn’s equalizer arrived on the side’s second penalty kick of the night in the 54th minute as Walter Ramirez shot low into the left corner. The Kickers regained the lead in the 80th minute, however, as Luiz Fernando tracked down a through-ball by Shriver and centered back for Sekyere to finish, and while Penn had a pair of late chances through Tommy Heinemann, Spangenberg came up with two good saves to preserve the win for the hosts.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Brian Shriver, Richmond Kickers
– Shriver scored the opening goal, finished with three key passes and three shots overall while also completing 31 of 36 passes.

FC CINCINNATI (3), CHARLESTON BATTERY (0)

CINCINNATI – A pair of first-half goals led to a 3-0 victory for FC Cincinnati against the Charleston Battery before a crowd of 27,142 fans at Nippert Stadium on Saturday night to extend its lead at the top of the Eastern Conference to seven points. Cincinnati took the lead in the 21st minute when Emmanuel Ledesma stole possession in the attacking third and quickly fired a dipping shot from 20 yards that went off the underside of the crossbar and in. The game then swung further in FCC’s favor in the span of less than a minute at the end of the first half as first Charleston’s Ataulla Guerra rang a fierce shot off the crossbar from 20 yards before Cincinnati broke forward and saw Corben Bone put home a finish from the right side of the penalty area in stoppage time. The hosts tried to add to their lead after the break as Nazmi Albadawi forced a good low save at his near post by Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky in the 58th minute with a shot from the left side of the penalty area. Charleston had Patrick Okonkwo shoot just wide of the left post with 13 minutes to go as it tried to cut into its deficit, and FCC’s Justin Hoyte and Fanendo Adi had chances well saved by Kuzminsky inside the final 10 minutes as the hosts looked to tack on a late goal, but an own goal in stoppage time capped the scoring as Cincinnati extended its undefeated streak to 13 games.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Kenney Walker, FC Cincinnati
– Walker won 8 of 12 duels, completed 66 of 72 passes and helped FCC control the center of the field to claim victory to close out their homestand.

LOUISVILLE CITY FC (0), NASHVILLE SC (0)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville City FC and Nashville SC played to a 0-0 draw at Slugger Field in the first game for Louisville under new Head Coach John Hackworth. Louisville had the first good look on goal in the 14th minute when Niall McCabe sent a header just wide of the left post after a good delivery by George Davis IV from the right, and the hosts went close again just before the halftime break as Luke Spencer was unable to get full purchase on his header off a free kick from the right side by McCabe. Louisville continued to press early in the second half as first Speedy Williams and then Cameron Lancaster were both denied by saves from Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens, while Nashville’s Brandon Allen went close in the 57th minute with a first-time finish that flashed just wide of the right post after a good piece of work by Tucker Hume. Seven minutes later Hume went close himself as he forced a low save by Louisville’s Greg Ranjitsingh, and Louisville’s goalkeeper was called on again to palm away a dangerous cross by Ropapa Mensah with nine minutes to go. Neither side found a late breakthrough, however, as regular-season honors ended even over three games between the regional rivals.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Matt Pickens, Nashville SC
– Pickens recorded a five-save shutout that included a pair of outstanding early saves in the second half to keep the visitors on level terms. 

PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (0), CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE (0)

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC was held to a 0-0 draw by a 10-man Charlotte Independence at Highmark Stadium. Pittsburgh almost struck in the third minute as a sweeping pass by Kenardo Forbes released Neco Brett on goal, but Independence goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra made a big kick-save to deny the chance. Dykstra also got down well to keep out a shot by Riverhounds SC’s Christiano Francois in the 15th minute, and again five minutes before halftime after a clever piece of skill by Ben Zemanski opened up a shooting chance for the Haitian. Charlotte was reduced to 10 men in the 58th minute when Greg Jordan was sent off for his second bookable offense, and five minutes later Brett had another chance to put the hosts ahead in the 63rd minute but scuffed his finish wide of the left post. Despite being down a man, Charlotte went close in the 70th minute as Jake Areman shot just wide of the left post from inside the penalty area. Pittsburgh looked for a winner late as Brett fired just wide for the Hounds with eight minutes to go from the top-left corner of the six-yard area and Romeo Parkes had a header deflected wide of the net in the final minute, but the last-gasp chance in stoppage time for Pittsburgh’s Joe Greenspan went wide as the Independence held on for a draw.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Andrew Dykstra, Charlotte Independence
– Dykstra recorded a three-save shutout, including a tremendous early spot on Hounds forward Neco Brett, to earn Charlotte a point on the road.

OTTAWA FURY FC (0), INDY ELEVEN (0)

OTTAWA – Both sides hit the woodwork, but Ottawa Fury FC and Indy Eleven played to a 0-0 draw at TD Place on Saturday afternoon. Indy came close to the opening goal in the 20th minute when a good piece of interplay down the left released Zach Steinberger, but Seth Moses couldn’t redirect his cross on goal as he sent a first-time finish high. Fury FC threatened five minutes later as Steevan Dos Santos forced a low save by Indy goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams with a shot to the left corner, and Fôn Williams produced a massive stop 10 minutes before halftime to deny a point-blank header by Tony Taylor. Moses almost struck for Indy just before halftime with a shot from 25 yards that clipped the outside of the left post, while Soony Saad rang the crossbar for the visitors seven minutes into the second half before Elliot Collier shot over on a follow-up attempt. Ottawa had the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot on the hour-mark after Dos Santos was brought down just inside the penalty area, but the Cape Verde forward rang his shot off the left post. Saad hit the woodwork again with 14 minutes to go as his low shot from the left side of the penalty area came off the right post and caromed out, and that proved the last major chance as the playoff contenders ended scoreless.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Owain Fôn Williams, Indy Eleven
– The Welsh goalkeeper made a spectacular save to keep the game scoreless in the first half as he recorded his ninth shutout of the season with three saves and three punched clearances.

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