It’s finally here! After Orange County and Sacramento fought to a scoreless draw Tuesday night in Irvine (whew!), the 2015 USL Playoff bracket is complete.*
In the East, Rochester and Louisville City have first round byes, while New York will host Pittsburgh on Saturday and Charleston will host Richmond in the first round on Sunday.
Out west, Orange County’s draw led them to first place, so they and Oklahoma City Energy have first round byes. Western Round 1 games will feature Colorado Springs hosting Seattle Sounders 2 on Saturday and Sacramento hosting Los Dos on Sunday.
As always, these games will be broadcast live on YouTube. UOP’s site will probably do a better job going in depth on these playoff matchups, so go there if you want real analysis. I’m just here for snark, and so are you. Here’s how I see the first round matches going:
New York Red Bulls II vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Head to Head: One home win apiece. The Baby Bulls won 3-2 at RBA on May 3, then the Otters won 3-0 at Highmark in July.
Form: FALLACY, per Alexi Lalas, but we’ll ignore him for the moment.
New York had a playoff spot locked up with a few matches to go, while Pittsburgh had to beat Harrisburg in their final regular season match to punch their ticket to the playoffs. To their credit, the Dogs have only lost once since July.
“ANALYSIS”: New York is probably the better team. Home field advantage means a lot less to MLS “2” teams because they don’t really have any “fans,” but the Riverhounds still have to travel and try to figure out who the hell they’ll even be playing, as the Sugar Frees have about 40 guys to pick from. The Otters also are just kind of okay on the road, and have that 3-0 thrashing to look back on the last time they went to New Jersey.
The Pick: New York 2-1 Pittsburgh.
Charleston Battery vs. Richmond Kickers
Head to Head: Two draws and a 2-0 Charleston win back in August at City Stadium. This is one of the oldest continuing rivalries in the USL, and should be a fun one to watch.
Richmond’s escape from below the red line wasn’t as dramatic as Pittsburgh’s, but given that the Kickers have only won three out of their last ten matches, it would be fair to say they limped their way into the field. Charleston, on the other hand, sat in second place for a good chunk of the year before their midseason swoon. Looks like they’ve righted their ship on recent results, though.
“ANALYSIS”: Charleston is good, Richmond is not so good. Of Richmond’s ten wins this season, eight were against expansion teams, and the other two were against Harrisburg and Wilmington. The Kickers have only beaten one playoff team on the season, New York, which they did twice.
Charleston, on the other hand, is coming out of a good period of play after going six straight winless matches to begin the second half of the season. The Battery are primed, loaded and ready to blow the Kickers out of the water. [Ed.: needs more cannon puns.]
The Pick: 2-0 to Charleston. While as a City fan I’d rather play the Kickers, I don’t see them surviving this game at MUSC Health.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Head to Head: The ‘Backs drew S2 1-1 at home in July and lost 3-2 in Seattle last month.
Colorado Springs: L-W-W-D-L
Ouch, Lil’ Sounders.
“ANAYLYSIS”: The Switchbacks are kind of a surprising story. No MLS affiliation, no one really knew anything about them before the season aside from Reddit rumors that their owner kind of sucked at owning things. They bounced all around the table but had a few weeks here and there at the top of the league. Meanwhile, Seattle started the season off by blowing teams out of the water. The Second Sounders had six wins before May was over. After that, things evened out a bit, before Seattle limped into the end of the season with just three wins in their last ten matches.
Colorado is pretty good at home, but more jarringly the Sounders are pretty bad away, having won just twice in fourteen road matches.
The Pick: Colorado Springs 2-1 Seattle 2.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy II
Head to Head: Sacramento owns this rivalry this season with a 3-0-1 record against Los Dos. The last match evened out the goal difference (7-7), though, as the Republic got pasted 0-4 at Bonney Field.
“ANALYSIS”: Sacramento hasn’t quite had a repeat of their wildly successful first season, but they were safely in the playoffs in a hotly contested Western conference pretty early on. Odd thing is, though, LA can say the same thing. The Original Twos actually have more wins on the year than the Republic, but they lost eleven times while the Republic managed to salvage quite a few more draws. Of all the games we’ve discussed here, this one by far has the most star power, with RoRo Lopez at Sacramento and Ariel Lassiter for Los Dos. This should be a fun one to watch.
The Pick: I’m feeling LA here. They’re bound to want revenge, if that’s a thing athletes care about, for having been kicked out of the playoffs by Sacramento last year, and I think they’ve got the horses to do it. Sacramento 1-3 Galaxy II.
*The draw means Louisville City could host the USL title game by virtue of finishing with the second most points in the league**
**Gotta win two other games first, though, so yeah.