Eastern Conference Preview: Part Two
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This week, we're previewing the 2020 USL Championship Eastern Conference field. This part two of a three part series.
In part one yesterday, we looked at Atlanta United 2, Birmingham Legion FC, Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence and the Hartford Athletic.
Today we'll get to know Indy Eleven, Loudoun United FC, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC, Miami FC and New York Red Bulls II.
Head Coach: Martin Rennie
2019 Record: 19-9-6 (W-L-D), 3rd place
2019 Postseason: Eliminated in Conference Final by No. 4 seed Louisville City FC
Stadium: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
The Indy Eleven played its second season as a member of the USL Championship last year and nearly won the Eastern Conference, falling in added time in dramatic fashion at home to regional rival Louisville City FC in the Eastern Conference Final. Last year's leading scorer, Tyler Pasher, remains with the Eleven and scored twice against Memphis last weekend in the season opener.
The Rowdies drew both matches against the Indy Eleven in 2019, first in Indianapolis in May and then at Al Lang in the home finale in October. This year's matches are in Indianapolis on May 8 and in St. Pete on August 15.
Indy beat Memphis 901 FC 4-2 last weekend despite conceding twice in the first 16 minutes.
Loudoun United FC
Head Coach: Ryan Martin
2019 Record: 11-17-6 (W-L-D), 12th place
2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify
Stadium: Segra Field, Leesburg, Virginia
Segra Field, Leesburg, Virginia
Loudoun United FC played its inaugural season as a member of the USL Championship in 2019. Loudoun serves as D.C. United's second team. It was a tough first campaign for Loudoun, which dug itself a hole at the start of the season and played well later in the year but not well enough to reach the playoffs. Last year's leading scorer, Kyle Murphy (13 goals), now plays for the Rowdies.
Despite its poor showing overall, falling four points short of the postseason, Loudoun got the better of the Rowdies in 2019. The teams drew 0-0 in St. Petersburg in March and then Loudoun beat the Rowdies 2-0 in Virginia in October.
Loudoun started off the season alright, drawing 0-0 in a road match against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. The Rowdies will host Loudoun United on May 16 this year and then visit Segra Field on September 5.
Louisville City FC
Head Coach: John Hackworth
2019 Record: 17-8-9 (W-L-D), 4th place
2019 Postseason: Lost USL Championship Final to Real Monarchs SLC
Stadium: Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky
Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville enters the 2020 season as the three-time defending Eastern Conference winner and after coming up just short of a third straight league crown. Louisville was beaten at home in the title match by Real Monarchs SLC. This year will mark the debut of one of the best stadiums in the USL Championship, Lynn Family Stadium, after five years spent playing at Louisville Slugger Field. Last year's leading scorer, Magnus Rasmussen (17 goals), remains with the club.
The Rowdies drew both matches with Louisville in the regular season last year, but were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat at Slugger Field in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Rasmussen scored twice in two minutes and Tampa Bay ran out of time in its comeback attempt. This year's matches are in Louisville on April 17 and at home on August 29.
Louisville started the season with a road win last weekend, topping North Carolina FC 1-0 in its opener.
Memphis 901 FC
Head Coach: Tim Mulqueen
2019 Record: 9-18-7 (W-L-D), 15th place
2019 Postseason: Did Not Qualify
Stadium: Autozone Park, Memphis, Tennessee
Autozone Park, Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis 901 FC didn't quite meet expectations on the field in its inaugural season in 2019. 901 FC finished in 15th place, nine points below the playoff line. This year, minority owner Tim Howard also took the role of Sporting Director and then signed himself as a player. Last year's leading scorer, Brandon Allen (nine goals), remains with the club and scored on opening weekend.
The Rowdies dominated Memphis last year, spoiling its first-ever home match with a 1-0 victory on opening day last season and then beating 901 FC 5-0 at Al Lang in August. This year's meetings are on June 3 in Tennessee and July 18 in St. Petersburg.
Tim Howard's USL Championship debut didn't go well last weekend, with his team conceding four goals in a home loss to the Indy Eleven.
The Miami FC
Head Coach: Nelson Vargas
2019 Record: N/A
2019 Postseason: N/A
Stadium: Riccardo Silva Stadium, Miami, Florida
Riccardo Silva Stadium, Miami, Florida
The Rowdies old NASL rival joined the USL Championship in December, giving Tampa Bay an in-state rival for the first time since 2017. The Miami FC spent the last two seasons playing in semipro leagues with a fully professional roster to great success. They gained access to the USL Championship for this season by buying Ottawa Fury FC's franchise rights, so the club is technically a relocation of Ottawa.
The teams last met in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a 2-0 Miami FC victory. They drew all three matches in league play in 2016.
Miami FC's Championship debut went poorly last weekend, with the club losing 4-1 to Saint Louis FC and allowing an astonishing 20 shots, including 13 on target. The Rowdies visit Miami this Friday night and again on April 11 before hosting Miami on August 8.
New York Red Bulls II
Head Coach: John Wolyniec
2019 Record: 17-11-6 (W-L-D), 6th place
2019 Postseason: Eliminated in Conference Quarterfinals by No. 3 Indy Eleven
Stadium: MSU Soccer Park, Montclair, New Jersey
MSU Soccer Park, Montclair, New Jersey
The New York Red Bulls II were the highest-scoring offense in the Eastern Conference last season but finished in sixth place and were eliminated in the Conference Quarterfinals. Last year's leading scorer, Jared Stroud (15 goals), is now on the Red Bulls Major League Soccer roster, but appeared with Red Bulls II on opening weekend.
The Rowdies and Red Bulls split the season series last year, with each team winning 2-0 in its home match.
Tampa Bay beat New York 1-0 in New Jersey last weekend, marking the first time the Rowdies have ever earned a point on the road against the Red Bulls. The teams will meet three times this season, with New York visiting Al Lang on June 24 and October 10.
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