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Gameday Report: September 22, Week 28

By JOHN ARLIA -, 09/22/18, 5:09PM EDT


Saint Louis downs San Antonio, steps toward postseason; Louisville clinches, Cincinnati continues winning streak

Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC


1. Saint Louis FC took a major step toward its first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs and made the path to the postseason that much harder for San Antonio FC as the hosts got a pair of late goals in a 2-0 victory at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis on Saturday night. In the most pivotal game in the playoff race on the night it was Lewis Hilton’s precise finish to the top-left corner with 11 minutes to go that proved the winner for STLFC, which now only needs four points from its final three games of the regular season to book its playoff berth.

2. For a second consecutive contest, Corben Bone scored the late winner as FC Cincinnati clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a comeback 2-1 victory against Penn FC at FNB Field, while also extending its winning streak to eight games and its undefeated streak to 19 games. Both of those looked as though they might be under threat as Penn held a halftime lead through Paulo Junior’s goal, but now FCC can set records for wins and points in a regular season on Wednesday night with a victory against the Richmond Kickers, a win that would also claim the USL Regular Season Championship for the side.

3. Louisville City FC became the second team to clinch its place in the Eastern Conference field for the USL Cup Playoffs thanks to a 4-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC and a 1-1 draw between the Charlotte Independence and New York Red Bulls II that moved Louisville clear of seventh-place New York on the total-wins tiebreaker with the Red Bulls II’s maximum points available dropping to 54 points. Louisville’s win was accompanied by a 3-2 victory by Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC against fifth-place Indy Eleven, which kept the Hounds within a point of Louisville for second with a game in hand as the race for playoff position for both continued.



CARSON, Calif. – Efrain Alvarez scored a hat trick as the LA Galaxy II routed Real Monarchs SLC 6-1 on Saturday night at StubHub Center to extend the visitors’ winless run to six and sour Real’s mood after the Monarchs clinched a playoff berth thanks to results elsewhere. The home side got the scoring started in the 18th minute when Ethan Zubak took Didie Traore’s pass and fired a left footed shot from range into the bottom left corner. The Galaxy II doubled that advantage 20 minutes later as Adrian Vera headed Traore’s cross past Monarchs goalkeeper Jake Leeker. Alvarez got in on the act four minutes after the halftime interval as he took Zubak’s layoff and fired into an essentially empty net from close range. Alvarez doubled his tally three minutes later to give Los Dos a 4-0 lead when he turned a Real defender and fired a curling left-footed shot around Leeker and just inside the left post. Chandler Hoffman got a goal back for the Monarchs in the 57th minute when he followed up at the back post to power home a pass from Ricky Lopez-Espin that had been brilliantly dummied on its way through the box. The Galaxy II made amends for the mistake 18 minutes later as Alvarez completed his hat trick with a cheeky chip over Leeker after breaking through the Monarchs backline. Frank Lopez finished off the rout four minutes from time as he curled a right-footed shot into the corner as Real conceded for the 11th time in its last two games. Man of the Match:

Efrain Alvarez, LA Galaxy II – Alvarez scored a second-half hat trick in a 26-minute span to help his team exact revenge for the 4-0 defeat the Monarchs handed Los Dos in the sides’ most recent meeting in August.


RENO, Nev. – Reno 1868 FC claimed the inaugural Silver State Cup with a thrilling 3-3 draw against Las Vegas Lights FC. Reno controlled the early stages of the contest and took the lead in the 19th minute when Brian Brown took the space allowed to him by a Las Vegas defender and slotted the ball coolly beyond goalkeeper Ricardo Ferrino and into the far corner. Las Vegas nearly had equalized three minutes later when Daniel Guzman Jr. curled an effort that struck the post, but Lights FC tied the game in the 29th minute when Raul Mendiola produced a similar strike with his weaker right foot. Las Vegas could have had the lead two minutes before halftime, but Rodrigo Inigo saw his close-range header from a corner kick bounce back off the post. The home side regained the lead ten minutes after halftime as Antoine Hoppenot slid in to tap home a rebound after Brown had worked the goalkeeper from close range. Reno came close to extending the lead on 59 minutes as Christopher Welan tried a right-footed shot from outside the box that just missed the target. Las Vegas worked its way back into the contest in the final 20 minutes as Samuel Ochoa saw a header saved in the 73rd minute but Daniel Guzman Miranda tied the game with a header of his own with eight minutes remaining. The home side regained the lead just three minutes later as Hoppenot played in Lindo Mfeka, who fired a left-footed shot blast into the top corner which looked likely to seal the three points. It wasn’t to be though, as Mendiola scored his second of the match in the 90th minute to ensure his side picked up a point as a consolation for losing for the Silver State Cup on points 5-2. Man of the Match:

Brian Brown, Reno 1868 FC – Brown completed over 77 percent of his passes and recorded a goal and an assist to help Reno claim the inaugural Silver State Cup and move closer to a playoff spot.


FRESNO, Calif. – The Portland Timbers 2 clinched a spot in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs despite conceding in the 95th minute to drop points in a 2-2 draw with Fresno FC on Saturday night at Chukchansi Park. The visitors applied the pressure early as Victor Arboleda went close with a right footed shot in the third minute and teammate Marvin Loria saw his shot stopped by Fresno goalkeeper Mark Pais two minutes later. Portland was handed a golden opportunity to take the lead in the eighth minute as Matthew Baldisimo fouled Loria in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Jack Barmby stepped up and smashed his spot kick down the middle to give T2 an early advantage, which it doubled from another penalty three minutes later. Loria was brought down in the box once again, this time by Mark Pais, and the midfielder stepped up and placed his left-footed spot kick into the top left corner. Fresno started to work its way into the match before halftime as Juan Pablo Caffa tested T2 goalkeeper Alex Mangels from outside the box in the 37th minute before seeing an effort from the right side of the penalty area stopped seven minutes later. Pais was at full stretch to keep the deficit at two just eight minutes after the break when he pulled off an acrobatic stop to deny Andre Lewis’ one-time shot. Caffa came close to cutting the lead in half from a direct free kick on 62 minutes, but his effort sailed just wide of Mangels’ goal. Fresno finally got on the board in the 70th minute when Zachary Ellis-Hayden found a loose ball inside the box and fired home a one-time finish past Mangels, who was leaning the wrong way. Substitute Christian Chaney tested Mangels from distance with a dipping effort that took a short hop in front of the goalkeeper, but he did well to parry it to safety. Chaney had the last laugh however, as he turned in Don Smart’s cross with a looping header to steal a point for the home side in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time. Man of the Match:

Marvin Loria, Portland Timbers 2 – Loria was an attacking threat all night for T2, completing 82 percent of his passes, drawing both penalty kicks and converting the latter as Portland secured its spot in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville SC failed to win for the fourth consecutive game as it stumbled to a 1-1 draw with the Charleston Battery on Saturday night at First Tennessee Park. The hosts dominated the early stages of the contest as Matt LaGrassa narrowly missed the target with a header from a third-minute corner and Michael Reed flashed a shot from 20 yards out just past Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper’s right-hand post three minutes later. Nashville made their early pressure pay off in the eighth minute as Tucker Hume produced a spectacular overhead kick to send his side into the lead as he connected perfectly with the ball after a free kick had bounced around in Charleston’s penalty area. After conceding, the visitors worked their way back into the contest and found an equalizer from a set piece of their own in the 24th minute when Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens tried to punch a free kick delivery clear, but couldn’t get enough height on it and saw the ball redirect off the chest of Brian Anunga and into the net. Nashville were handed a window of opportunity 14 minutes after halftime when the Battery were reduced to ten men after Patrick Okonkwo was shown a direct red card for violent conduct away from the play. Nashville failed to make the extra man count in the final half hour to push further up the standings as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw for the second time this season Man of the Match:

Tucker Hume, Nashville SC – Hume attempted four shots in the match and scored an outrageous overhead kick to earn his side a point against the Battery.


FENTON, Mo. – Saint Louis FC extended its home winning streak to six games and boosted its hopes of making the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history with a 2-0 victory over fellow playoff contenders San Antonio FC on Saturday at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis. The home side should have taken the lead after just 14 minutes as Wal Fall did very well to pick out Austin Martz in the center of the penalty area, but Martz couldn’t hit the target from 12 yards out. STLFC finally broke the deadlock in the 79th minute of play as Lewis Hilton took Albert Dikwa’s pass and fired a right-footed blast from the center of the box into the top left corner past a diving Matt Cardone. San Antonio’s chances of finding an equalizer suffered a serious blow three minutes from time when the side went down to ten men after Moises Hernandez was shown a straight red card by the referee for violent conduct. Saint Louis made that man-advantage count in the 93rd minute of play when Cardone misjudged a ball in the air and Albert Dikwa ran onto it and nestled it into an empty net to seal a critical three points for Saint Louis as the side extended its gap over ninth-place SAFC to six points with just three games remaining. Man of the Match:

Lewis Hilton, Saint Louis FC – Hilton produced a moment of magic for Saint Louis in the final quarter of an hour with a sublime finish on the eventual game-winner to push his side closer to a first ever trip to the USL Cup Playoffs.


EDINBURG, Texas. – Rio Grande Valley FC took a 3-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Saturday night at H-E-B Park. The hosts took the lead just five minutes into the match when Todd Wharton took Carlos Small’s pass and fired a right-footed shot from outside the box into the bottom left corner. Goalkeeper Chris Seitz made that lead stand up for RGVFC five minutes later when he came out quickly to smother a shot from Nicholas Hinds. The hosts doubled their advantage five minutes before halftime when Eric Bird brilliantly flicked the ball over his head and set himself up to volley home with his left foot past S2 keeper Calle Brown. Seitz came up with another big stop ten minutes after halftime as came out early again to make himself big and deny Azriel Gonzalez after the midfielder had burst through RGVFC’s defense. The home side sealed the three points 12 minutes from time as Nicolas Perea rose highest to head home Todd Wharton’s corner kick as RGVFC extended its unbeaten run to three games. Man of the Match:

Todd Wharton, Rio Grande Valley FC – Wharton was influential in the center of the park, completing 94 percent of his passes and scoring the game’s first goal as RGVFC picked up three points.


TULSA, Okla. – Swope Park Rangers played out a 1-1 draw against Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Saturday at ONEOK Field, but got the help it needed from Saint Louis FC to move closer to clinching a spot in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs. After a lackluster opening 44 minutes of play, the visitors took the lead from an incisive passing move as Tyler Blackwood provided the final ball for Hadji Barry to tap home as the forward extended his USL record by scoring in an eighth consecutive game. Joaquin Rivas nearly brought the Roughnecks level 18 minutes after halftime when his left-footed volley went just wide of Adrian Zendejas’ goal, but Tulsa found its equalizer five minutes later when Eti Tavares played a pass across to Rivas who found the back of the net with a one-touch finish. Zendejas ensured that Swope Park left Oklahoma with a point when he leapt up to deny Michael Gamble’s chip attempt with 12 minutes to play as the sides failed to produce any quality opportunities in the game’s dying minutes. Man of the Match:

Joaquin Rivas, Tulsa Roughnecks FC – Rivas registered three shots on target, including the game-tying goal in the second half and completed over 81 percent of his passes to help Tulsa pick up a point.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Phoenix Rising FC gained ground on Orange County SC for the top seed in the Western Conference and eliminated Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC from playoff contention with a 2-1 victory over the Switchbacks on Saturday at Weidner Field. Phoenix took the lead in the 22nd minute of play when Joseph Farrell rose highest to head Solomon Asante’s corner kick past Colorado goalkeeper Moise Pouaty. Rising FC doubled its advantage two minutes before halftime as leading-scorer Chris Cortez turned provider with a deftly headed pass into the path of Kevon Lambert who took a touch before slotting the ball under Pouaty. Saeed Robinson nearly cut the deficit in half for the Switchbacks in the 63rd minute when forced a save from Carl Woszczynski on a shot from outside the box, before the defender fired home a low drive from distance three minutes later to give his team a lifeline. Colorado was nearly level two minutes after the goal as Jordan Burt connected with Robinson’s cross only to see his header come back out off the post. The Switchbacks had one last quality chance in stoppage time as Josh Suggs fired a left-footed shot from outside of the box through traffic and just wide of Woszczynski’s far post, but they couldn’t find an equalizer as Phoenix picked up three points and ended their playoff dreams. Man of the Match:

Kevon Lambert, Phoenix Rising FC – Lambert calmly slotted home the game-winning goal late in the first half to seal three key points for Phoenix as it continues to climb towards the top spot in the Western Conference.


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up their third consecutive victory as the side kept its playoff hopes alive with a 3-0 victory over the Richmond Kickers on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium. Rowdies striker Georgi Hristov put the ball in the back of the net just six minutes in, but the goal was disallowed after the linesman had adjudged Jaime Chavez to be offside in the build-up to the goal. Tampa Bay tested Kickers goalkeeper Brandon Barnes again in the 29th minute when Kwadwo Poku ran clean through on goal but Barnes came out to meet him and smothered the ball before Poku could put it away. The Rowdies finally broke the deadlock four minutes after halftime when Hunter Gorskie was in the right place at the right time to tap in a deflected cross inside the six-yard box. Jaime Chavez doubled the Rowdies’ advantage eight minutes later as Tampa Bay countered quickly after winning the ball in an advanced position and Afrim Taku played Chavez through and the forward dinked a chip past Barnes. Scott Thomsen came close to getting a goal back for Richmond as his 83rd-minute volley was cleared off the line by Pape Diakite before the Rowdies sealed the three points in stoppage time as substitute Junior Flemmings burst past a defender and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner to give the Rowdies three more points and a renewed sense of hope in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Man of the Match:

Hunter Gorskie, Tampa Bay Rowdies – The defender scored the game-winning goal, completed 55 passes and helped his side pick up a clean sheet as the Rowdies moved closer to the playoff line.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville City FC clinched a spot in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 victory over nine-men Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday night at Slugger Field. USL top-scorer Cameron Lancaster came close to opening the scoring in the 18th minute when he got on the end of Jonathan Lewis’ cross but headed just high. Niall McCabe tested Ottawa goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau six minute later with a right-footed shot that the goalkeeper was equal to. Fury FC went down to ten men in the 39th minute of play when Nana Attakora was shown a red card and the hosts made their man advantage count six minutes later as George Davis IV headed home Kyle Smith’s cross to give Louisville the lead. Cameron Lancaster doubled the advantage in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time as he headed home a free kick to bring his league-leading goal tally to 20 on the season. Things got worse for Ottawa 13 minutes after the break as Kevin Oliveira was sent off for violent conduct, reducing the visitors to nine men. Alexis Souahy grabbed Louisville’s third goal of the night in the 78th minute on another header as he nodded home Oscar Jimenez’s cross following a corner. Lancaster rounded out the scoring five minutes later as his right-footed shot beat Crepeau to give the forward his second of the night and 21st of the campaign as the defending USL Cup champion secured another trip to the postseason. Man of the Match:

Cameron Lancaster, Louisville City FC – Lancaster returned to the starting lineup after missing his side’s mid-week win over Penn and continued right where he left off with two goals to bring his league-leading total to 21 on the season.


PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC held on to defeat Indy Eleven as it improved its chances for a top-two finish in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 victory over Indy Eleven on Saturday at Highmark Stadium. Pittsburgh created the first chance of the evening in the second minute as Neco Brett tried a shot from a difficult angle but the forward fired wide of Fon William’s goal. Christiano Francois nearly marked his return to the lineup with a goal 17 minutes later as he tried his luck with a free kick from distance that may have skimmed the top of the crossbar on its way over the net. Williams was called into action in first-half stoppage time as Brett tried to curl a left-footed effort from the right side of the penalty area into the far corner, but the goalkeeper managed to corral the shot as the sides went to the break scoreless. Riverhounds SC opened the scoring just four minutes after halftime as a blocked cross found its way to Ben Zemanski in the center of the box and the midfielder made no mistake with a volleyed finish for his first goal with the club. The hosts doubled their advantage just 96 seconds later as Brett pounced on a rebound to pick up his 15th goal of the season. Indy got a goal back with nine minutes to play as Jack McInerney ran onto Juan Gerra’s long ball and beat Dan Lynd to give the visitors a lifeline. Kenardo Forbes looked to seal the victory in the 90th minute of play when he converted a late penalty kick for the second week in a row to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead, but a Joseph Greenspan own goal late in stoppage time made for a nervy ending as the hosts managed to hold on for a key three points to their pursuit of a top-two finish. Man of the Match:

Ben Zemanski, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Zemanski was influential in the middle of the park, completing 85 percent of his passes and scoring the opening goal to send the home side on its way to victory.


HARRISBURG, Pa. – FC Cincinnati came from a goal down to extend its winning streak to eight games and its unbeaten run to 19 as it clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 victory over Penn FC on Saturday at FNB Field. The hosts created the first chance of the evening from a set piece as Aaron Dennis got on the end of Richard Menjivar’s free kick but fired a right-footed shot from outside the box over Spencer Richey’s crossbar. Penn came close to opening the scoring again in the 19th minute as Paulo Junior went alone on a counterattacking move, but his deflected effort from 25 yards out looped just wide of the far post. Penn finally made its early dominance count as it capitalized on a free kick from the right wing. Menjivar’s right-footed delivery wasn’t dealt with in the box and Harri Hawkins cushioned a headed pass at the back post to Junior who blasted a volley home from close range. Cincinnati had a chance to equalize from a free kick of its own four minutes before halftime as Emmanuel Ledesma went for goal from the dead ball and forced a strong save out of Penn goalkeeper Sean Lewis. The home side came close to doubling the lead ten minutes after the break as Aaron Dennis forced Richey into a stop with a low left-footed drive. Cincinnati nearly took advantage of a Penn turnover three minutes later as Ledesma saw his bending drive brilliantly tipped wide by Lewis after a smooth counterattacking move. Ledesma finally found the tying goal in the 68th minute as his he fired in a rebound with his favorite left-foot after Lewis produced a save on Emery Welshman. Cincinnati left it late, but found the winner six minutes from time as Corben Bone took the ball off a Penn defender and sent a beautiful curling strike into the far corner from 22 yards out to put a dent in the hosts’ playoff hopes. Man of the Match:

Emmanuel Ledesma, FC Cincinnati – Ledesma continued his strong play of late with the game-tying goal in the second half and made five key passes as Cincinnati extended its unbeaten run to 19 games.


MATTHEWS, N.C. – The New York Red Bulls II battled back for a pivotal point in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Sportsplex at Matthews. Caleb Calvert should’ve put the hosts ahead in the fourth minute of play as he was left alone to volley a headed knockdown at the top of the six-yard box but skied his effort over the crossbar. The Independence managed to hit the target four minutes later as Samuel Vines fired a left-footed effort on frame, but New York goalkeeper Evan Louro got down quickly to his left to keep the shot out. Charlotte’s early pressure paid off in the 15th minute when Conor O’Brien flicked the ball into the path of Greg Jordan and the midfielder struck a volley into the bottom right corner from outside the penalty area. The Red Bulls II nearly found an equalizer ten minutes later, but Charlotte defender Alex Martinez was positioned perfectly to clear Jared Stroud’s shot off the line following a corner kick. Stroud tested Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller three minutes later as the keeper came halfway out of his box to claim a through ball and didn’t get there but made himself big to deny the forward’s shot from the top of the area. Martinez nearly doubled the lead for Charlotte in the 31st minute as he volleyed a headed clearance towards the top corner only to see Louro make an acrobatic fingertip save to touch the ball over the crossbar. Stroud had two more chances to bring the Red Bulls II level before the break as he connected on a diving header that just flashed past the post and curled an effort from a narrow angle just wide. Amando Moreno went close for the Red Bulls II seven minutes after halftime as he found a pocket of space just outside the box and curled a shot just high of the top corner, but New York finally got its equalizer in the 70th minute as Anatole Abang popped up at the back post to tap in a rebound after Miller had made a diving save to deny Tom Barlow’s effort. Abang found the back of the net again in stoppage time, but was correctly adjudged to be offside as the two sides settled for a point. Man of the Match:

Jared Stroud, New York Red Bulls II – Stroud was a constant threat for New York as he attempted nine shots, made three key passes and completed 84 percent of his passes overall.


BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Bethlehem Steel FC inched closer to a spot in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs and showed no signs of rust after its bye week as the side eased to a 4-0 victory over Toronto FC II on Saturday at Goodman Stadium. The home side took the lead just 62 seconds into the match when Faris latched onto Prosper Chiluya’s through pass and held off a TFC II defender before slotting a left-footed shot past Caleb Patterson-Sewell for his second goal of the season. Brenden Aaronson looked likely to double the hosts’ advantage eight minutes later as he burst through the middle of the penalty area, but a last-second sliding block from Toronto defender Kyle Bjornethun deflected the ball safely behind. Tsubasa Endoh had Toronto’s first clear chance of the afternoon on 15 minutes when he fired a dipping drive just over Jake McGuire’s crossbar from 25 yards out. McGuire was called into action on the half hour mark as he kept out Ayo Akinola’s shot from a tight angle as the visitors searched for an equalizer. Bethlehem probably should have doubled the lead a minute before halftime, but Aaronson hesitated with a pass to a wide-open James Chambers and Robert Boskovic slid in with another last-ditch tackle for Toronto. Aaronson made up for it three minutes after the break when his incisive pass carved open the TFC II defense and found Michee Ngalina, who slotted a right-footed shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom left corner to double the lead. Bethlehem got its third of the afternoon in the 57th minute as James Chambers kept his 100 percent record from the penalty spot for Steel FC when he fired into the bottom left corner just beyond the outstretched glove of Patterson-Sewell after Matthew Mahoney was taken down in the penalty area. Patterson-Sewell produced a brilliant kick save to deny Aaronson on a breakaway in the 70th minute to keep the deficit at three, but Bethlehem rounded out the scoring five minutes later as substitute Chris Nanco tapped in Ngalina’s pass at the back post just seconds after entering the fray as the hosts picked up a crucial three points for their playoff hopes. Man of the Match:

Michee Ngalina, Bethlehem Steel SC – Ngalina was instrumental in midfield, completing 75 percent of his passes, recording an assist and scoring his side’s second goal just after halftime.

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