May 19, 2017 - United Soccer League (USL)
TAMPA, Fla. - The USL regular season resumes this weekend after midweek's action in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 12-game slate set for this weekend as the season approaches one-third completed. Big games feature in both the Eastern and Western Conferences on Saturday night, with two of the league's hottest teams facing strong tests on home turf.
San Antonio FC enters the weekend as the lone undefeated side in the league having gone nine games without a loss to start the season. They welcome a Phoenix Rising FC squad to Toyota Field that has started to live up to its potential of late.
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds, meanwhile, are on their longest winning streak since 2013, which has pushed the side up to third in the Eastern Conference. Louisville City FC is the visitor to Highmark Stadium on Saturday, and will give a major test of the Hounds' credentials.
At the other end of the form chart sits Sacramento Republic FC, which is on a six-game winless streak as it returns home to Papa Murphy's Park to host Tulsa Roughnecks FC. FC Cincinnati, meanwhile, will try to break Bethlehem Steel FC's hex, with the visitor to Nippert Stadium looking to complete a three-game sweep of the season series in front of another big expected crowd.
Every game of the 2017 USL season will be available on the league's Match Center, with updates from across the league also available via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
GAMES TO WATCH
Saturday, May 20
Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Louisville City FC (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds will try to match their best winning streak in the USL era on Saturday night, looking for a fourth consecutive win as they welcome Louisville City FC to Highmark Stadium. With City coming off its first league loss of the season last Saturday, though, the visitor will provide a stern test for Head Coach Dave Brandt's squad.
The Riverhounds (4-3-2, 14pts) earned a third consecutive 1-0 victory last Saturday against Ottawa Fury FC as Corey Hertzog scored his fifth goal early in the second half. The Hounds were one of two USL clubs to see their campaign in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup end on Wednesday night, though, as the side fell 3-1 to the PDL's Chicago FC United.
Louisville (3-1-3, 12pts) took out the frustration of its first league loss of the season against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday with a romp at Highmark Stadium on Wednesday night against amateur club Tartan Devils Oak Avalon in the Open Cup. The 9-0 victory set a club single-game scoring record as Cameron Lancaster led the way with two goals and one assist.
FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium
FC Cincinnati will try to break a five-game winless streak in league action when it hosts Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday night, but to do so will need to defeat a side that has had its number so far in the 2017 season.
Cincinnati (2-4-3, 9pts) slid out of the Eastern Conference's top eight last Saturday night as it fell 2-0 to Orlando City B in front of 19,310 fans at Nippert Stadium. FCC earned a 1-0 overtime victory against AFC Cleveland on Wednesday thanks to Djiby Fall's 116th-minute goal, but the Senegalese forward will be unavailable again on Saturday as his league suspension continues.
Bethlehem (3-4-0, 9pts) was the side to replace Cincinnati in the playoff positions as it took a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC II at BMO Field through Cory Burke's early penalty kick. Steel FC has taken two victories on home turf already this season against FCC, including a late 1-0 win on April 29 in their most recent meeting at Goodman Stadium.
San Antonio FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC (Match Center)
8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field
San Antonio FC has still yet to taste defeat this season as it sits on top of the Western Conference and the USL's overall standings entering its 10th league game of the season. With the high-profile talent available to Rising FC, though, that record could be seriously tested at Toyota Field.
SAFC (7-0-2, 23pts) was held to a 0-0 draw last Saturday night against Seattle Sounders FC 2 in front of 8,005 fans at Toyota Field, the first time this season the side had been held scoreless in a game. San Antonio responded with a victory in the Open Cup on Wednesday, and will be aiming to get back in the win column in front of another passionate crowd.
Phoenix (3-3-0, 9pts) earned its most dramatic win of the season so far last Saturday night when Shaun Wright-Phillips' first goal for the club in the 95th minute earned a 2-1 win against OKC Energy FC. The club's depth then came to the fore in a 3-1 win against the PDL's Fresno Fuego in the Open Cup on Wednesday night, leaving some key players rested for a massive road test.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC (Match Center)
10:30 p.m. ET, Papa Murphy's Park
Sacramento will try to break not only a six-game winless streak in USL action, but also a scoreless streak in the league that has stretched longer than a month when it returns to Papa Murphy's Park to host a Tulsa Roughnecks FC side that has had little trouble finding the net of late.
Sacramento (3-5-1, 10pts) saw its worst run of league form in club history continue last Saturday night when it fell 2-0 to Real Monarchs SLC at Rio Tinto Stadium. The side earned a boost in the Open Cup in midweek, though, as it recorded a 4-0 victory against FC Anahuac. Harry Williams scored twice in the first half.
The Roughnecks (4-3-0, 12pts) have had little trouble in front of goal in the past 10 days, meanwhile, with the side scoring 12 goals in its past three league and Open Cup contests. Leading the charge has been reigning USL Player of the Week Ian Svantesson, who has four goals in the Roughnecks' past two league wins, while Cristian Mata and Pasha Kondrakhin each notched a pair of goals in a 5-3 Open Cup victory against OKC Energy FC U23 on Wednesday that saw Tulsa score the game's first five goals.
562 - Sacramento Republic FC's goalless streak has reached 562 minutes of league action, with its last goal coming against Saturday's opponent Tulsa Roughnecks FC on April 9 by Wilson Kneeshaw.
16 - Sixteen USL clubs advanced to the Third Round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this week, the largest league representation remaining in the tournament outside Major League Soccer.
11 - Eleven current and former USL players will compete in the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup that kicks off in South Korea on Saturday, with Bethlehem Steel FC defender Auston Trusty, added to the U.S. squad in midweek, the ninth player in Head Coach Tab Ramos' squad with USL experience.
7 - San Antonio FC and Real Monarchs SLC are the first two teams in USL history with seven wins in their first eight games to start the regular season.
4 - Charleston Battery center back Forrest Lasso is second on his club with four goals this season, with all four having come off assists by Justin Portillo.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
- The Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will see four contests between USL rivals, including a River Cities rivalry clash between FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC at Nippert Stadium. The winner will host MLS's Columbus Crew SC in the Fourth Round.
- Five USL clubs could welcome USL opposition in the 104th edition of the tournament's Fourth Round, with the winner between Sacramento Republic FC and Reno 1868 FC hosting Real Salt Lake. Others include the Charlotte Independence, who would host the Houston Dynamo with a win, San Antonio FC, which would host defending Open Cup champion FC Dallas, and Saint Louis FC, which would host the Chicago Fire.
- Week 9's action kicks off on Friday evening when Toronto FC II (1-4-3, 6pts) hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies (5-2-2, 17pts) at the Ontario Soccer Centre (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Rowdies are on a three-game undefeated streak in league action, and will be looking to replicate their 4-0 win against Toronto when the sides met on April 1 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Real Monarchs SLC (7-1-0, 21pts) will be looking to add to a four-game winning streak, and to earn a little revenge, when it hosts Rocky Mountain rival Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (3-3-4, 13pts) at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night (9 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Switchbacks handed the Monarchs their only loss of the season so far on April 15, but Real has reeled off four consecutive wins since to move into second in the Western Conference.
- Eastern Conference leaders the Charleston Battery (6-1-1, 19pts) will look to continue their five-game undefeated streak when they visit the Harrisburg City Islanders (2-3-2, 8pts) at FNB Field on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Battery have earned back-to-back 1-0 victories over the past two weekends to remain on top of the East, while the City Islanders are winless in their past four outings coming into Saturday's game, and went to a penalty shootout before advancing past the PDL's Ocean City Nor'easters on Wednesday night in the Open Cup.
- Reno 1868 FC (1-3-2, 5pts) will look to build on its first win in club history when it returns to league action on Saturday night, but will get a strong test from Seattle Sounders FC 2 (4-4-1, 13pts) at Greater Nevada Field (10:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). S2 is undefeated in its past three outings, including a 0-0 draw on the road against San Antonio FC last Saturday, and has moved into third place in the Western Conference. Reno took a 4-0 win against Phoenix two weeks ago in its past league outing, and will be hoping for more of the same from Dane Kelly, who recorded the first hat trick in club history in the win.
- The New York Red Bulls II (3-4-2, 11pts) will look to maintain their perfect record at MSU Soccer Park when they host Ottawa Fury FC (1-3-3, 6pts) on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Red Bulls II are 3-0-0 at their new home this season, but are looking to rebound from a 2-1 defeat to the LA Galaxy II at Red Bull Arena last Sunday night. Fury FC is also looking for a turn in form, having gone winless in its past four league outings.
- Rio Grande Valley FC (4-3-0, 12pts) and the LA Galaxy II (2-5-1, 7pts) will both look to build on big wins in their past outings when they square off at H-E-B Park on Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Toros earned a 1-0 win against the Swope Park Rangers to move into the top eight in the Western Conference last Saturday, while Los Dos rallied to snap a six-game winless streak with a 2-1 victory against the New York Red Bulls II last Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
- OKC Energy FC (1-4-1, 4pts) and Orange County SC (3-2-1, 10pts) will both look to rebound from deflating defeats in their past outings when they meet at Taft Stadium on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET | Match Center). Energy FC conceded late in stoppage time against Phoenix Rising FC last Saturday to suffer a second straight defeat, while Orange County was blown out 4-0 by Tulsa Roughnecks FC to end a three-game undefeated run.
- Two of the USL's historic clubs will wrap up the weekend on Sunday afternoon when the Rochester Rhinos (2-1-2, 8pts) host the Richmond Kickers (2-4-2, 8pts) at Capelli Sport Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Rhinos are coming off a big 4-0 victory against the Charlotte Independence in their last league outing, and also earned a 3-0 win in midweek in the Open Cup. Things have been tougher recently for the Kickers, who drew 0-0 with the Harrisburg City Islanders last Saturday night before being knocked out of the Open Cup in midweek.
The USL is one of the most prominent Division II professional soccer leagues in the world, with 30 markets in 20 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces for the 2017 season. In total, the USL reaches a population of 75 million people, fueling the growth of professional soccer across North America.
In 2016, more than $100 million were invested league-wide into stadium infrastructure to create venues that deliver an unforgettable fan and competitor experience. The USL has national media partnerships with ESPN and SiriusXM, and recently invested $10 million to create USL Productions - which includes a state-of-the-art facility that will produce and distribute nearly 500 league matches and more than 1,000 hours of original content to national partners, local affiliates, USL's Match Center and international markets.
A growing league, the USL has more than doubled in size since 2014, with Ottawa Fury FC, Reno 1868 FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies debuting in 2017. Nashville SC is the first club set to join the league for 2018. Beyond league play, the USL regularly features international exhibitions against leading Premier League, Liga MX, and Bundesliga clubs, among others.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., the USL provides unparalleled club support with a growing team of 50 professionals across 17 departments, ranging from operations to marketing, communications and sponsorship. Follow the USL at USLSoccer.com, the USL Match Center, and on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.