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Gameday Report: September 26, Week 29

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 09/26/18, 10:24PM EDT

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FC Cincinnati clinches 2018 Regular Season Championship; Indy, Nashvile boost playoff chances with victory


Photo courtesy Jessica Hendricks / Richmond Kickers

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. FC Cincinnati claimed its first silverware in club history, and did so as it often has this season behind a standout display by Emmanuel Ledesma, who had a pair of goals in a 4-1 victory against the Richmond Kickers that sealed not only the 2018 USL Regular Season Championship but also a place in the record book for Head Coach Alan Koch’s side. FCC is now the holder of the most wins (22) and points (72) in a single-season the USL’s modern era, and on Saturday in its home finale against Indy Eleven it will have the chance to add another piece of history as Wednesday night saw it pull level with Real Monarchs SLC’s record of nine consecutive victories. The celebration at Nippert Stadium upon the presentation of the shield, though, should be a memorable one for all in attendance.

2. While Cincinnati claimed its silverware and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC clinched its place in the USL Cup Playoffs with victory against Penn FC, the race for the playoffs took another series of turns in the Eastern Conference as both Indy Eleven and Nashville SC took important victories to boost their playoff hopes while North Carolina FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies suffered tough defeats that reshaped the standings going into the weekend. Indy’s 2-0 victory against the Rowdies bolstered the Eleven’s bid for the postseason as they moved into fifth place and gained a six-point cushion on the teams below the playoff line, while Nashville’s 2-0 victory against ATL UTD 2 allowed it to jump into the top eight as North Carolina surrendered two stoppage-time goals to fall against the Charleston Battery. As we head to the weekend, the pressure rose again in what remains a compelling postseason race.

3. Orange County SC had to battle hard in its visit to Las Vegas Lights FC as it let a two-goal first-half lead slip against its hosts at Cashman Field, but the combination of Michael Seaton and Aodhan Quinn led the visitors back to claim a 5-3 victory and keep the pressure on Phoenix Rising FC to match its result this Saturday when it hosts Saint Louis FC as the race for first place in the Western Conference continued. Quinn opened the night with his 10th goal of the season to make him the second player this season to reach double-digits in both goals and assists following FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma, but after Lights FC had taken the lead early in the second half the two assists he provided to set up Seaton’s brace got Orange County three vital points and locked up at least one home postseason contest for the side after a thrilling back-and-forth contest.

GAME REPORTS

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC (3), ORANGE COUNTY SC (5)

LAS VEGAS – Michael Seaton and Thomas Enevoldsen each scored twice while Aodhan Quinn had a goal and two assists to lead Orange County SC to a 5-3 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC at Cashman Field. Orange County took the lead in just the eighth minute as Quinn became the second player to reach double-digits in goals and assists this season with a rebound finish for his 10th goal of the season after Las Vegas goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño had kept out Darwin Jones’ initial shot. Las Vegas almost leveled in the 18th minute when Omar Salgado flashed a shot just wide of the right post, and Raul Mendiola hit the crossbar on the half-hour mark with a curling shot from the top of the penalty area, but Orange County doubled its lead shortly after when Enevoldsen scored his 18th goal of the season after a long deflection off a Las Vegas player gave the Dane a wide-open chance from the right side of the penalty area. Lights FC got a kind bounce of its own to pull a goal back through Juan Carlos Garcia as he fired home from the top of the penalty area into the right corner in the 37th minute and the hosts then pulled level in first-half stoppage time as Miguel Garduño produced a clever back-heeled flick to finish off a strong spell of pressure to end the half. Las Vegas’ momentum continued into the second half as the hosts took the lead three minutes after the break when Sammy Ochoa sent home a free header into the left corner of the net, but Orange County hit back in the 54th minute as Seaton scored his 11th goal of the season on a shot that took a slight deflection on its way into the net. Enevoldsen was then denied his second for the visitors as his shot from 30 yards was just tipped over the crossbar by Ferriño, but Orange County regained the lead with 14 minutes to go as Quinn played Seaton in behind the Las Vegas backline for a low finish to the right corner. Lights FC pressured for an equalizer late on, and Raul Mendiola almost found it in second-half stoppage time with a looping shot that went just over, but Enevoldsen’s second goal of the night with almost the final kick of the game wrapped up the victory for Orange County in a remarkable contest between the sides.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Michael Seaton, Orange County SC
– Introduced as a halftime substitute, Seaton produced two good finishes to rally his side back after it had gone behind to secure a critical win to its quest to finish top of the Western Conference.

RENO 1868 FC (4), RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (0)

RENO, Nev. – Reno 1868 FC took a 4-0 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC at Greater Nevada Field as the hosts moved closer to claiming a place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs. Reno took the lead in the 11th minute as a swift move down the left saw Duke Lacroix deliver a cross to the back post that Seth Casiple controlled and then fired into the left corner of the net with a looping finish. Eleven minutes later Lacroix added his second assist of the night as he slipped a low cross from the left through the six-yard area to Chris Wehan for a first-time finish, and Antoine Hoppenot almost added a third for the hosts in the 34th minute only for his long-range finish to the left corner to be saved by RGVFC goalkeeper Nico Corti. The hosts again went close to adding to their lead five minutes into the second half when Lacroix missed out on a close-range chance that was denied by Corti, and then the Toros threatened twice as Matias Zaldivar was first denied by a low save from Reno goalkeeper Matt Bersano and then fired just wide of the right post after the visitors had recycled possession in the attacking third. Reno added its third with 10 minutes to go, however, as Brian Brown’s shot eluded Corti and bounced into the net before Mo Thiaw slid home a low finish from the right side of the penalty area in the 89th minute to wrap up all three points.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Duke Lacroix, Reno 1868 FC
– Lacroix put in a sparkling in the first half to set up 1868 FC’s opening two goals as the side took another big step toward its second playoff appearance in as many seasons.

RICHMOND KICKERS (1), FC CINCINNATI (4)

RICHMOND, Va. – FC Cincinnati clinched the 2018 USL Regular Season Championship as a pair of goals by Emmanuel Ledesma led the side to a 4-1 win against the Richmond Kickers at City Stadium in the USL Game of the Week. Richmond had the first good chance as Heviel Cordoves got in behind the Cincinnati defense but sent his finish wide of the left post in the fifth minute. FCC took the lead in the 16th minute as Nazmi Albadawi scored his 10th goal of the season, putting home his finish after the ball deflected into his forward run to the top of the penalty area. Corben Bone almost doubled the lead moments later, only to hit the right post with his finish, but then the Kickers leveled just past the half-hour mark as Cordoves made no mistake with his second chance and fired home into the left corner. Cincinnati regained the lead through its talisman Ledesma five minutes before halftime, however, as the Argentine curled home a corner kick from the right just under the crossbar and in. Ledesma then added his second of the night four minutes later as he fired a long-range strike into the left corner from outside the penalty area on the night. The game then entered a lightning delay for more than an hour just before the hour-mark, but soon after the teams return Emery Welshman scored on a breakaway after intercepting a pass in midfield to make it 4-1 in the 63rd minute. From there, FCC saw out its victory comfortably and will claim its reward on Saturday at the club’s regular-season home finale.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Emmanuel Ledesma, FC Cincinnati
– Another pair of memorable finishes provided the highlights on a historic night for FCC that saw the side claim the USL Regular Season Championship.

PENN FC (0), PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (2)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC clinched both its place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs and the Keystone Derby Cup with a 2-0 victory against Penn FC at FNB Field. After a lengthy delay due to lightning and heavy rain in the area, the first big chance came to Riverhounds SC as Christiano Francois just sent a cross by Ben Fitzpatrick over the crossbar from close range. The Hounds took the lead seven minutes before halftime as Kay Banjo reacted quickly to poke home a low shot off a cross from the right that squeezed through a challenge at the near post to allow him to finish. Kenardo Forbes also went close for the visitors three minutes later with a low, driven shot that went just wide of the left post, while Fitzpatrick almost doubled the lead for the Hounds three minutes before halftime only for Penn goalkeeper Sean Lewis to make a big save as he smothered the effort. Penn tried to hit back eight minutes after the break as a long-range shot by Paulo Junior was parried away by Riverhounds SC goalkeeper Michael Kirk, while Richie Menjivar curled a free kick toward the left corner just before the hour-mark that was also kept out. Penn’s Isaac Osae also headed over with 11 minutes to go, but in second-half stoppage time Andy Lubahn gave the Hounds their second goal of the night as they clinched a place in the USL Cup Playoffs.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Mouhamed Dabo, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
– Dabo played a solid game in the center of midfield for the Hounds in difficult conditions, winning six of eight duels and recording five tackles and three interceptions.

INDY ELEVEN (2), TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (0)

INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven took a major step toward a playoff berth as it defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Rowdies almost took the lead in the 27th minute when a powerful first-time shot by Sebastian Guenzatti was just turned onto the right post by Indy goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams, while the hosts almost found the net five minutes later when Kevin Venegas shot just wide of the left post from the right side of the penalty area after a good through-ball by Elliot Collier. Venegas also flashed a shot that was deflected just high of the crossbar, but from the ensuing corner kick Karl Ouimette put the Eleven ahead off a delivery by Ayoze that he headed into the left corner of the net. Tampa Bay almost leveled just before halftime only for Fôn Williams to turn aside a long-range strike by Junior Flemmings, and the visitors thought they had been awarded a penalty kick just before the hour-mark only for the decision to be reversed after Indy’s Carlyle Mitchell was ruled not to have handballed as he blocked an attempted through-ball after consultation with an assistant referee. Indy doubled its lead with 15 minutes to go as a low cross to the top of the six-yard area caromed off three players challenging for the ball and back toward the top of the penalty area where Collier was on hand to put home a first-time finish, and while the Rowdies pushed to get back into the game late on Fôn Williams and his defense held firm to claim his 11th shutout of the season.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Elliot Collier, Indy Eleven
– Collier provided some strong connection in the attack for Indy and was rewarded with a well-taken finish that put the game away for the hosts with 15 minutes to go.

CHARLESTON BATTERY (2), NORTH CAROLINA FC (0)

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery scored twice in second-half stoppage time to take a 2-0 victory against North Carolina FC to move to the verge of a place in the USL Cup Playoffs at MUSC Health Stadium. North Carolina almost struck in the 10th minute when Zach Steinberger lifted a shot from 12 yards that came back off the crossbar, and the midfielder was unable to control his second-chance finish as he volleyed wide of the right post. The visitors got a chance from the penalty spot after a handball by Charleston’s Angelo Kelly, but Steinberger’s attempt to go down the middle was saved by Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky. Charleston’s first good chance came in the 25th minute as a corner kick by Gordon Wild from the right was headed goalward at the back post by Taylor Mueller only to be just turned aside by NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, but the sides went to the break scoreless. North Carolina threatened again eight minutes into the second half as a volley by Kyle Bekker forced a low save by Kuzminsky at the left post, while in the 58th minute Charleston’s Jay Bolt curled a shot just over the crossbar. As the game appeared to be winding down to a draw, however, Victor Mansaray headed home a chipped cross by Neveal Hackshaw from the left to put the Battery ahead in the first minute of stoppage time, and two minutes later Ian Svantesson applied the coup de grace with a low strike to the right corner to claim a big victory for the hosts.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Victor Mansaray, Charleston Battery
– Mansaray produced the winner for the Battery after coming on with 15 minutes to go to lift his side within a point of a return to the USL Cup Playoffs.

ATL UTD 2 (0), NASHVILLE SC (2)

GWINNETT, Ga. – Nashville SC scored once in either half to claim a 2-0 victory against ATL UTD 2 at Coolray Field to break a four-game winless streak. Nashville took the lead in the seventh minute as Ropapa Mensah tapped home a simple rebound finish after Ish Jome’s low shot to the left corner could only be parried away by Atlanta goalkeeper Paul Christensen. Atlanta almost hit back three minutes later on a dipping free kick by Andrew Carleton that was parried away by NSC goalkeeper Matt Pickens, and the Nashville shot-stopper had to be sharp again five minutes before halftime to keep out a low shot by Jon Gallagher as his defense cleared the rebound. Atlanta went close seven minutes into the second half when a shot by Romario Williams slid just wide of the left post, while Oliver Shannon curled a finish just over the crossbar just before the hour-mark for the hosts. Nashville doubled its lead in the 64th minute, however, as Tucker Hume put home the rebound after Mensah’s shot had been initially saved by Christensen. The hosts tried to get back into the game and Andrew Wheeler-Ominu forced a save by Pickens with a well-hit finish from 25 yards, while Hume almost added his second goal of the night for NSC with a volleyed finish that went just over a few minutes later, but the two goals proved enough for Nashville to take a major step toward a place in the postseason.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Ropapa Mensah, Nashville SC
– Mensah was involved in both goals for the visitors and battled strongly in attack while finishing with three shots overall.

TORONTO FC II (0), OTTAWA FURY FC (1)

TORONTO – Ottawa Fury FC got a first-half goal to bolster its bid for a playoff berth as it defeated Toronto FC II 1-0 at Lamport Stadium. Ottawa took the lead in the 32nd minute after Adonijah Reid was brought down in the penalty area, and Steevan Dos Santos shot powerfully into the top-left corner of the net to convert from the spot. The teams exchanged chances early in the second half as both Reid and Tony Taylor had shots saved by TFC II goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell for the visitors while Toronto’s Ryan Telfer had a shot blocked to safety just before the hour-mark. Ottawa’s Eddie Edward had a header from a free kick by Cristian Portilla saved with 10 minutes to go, but the visitors wouldn’t require an insurance goal as they held firm for a third win in their last four outings.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
David Edgar, Ottawa Fury FC
– Edgar played a major role in limiting Toronto’s clear looks on goal, finishing with two interceptions and five clearances for the visitors.

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