Orange County SC increased its lead atop the Western Conference with a 5-2 victory over Real Monarchs SLC on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC
1. Orange County SC scored three goals in the final 15 minutes of play to turn its clash against fellow Western Conference top three side Real Monarchs SLC into a 5-2 rout as the side celebrated officially clinching a playoff spot in style on Wednesday night at Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park. The result sees OCSC move four points clear atop the West standings ahead of Phoenix Rising FC, which has two games in hand. Meanwhile, the Monarchs remain in third place after losing for the fourth time in five games and will have to wait until at least Saturday to clinch a spot in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs. Real's road struggles continued on Wednesday night as the side allowed a season-high five goals and extended its winless run away from Zions Bank Stadium to seven games (0-6-1).
2. Hadji Barry wrote his name into the USL record book with his seventh consecutive game with a goal, surpassing Dane Kelly's mark set a season ago, and additionally set a Swope Park Rangers single-season record with his 15th goal of the season, but more importantly his goal led the Rangers to a crucial 2-0 win over San Antonio FC on Wednesday at Children’s Mercy Park. Tyler Blackwood added a goal and an assist as the Rangers picked up three points to solidify their position in sixth place in the Western Conference, while also creating a six-point gap between themselves and their opponents on the night. Defeat for San Antonio means the side remains in ninth place, two points behind Reno 1868 FC for the final playoff spot in the West, and will now face a must-win game this weekend on the road against fellow playoff contender Saint Louis FC.
3. Louisville City FC ended a four-match winless run and jumped into second place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 victory over Penn FC at FNB Field. The visitors shook off any ill-effects of throwing away a two-goal lead against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC this past weekend to end its road trip in the Keystone state with a win. Meanwhile, after falling at home to fellow Eastern Conference playoff hopeful North Carolina FC last week, Penn FC doubled down on home defeats at the worst possible time to put a serious dent in its playoff hopes. Penn has now lost three of its last four games overall and remains six points outside the playoff places in the East with just five games remaining. Making up ground won’t get easier as Penn hosts top-four sides FC Cincinnati and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in its next two matches.
IRVINE, Calif. – Orange County SC moved four points clear atop of the Western Conference with a 5-2 victory over Real Monarchs SLC on Wednesday night at Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park. The Monarchs got on the board first in the seventh minute of play when Kalen Ryden headed home Justin Portillo’s cross as the visitors executed a short corner routine to perfection. Aodhan Quinn tried to bring the home side back on level terms nine minutes later when he attempted an ambitious left-footed shot from distance but dragged it just wide of Jake Leeker’s far post. Quinn found an equalizer in the 36th minute as he provided a sliding one-time finish to Noah Powder’s low pass across the penalty area to level the score, but it didn’t stay tied for long as Powder gave OCSC a 2-1 lead less than a minute later as he picked up a poor clearance from Leeker near the midfield circle and lobbed the keeper from more than 40 yards. Leeker kept the game close with saves on Thomas Enevoldsen and Mats Bjurman on either side of halftime and the Monarchs took advantage in the 63rd minute when Justin Portillo was left alone from 30 yards out and fired a shot that found the bottom-left corner as OCSC goalkeeper Andre Rawls was slow to react. The home side broke the tie in the 77th minute when Christian Duke found some space in the box and placed a shot into the left corner for his first goal of the season. OCSC doubled the advantage when Quinn got his second of the night from the penalty spot three minutes later and rounded out the victory two minutes from time when Enevoldsen dribbled past a pair of Monarchs and coolly slotted a right-footed finish into the left corner for his 17th goal of the season.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Aodhan Quinn, Orange County SC – Quinn scored two goals, completed 50 passes and made five tackles in a superb all-around performance as Orange County SC increased its lead at the top of the table.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Hadji Barry set a new USL record by scoring for the seventh consecutive game and his second-half strike proved to be the difference as the Swope Park Rangers earned a crucial 2-0 win over San Antonio FC on Wednesday at Children’s Mercy Park in a contest that had huge implications on the Western Conference playoff race. Swope Park nearly took the lead in the 15th minute when Justin Bilyeu made a marauding run down the left flank and played a low cross into the penalty area that was taken first time by Kharlton Belmar but his low drive was palmed out by SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone, who reacted very well to get down quickly and keep the ball out of the bottom corner. The home side came close again three minutes later when Tyler Blackwood fired a shot from outside of the box but it just went wide of the net. The Rangers finally took the lead six minutes after halftime when Barry played a wayward through pass towards Blackwood that he had to corral near the endline but he managed to pick his head up in time to spot the return run of Barry who made no mistake with a one-time finish to score for a record seventh game on the trot. Swope Park doubled its advantage in the 75th minute when Rassambek Akhmatov won possession of the ball near the corner flag and fired a cross to the back post that Blackwood headed past a helpless Cardone. Lance Laing nearly got a goal back for SAFC in stoppage time as he burst past the Rangers’ defense, but fired his shot just past the far post as Swope Park held on for a clean sheet.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Hadji Barry, Swope Park Rangers – Barry picked up the game-winning goal in the 51st minute to give his side a crucial three points and rewrite the USL record books by scoring in his seventh straight game.
TULSA, Okla. – Sacramento Republic FC moved into the top four of the Western Conference standings with a 4-1 victory over Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Wednesday night at ONEOK Field. The hosts had a chance to open the scoring in the 19th minute when Joaquin Rivas’ cross found Nemanja Vukovic in the box, but the striker saw his header saved by Republic FC goalkeeper Josh Cohen. The visitors snatched the lead two minutes later when Elliot Hord ran onto a partial clearance following a corner kick and fired a first-time drive into the top-left corner. Cameron Iwasa nearly doubled the lead for the visitors five minutes before halftime as he took Christian Eissele’s pass and worked his way through two Tulsa defenders and fired a shot from the center of the box off the crossbar. The Roughnecks came close five minutes after the break as Rivas fired a left-footed shot just wide of Cohen’s goal, but the home side conceded again just four minutes later as Hayden Partain took Eissele’s drop pass and rifled a shot into the top-left corner from 25 yards out. The home side cut the deficit in half in the 64th minute after Michael Gamble drew a foul in the penalty area and Vukovic stepped up to the spot and passed the ball slowly into the left corner of the net after sending Cohen the wrong way. Iwasa restored Sacramento’s two-goal advantage four minutes later as he finished off a smooth passing move with a right-footed shot into the top-right corner. The visitors made it 4-1 with ten minutes to play as Partain got his second goal of the night when Jure Matjasic played a perfect feed into the center of the box and the midfielder slotted home a first-time shot into the left corner. Gamble nearly found a consolation goal for the Roughnecks in the 88th minute as he danced past two defenders only to be denied by Cohen from close range as Sacramento secured the three points.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Hayden Partain, Sacramento Republic FC – The midfielder scored two goals, producing a top-class finish from 25 yards out for his first, and completed over 88 percent of his passes on the evening.
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery and Charlotte Independence played out a 1-1 draw in the Southern Derby on Wednesday night at MUSC Health Stadium in a match that was rescheduled after Hurricane Florence. The Battery got off to a quick start taking the lead in the ninth minute when Ian Svantesson produced a great piece of holdup play to head Neveal Hackshaw’s long ball into the path of Nico Rittmeyer, leaving the midfielder to produce a tidy right-footed finish past Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller into the bottom corner. Yann Ekra had a chance to equalize for the Independence in the 28th minute as he latched onto Kay Voser’s cross and directed an effort on target, but Charleston goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper was able to make the save. The Battery had a golden opportunity to go two goals up seven minutes before halftime after Patrick Okonkwo was taken down in the box by Henry Kalungi, but Svantesson stepped up to the spot and hit a rather tame penalty kick that wasn’t near enough to the corner and was subsequently kept out by Miller and cleared to safety. The home side came close to doubling the lead again after the break as Jay Bolt found O’Brian Woodbine at the back post with a cross but the substitute dragged his volleyed effort just wide of the far post. Charlotte was handed a golden opportunity to equalize in the 69th minute when Hackshaw brought down Derek Gebhard in the box and the referee awarded a penalty kick. Substitute Jorge Herrera stepped up to the spot and sent Cooper the wrong way as he slotted cooling into the bottom right corner. Charlotte grew into the game from there and had the best chance of the final 20 minutes when Conor O’Brien got on the end of a free kick and tested Cooper with a headed effort on target, but the goalkeeper was equal to it as the sides settled for a draw.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Conor O’Brien, Charlotte Independence – O’Brien was an instrumental figure in the center of the park for the visitors, completing a game-high 91 passes and came close to finding the winning goal late on.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Louisville City FC snapped a four-match winless run and jumped into second place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 3-0 victory over Penn FC on Wednesday night at FNB Field. Penn FC created the first chance of the night when Walter Ramirez sent in a cross from the left wing and found Lucky Mkosana in the box, but the forward headed his effort just over Greg Ranjitsingh’s goal. Louisville took the lead in the 25th minute when Paolo DelPiccolo headed Shaun Francis’ free kick past Romuald Peiser for his third goal of the season. The visitors doubled the advantage three minutes later when Jonathan Lewis marked his LouCity debut with an assist, whipping in a cross from the left wing that Niall McCabe fired home for his fourth goal of the year after losing his marker at the back post. Penn was unlucky to not get a goal back on three separate occasions just minutes later as Paulo Junior struck the post with a shot and Miguel Jaime’s deflected effort stung Ranjitsingh’s crossbar just two minutes apart before the Louisville keeper denied Mkosana on a one-on-one opportunity after a quickly taken free kick. Peiser kept the deficit at two just before the break when he parried Luke Spencer’s left-footed effort away from goal. Ramirez tested Ranjitsingh with a left-footed free kick three minutes after halftime but the goalkeeper was equal to it and got some help from his defense 11 minutes later when Paulo Junior’s shot that looked destined for the bottom corner was deflected just wide by a Louisville defender. Luke Spencer should’ve killed the game as a contest in the 71st minute after beating the offside trap but his chipped effort went over the crossbar. Penn was handed a lifeline two minutes later as Louisville went down to ten men when Pat McMahon was sent off for a second yellow card, but never quite created a clear-cut chance to get a goal back. As the home side pushed forward, it left them vulnerable at the back and Louisville made them pay in stoppage time as Ramirez took down McCabe in the penalty area and Luke Spencer blasted home the resulting spot kick to polish off the win.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Niall McCabe, Louisville City FC – The winger completed over 64 percent of his passes and took his goal very well before winning the penalty to ice the game in stoppage time.