One new name enters the USL Record Book, and helped keep his club on course for potential record-setting moments further down the line, in a weekend that also saw a tour de force performance in a losing effort, one of the league’s stalwart forwards move within a goal of a milestone and a top young talent put himself on the verge of a historic moment this Wednesday night.
Here are 11 numbers that summed up the past weekend in Week 27 of the 2018 USL regular season.
15 – Since FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma reached double-digit assists for the season by the start of August, it only felt like a matter of time and chances taken before he became the new single-seasons assists record-holder in the USL’s modern era. On Sunday evening, in FCC’s remarkable 4-3 victory against Toronto FC II before a crowd of 27,275 fans at Nippert Stadium, that day arrived, and did so in some style. Ledesma’s three-assist performance, his second this season, moved him to 15 assists for the season, passing both Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Matthew Dallman (2013) and Reno 1868 FC’s Chris Wehan (2017). The performance helped FCC extend its winning streak to seven games and undefeated streak to 18, both within range of USL regular-season records for Cincinnati to claim this season as the club continued its march to the USL Regular Season Championship.
8 – If not for Ledesma, the performance everyone would have been talking about from the contest at Nippert Stadium would have been that of Toronto FC II’s Tsubasa Endoh, who instead shared the stage with the FCC playmaker after a stupendous hat trick that might measure as the best of the season so far. Each of Endoh’s tallies came from distance, and it reached a point that when his third finish of the game that picked out the top-right corner from 25 yards with 17 minutes to go to put Toronto ahead for a second time you weren’t even surprised he’d done it again. Endoh has been in sparkling form since rejoining Toronto in early August and has now scored eight goals over the past six games to lead a strong attacking turnaround for the side over that span that will continue to make Toronto dangerous down the stretch.
6 – Endoh has scored eight goals over the past six games for Toronto, but thanks to being held scoreless on August 31 against ATL UTD 2 he hasn’t quite matched the feat of Swope Park Rangers forward Hadji Barry, who on Saturday evening scored in a sixth consecutive game for his side to pull level with the USL modern-era record set by Dane Kelly for Reno 1868 FC last season. Barry’s goal was the first in a seven-goal thriller between the Rangers and Saint Louis FC at Children’s Mercy Park that saw STLFC come out on top with a 4-3 win – more on that in a minute – but for Barry a chance at making history arrives on Wednesday night when the Rangers take on San Antonio FC in a game that also has major playoff implications for both sides.
1,087 – Saint Louis FC navigated 1,087 miles between Real Monarchs SLC’s Zions Bank Stadium and the Swope Park Rangers’ Children’s Mercy Park over the course of Week 27 and came up with four points that may have paved the way to a place in the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time in its history. The club’s victory against the Swope Park Rangers on Saturday evening moved STLFC level on points with the Rangers with four games to go as Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ roster management came to the fore. Making six changes from the starting lineup that faced the Monarchs in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night, STLFC’s depth helped it claim a 2-1 halftime lead despite conceding the opening goal, and the second-half introductions of Joey Calistri and Kyle Greig resulted in the insurance goals the visitors needed to stave off a massive fightback by Swope Park in the closing stages and hold onto all three points.
257 – San Antonio FC won’t have as arduous a journey in terms of distance in Week 28 with only 257 miles separating the Rangers’ Children’s Mercy Park and Saint Louis’ Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, but after SAFC’s 2-1 loss to Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Saturday night it could be a week that defines the club’s season after slipping below the playoff line in the West. The upcoming week’s trip was always going to have pressure attached to it given the way the playoff race had shaped up over the past few weeks, but now San Antonio is the side facing the uphill fight on the road in its quest for a second consecutive playoff berth after losing a first-half lead to the last-place side in the conference.
3 – As disappointing as Saturday’s loss was for San Antonio, there should be plenty of credit given to a Tulsa Roughnecks FC side that claimed just its third victory of the season in front of the fans at ONEOK Field. Officially eliminated from playoff contention, the Roughnecks have had plenty of downs this season after the high of reaching the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time a season ago, and the players could easily have collectively let their heads drop after conceding the opening goal against San Antonio. Instead, they fought back and produced a fine counterattacking goal by Eti Tavares that came from a tremendous piece of work by Jesus Ferreira. With the side set to face Sacramento Republic FC and the Swope Park Rangers on home turf this week, the Roughnecks still could have something to say about this year’s postseason without being part of it themselves.
16 – There have been some brilliant additions to Phoenix Rising FC this season that have helped drive the club to new heights in terms of the Western Conference standings – which the side sat top of for the first time on Saturday night – but among all of that there has been stalwart forward Chris Cortez, who thanks to his game-winning goal in the club’s 1-0 victory against Seattle Sounders FC 2 at Cheney Stadium reached 49 regular-season goals for his USL career. Cortez has notched almost one-third of those goals this season with 16 tallies in 2018, which has also put him two goals away from becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer as well, and as well-liked as Cortez is within the club and by its fans it will certainly bring plenty of smiles should he reach both milestones by the end of the regular season.
32 – There were once again numerous spectacular finishes over the course of the past week, but the effort by Reno 1868 FC’s Eric Calvillo that flew into the top-left corner from 32 yards out for his first goal for the club had added significance as it lifted the hosts to a 1-0 victory against the LA Galaxy II at Greater Nevada Field on Saturday night. 1868 FC had been in a little bit of a funk over the previous seven games, picking up just four points and one win over that span, but by kicking off a four-game homestand with a solid victory against a Los Dos side that has recently played spoiler to others, things could be getting back on track for the side. With Las Vegas Lights FC heading north next Saturday for the final edition of the Silver State Cup, the timing couldn’t be better for Reno to make its late-season run to a postseason berth.
19 – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC had huffed and puffed only for Louisville City FC’s defense to hold firm for almost all of Saturday night’s top-four clash between the Eastern Conference contenders at Highmark Stadium, but with the Hounds’ 19th shot of the game from the penalty spot by Kenardo Forbes the hosts were able to find a point and retain second place in the standings in a contest that wouldn’t have been amiss in the postseason itself. It certainly made a change for Riverhounds SC from its previous two outings, when late goals had taken points off the table for the side, but with a two-point edge on both Louisville and the Charleston Battery for second place and all three sides having six games to go in the regular season the battle to claim the No. 2 seed is going to be one to watch closely over the next four weeks.
4 – The Tampa Bay Rowdies didn’t get everything they were looking for in terms of their playoff wishes this weekend – the victories by Ottawa Fury FC and North Carolina FC in particular weren’t good for their prospects – but the side itself managed to keep itself alive thanks to Sebastian Guenzatti’s fourth goal in the month of September that downed ATL UTD 2 in a 1-0 win on Saturday night. Having gone without a goal over the first six months of the season, Guenzatti has made the most of his opportunity in the starting lineup and came up with a fine turning finish just past the half-hour mark that proved decisive and ended Atlanta’s two-game winning streak. The Rowdies still have a mountain to climb, starting on Tuesday night in the USL Game of the Week against Nashville SC, but they’re still alive for now, which is all you can ask for.
13 – The Rowdies didn’t gain as much ground on the postseason places in part thanks to Ottawa Fury FC’s Maxime Crepeau, whose league-leading 13th shutout of the season helped the side to a 2-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers and a move into seventh place in the tightly-packed center of the Eastern Conference standings. The Canadian international has been essential to Fury FC’s success in 2018, making up for an attack that has at time run hot and cold, and in the process Crepeau himself is on the verge of a piece of history after tying Brandon Miller’s total of 13 shutouts for the Rochester Rhinos in the 2015 USL regular season. With four games left to secure its first playoff berth in the USL, Fury FC is going to ask Crepeau to carry a large part of the load again as it visits Louisville City FC this Saturday, but it’s a weight the 24-year-old has shown clearly he’s ready to bear.