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Gameday Report: September 15, Week 27

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/15/18, 10:16PM EDT

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Riverhounds SC's rally earns 2-2 draw with Louisville; STLFC defeats Rangers, SAFC falls, Reno wins in Western race


Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. For 85 minutes it looked as though it simply wasn’t going to be Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s night, but in a thrilling late comeback the hosts battled back to retain second place in the Eastern Conference after a 2-2 draw with Louisville City FC that saw the visitors’ defensive resistance fracture at the worst possible moment for the defending USL Cup champion. Pittsburgh had done everything but score, while Louisville’s Cameron Lancaster had finished clinically for his 19th goal of the season as had defender Alex Souahy for his first professional goal to put Louisville ahead by two goals with 20 minutes to go. An unlucky deflection off Souahy that resulted in an own goal broke Louisville’s resistance with four minutes to go, however, and when Pittsburgh's Neco Brett was brought down for a penalty kick, Kenardo Forbes coolly converted in the first minute of stoppage time to ensure the hosts claimed a point in a thrilling top-four matchup.

2. Saint Louis FC introduced a new direction to the race for the playoffs in the Western Conference with a 4-3 victory against the Swope Park Rangers on Saturday evening at Children’s Mercy Park that broke the Rangers’ four-game winning streak and allowed STLFC to pull level on points with its regional rival. Saint Louis’ victory, which saw it both rally from a first-half deficit and then hold off a big late rally by the Rangers, ensured that neither Phoenix Rising FC or Orange County would be able to clinch a playoff place this weekend, and put the side into a far stronger chance of a first postseason berth.

3. The impact of Saint Louis’ victory was added to by the defeat of San Antonio FC by Tulsa Roughnecks FC, as the Roughnecks rallied from a deficit to take just their third victory of the season in a 2-1 win at ONEOK Field. San Antonio looked set for smooth sailing when it took the lead, and even when the Roughnecks equalized from the penalty spot it was the visitors that had more chances as they outshot their hosts in both halves. A quick counterattack put the Roughnecks ahead before the hour-mark, however, and with San Antonio unable to find a response its visits to the Swope Park Rangers on Wednesday night and Saint Louis on Saturday night now have serious make-or-break repercussions as the side slipped out of the playoff positions on Saturday night after Reno 1868 FC’s victory against the LA Galaxy II.

GAME REPORTS

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 2 (0), PHOENIX RISING FC (1)

TACOMA, Wash. – Phoenix Rising FC moved to the top of the Western Conference after Chris Cortez scored the only goal of a 1-0 win against Seattle Sounders FC 2 at Cheney Stadium. Rising FC took the lead in the 16th minute as Saad Abdul-Salaam played a clever one-two with Solomon Asante to get into the penalty area and set up Cortez for his 16th goal of the season with a low shot to the right corner. S2 went close to an equalizer on the half-hour mark when David Olsen fired over the crossbar from the right side of the penalty area, while Cortez almost added his second of the night with a well-struck volley that flashed past the right post a minute later, but Rising FC held its one-goal lead to the halftime break. Phoenix almost doubled its advantage four minutes into the second half when Billy Forbes had a low shot saved by S2 goalkeeper Calle Brown, and Kevon Lambert also went close as a punched clearance by Brown off a free kick deflected off the Jamaican international and spun just wide of the left post. S2 threatened with six minutes to go as a free kick from just outside the penalty area by Olsen was tipped over the crossbar by Rising FC goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski, while Phoenix almost put the game away moments later when Cortez’s sliding finish came off the left post after a clever chipped cross by Asante, but his early goal proved enough to take home all three points for the visitors.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Chris Cortez, Phoenix Rising FC
– Cortez produced a composed finish for the game-winning tally and almost bagged a second on the night through other chances that proved academic in Rising FC’s victory.

RENO 1868 FC (1), LA GALAXY II (0)

RENO, Nev. – Reno 1868 FC got a world-class finish by Eric Calvillo to earn a 1-0 victory against the LA Galaxy II at Greater Nevada Field that moved the side back into the Western Conference playoff positions. Reno got a big early chance when it was awarded a free kick just outside the top of the penalty area but Brian Brown blazed a shot high of the crossbar, while the Galaxy II’s Frank Lopez had a chance as he initially got in behind the 1868 FC defense only for Brenton Griffiths to recover and squeeze out his shot for a corner. The hosts took the lead in the 37th minute, however, as Eric Calvillo fired into the top-left corner from 35 yards out with a blistering right-footed finish, and Reno almost added a second a minute before halftime on a fierce half-volley by Lindo Mfeka that rattled the crossbar off a knockdown by Duke Lacroix. The hosts went close again four minutes into the second half as Lacroix was played in by Antoine Hoppenot only to corkscrew his shot wide of the near post from the left side of the penalty area, while Los Dos almost leveled with 15 minutes to go as Didie Traore’s weaving run led to a pass that set up Efrain Alvarez for a look on goal, only for Lacroix to block the shot behind for a corner. The visitors were unable to find a way past J.T. Marcinkowski in the Reno goal, however, as 1868 FC moved back into the playoff positions with the victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Eric Calvillo, Reno 1868 FC
– Calvillo’s goal was the moment of magic the contest needed and came as part of a solid defensive display from the youngster as 1868 FC claimed an important three points

TULSA ROUGHNECKS FC (2), SAN ANTONIO FC (1)

TULSA, Okla. – Tulsa Roughnecks FC rallied from a first-half deficit to take a 2-1 victory against San Antonio FC at ONEOK Field as it snapped SAFC’s three-game winning streak. San Antonio took the lead in the 18th minute as Ever Guzman reacted quickest after a collision going for a 50-50 ball in the penalty area and laid a pass back for Cesar Elizondo, who fired a low, first-time finish from the top of the box. The Roughnecks hit back in the 37th minute from the penalty spot after Paris Gee was fouled in the area, which allowed Nemanja Vukovic to shoot low to the left corner of the net to level. Guzman fired into the left side-netting in the 39th minute with a well-hit finish and also sent a header just wide of the right post as San Antonio looked to regain the lead before the halftime break, while Joaquin Rivas shot high of the crossbar 11 minutes into the second half for the Roughnecks. The hosts took the lead in the 57th minute, however, as Jesus Ferreira wove into the San Antonio penalty area to set up Eti Tavares for a simple finish into the right corner. SAFC almost hit back in the 66th minute only for Lance Laing’s close-range finish to be denied by Tulsa goalkeeper Fabian Cerda, and both Laing and Guzman had chances inside the final 20 minutes that went just wide of either upright, but the visitors were unable to find a late equalizer as the Roughnecks claimed an impressive home victory.  

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Claudio Muñoz, Tulsa Roughnecks FC
– Muñoz led a strong defensive effort by the Roughnecks, recording five interceptions, five clearances and three tackles and winning 10 of 12 duels overall.

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

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Rio Grande Valley FC found a second-half equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field. The Switchbacks took the lead in the eighth minute as Saeed Robinson curled home a finish from the top-left corner of the penalty area into the top-right corner of the net. The hosts almost doubled their lead as Mason Toye had his close-range chance miraculously turned wide by Toros goalkeeper Michael Nelson in the 20th minute. RGVFC’s first good chance arrived in the 36th minute when Aldo Quintanilla found space in the right side of the penalty area but had his shot tipped over by Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouaty, while Toye again went close for the hosts in first-half stoppage time on a counterattack that was turned away once more by Nelson. The Toros’ goalkeeper’s saves proved crucial with 19 minutes to go as the visitors equalized when a cutback from the left side of the penalty area near the goal line by Jesus Enriquez was headed into the right corner by Nicolas Perea, and RGVFC almost took the lead in the 79th minute when Pablo Aguilar’s low shot to the right corner was saved by Pouaty. The Switchbacks also almost found a late goal when Ayukokata Tambe shot just wide of the right post from almost 40 yards, but honors ended even as the Switchbacks’ playoff hopes drifted further away.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Michael Nelson, Rio Grande Valley FC
– Nelson finished with three saves, two of which helped keep the Toros in the game and allowed the side to rally for a draw in the second half on the road.

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (1), ATL UTD 2 (0)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies kept their USL Cup Playoffs hopes alive with a 1-0 victory against ATL UTD 2 at Al Lang Stadium before a crowd of 6,045. Tampa Bay had an early chance as Martin Vingaard had a low effort saved by Atlanta goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt in just the fourth minute, while Atlanta’s first good chance arrived in the 25th minute when Laurent Kissiedou found space for a shot from 20 yards that went wide of the right post. The Rowdies had a golden chance to take the lead in the 28th minute when Sebastian Guenzatti blazed over from the top of the six-yard area, but two minutes later Guenzatti made up for his miss as he fired home a turning shot into the bottom-left corner to put the hosts ahead. Tampa Bay was denied a second in the final minute of the first half as Hildebrandt made a low save on a drive from 25 yards by Kwadko Poku, while Pape Diakhite went close early in the second half but was unable to direct Taku’s corner kick on goal. Atlanta tried to level in the 73rd minute when Kissiedou fired a low shot to the right corner that was saved by Rowdies goalkeeper Daniel Vega, while Guenzatti had a chance to add a second for the hosts on a near-post finish off a low cross from the right with five minutes to go that went wide of the near-post, but the first-half goal stood as the winner as the Rowdies claimed all three points.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Zac Portillos, Tampa Bay Rowdies
– Portillos put in a good two-way performance as he recorded two key passes, won seven of nine duels and made three clearances and two tackles for the hosts.

PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (2), LOUISVILLE CITY FC (2)

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC scored twice in the closing stages to rally for a 2-2 draw with Louisville City FC at Highmark Stadium in a thrilling contest between the top-four Eastern Conference contenders. Riverhounds SC almost struck inside the opening minute as Romeo Parkes forced a good low save by Louisville goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, and the hosts went close again in the 18th minute as a turnover opened up a chance for Neco Brett, who rounded Ranjitsingh into the right side of the penalty area only for Louisville defender Paco Craig to clear his effort off the line to keep the game scoreless. Louisville took the lead in the 31st minute as a long ball by Craig to the top of the penalty area found Cameron Lancaster, who controlled and hit a turning finish on the volley into the bottom-left corner of the net. Brett was stonewalled again four minutes later has he first had a header saved by Ranjitsingh and then fired a volleyed finish on the rebound off the back of Louisville’s Speedy Williams, while Kenardo Forbes had a shot blocked four minutes before the break as the visitor’s defense held firm again. Louisville then doubled its lead with 20 minutes to go as a long ball into the penalty area following a corner by George Davis IV to the left side of the penalty area was headed back across goal by Craig to allow Alex Souahy to finish into the right corner. Pittsburgh almost pulled back a goal immediately, only for Parkes to send his finish wide of the right post after a lifted through-ball by Brett, but with four minutes to go the hosts found the net through an own goal as Joe Holland’s cross deflected off both Souahy and Ranjitsingh and into the net to make it a one-goal game. The Hounds then pulled level from the penalty spot as Brett was brought down in the area by Oscar Jimenez, which allowed Forbes to shoot home low to the right corner in the first minute of stoppage time.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Neco Brett, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
– Brett put in a big shift in attack for the hosts, having two shots well saved and another cleared off the line before he was fouled for what resulted in the equalizer from the penalty spot.

RICHMOND KICKERS (0), OTTAWA FURY FC (2)

RICHMOND, Va. – Ottawa Fury FC scored twice in the first half to claim a 2-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers at City Stadium that moved the side back into the playoff places in the Eastern Conference. Fury FC took the lead in the 10th minute as Carl Haworth found space on an overlapping run down the right to deliver a cross that was headed into his own net by Kickers defender Mallan Roberts. Richmond tried to reply just before the half-hour mark as Brandon Eaton forced a save by Ottawa goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, but the visitors doubled their lead in the 38th minute as Haworth curled in an Olimpico from the left side at the near post as a crowd of players prevented Kickers goalkeeper Brandon Barnes from punching clear. Ottawa almost added a third just before halftime as Steevan Dos Santos hit the right post after a cross from the left by Adonjah Reid, while Eddie Edward flashed a shot just wide right early in the second half. The Kickers threatened again in the 65th minute only for Raul Gonzalez to send his finish high from the top of the six-yard area, while Reid had a shot from the left side of the penalty area parried wide by Barnes nine minutes later, but neither side found the net late as the visitors took home all three points.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Carl Haworth, Ottawa Fury FC
– Haworth provided the dangerous cross that led to the own goal that opened the scoring and then added the second himself directly from a corner kick as Ottawa took an important three points.

SWOPE PARK RANGERS (3), SAINT LOUIS FC (4)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Saint Louis FC claimed a major road victory as it broke the Swope Park Rangers’ four-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory at Children’s Mercy Park. Saint Louis had a pair of early chances for Corey Hertzog and Michael Cox saved by Swope Park goalkeeper Eric Dick, but the hosts took the lead in the 22nd minute on their first effort on goal as Hadji Barry controlled a pass by Kharlton Belmar just inside the penalty area and shot home to the left corner of the net. The Rangers threatened to double their lead in the 35th minute as Belmar had a good chance blocked by Wal Fall, only for Saint Louis to equalize three minutes later via a defensive error as Hertzog stole possession from Dick on a backpass which allowed Cox to finish into an open net. Barry almost restored the Rangers’ lead in first-half stoppage time as his low shot was saved by STLFC goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, but Saint Louis went ahead moments before the halftime whistle as Tony Walls headed home the rebound after Lewis Hilton’s free kick from the top-left corner of the penalty area came back off the left post and presented itself for Walls’ finish. Saint Louis added a third as Joey Calistri scored moments after coming on as a substitute in the 59th minute with a low finish following a near-post flick-on by Wal Fall, and his deflected shot went off the outside of the right post with 14 minutes to go as the visitors looked to put the game away. STLFC added its fourth in the 82nd minute as Kyle Greig turned his marker well on the left side before breaking in on goal and finishing, but then Swope Park staged a late fightback as Tyler Blackwood answered two minutes later to cut the deficit to two goal. Ethan Vanacore-Decker then curled home a finish in the fourth minutes of stoppage time for the hosts, who then threw everything forward in search of an equalizer, but STLFC’s defense did enough to hold on to a crucial road victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Wal Fall, Saint Louis FC
– Fall helped Swope Park win possession consistently in midfield as he won seven of eight duels and completed 43 of 49 passes in another dynamic display in the center of the field.

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