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The Eastern Conference Kickabout: Week 2

The Kickabout is back! We’ll miss Kevin Kernen :_( because he actually bothered to watch all of the games. I have a wife and kids and dogs so I can’t do that. What I can do, though, is shamelessly plagiarize and editorialize USLsoccer.com’s Nicholas Murray and aggregate his wrapups into just one place. Read on!

While Week 1 was somewhat short on goals (and some would say short on excitement), Week 2 delivered in that department. Tampa, St. Louis, Rochester, and of course Elsie scored at least three goals this week. Let’s review, shall we?

St. Louis 3 – 2 Ottawa Fury

So our downriver foes might actually not be that bad! The Other Louis grabbed a dramatic late winner in a 3-2 victory against  Ottawa Fury FC at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis (who DON’T they sponsor?) after losing an early two-goal lead. The game got off to a roaring start as Christian Volesky first opened his account for Saint Louis, and then set up Mats Bjurman for a second less than 10 minutes into the contest. Fury FC hit back as Gerardo Bruna found Eddie Edward for a finish on a near-post corner in the 11th minute, but Saint Louis carried more of the play for the remainder of the half to remain ahead at the break.

Fury FC began to press early in the second half, and Eddie Edward had a low shot from the center of the penalty area well-saved by Saint Louis’ Devala Gorrick as it came through traffic. Gorrick made another big save to deny Ramon Martin del Campo on the hour-mark, but was unable to deny an equalizer with seven minutes to go as Onua Obasi placed a shot through a forest of bodies that just squeaked in. Saint Louis grabbed victory at the death, however, as Max Alvarez’s clipped finish was turned into his own net by Sergio Manesio for the winner with two minutes to go.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 4 – 0 Toronto II

Another week, another win for Tampa Bay. Torontwo, meanwhile, returns to the depths from which they came. They also inadvertently confirmed that wins against Phoenix Rising shouldn’t count, as the Rising(?) lost 2-0 to Real Monarchs this week. Moving on:

The Tampa Bay Rowdies romped to a 4-0 victory against Toronto FC II on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium as three first-half goals paved the way to a comfortable victory. The Rowdies got an early lead as a corner on the left came back out to Michael Nanchoff, and his cross to the far post found Damion Lowe for his first goal for Tampa Bay. Nanchoff again played provider as a good dummy set up Georgi Hristov for his second goal of the season in the 20th minute, and two minutes later Joe Cole notched his first as Marcel Schäfer found him in space on the right side of the penalty area. Nanchoff also hit the crossbar with a free kick in the 36th minute, but the Rowdies held their three-goal lead until the break. Toronto got into some better positions early in the second half, but Tampa Bay added its fourth with 20 minutes to go as Deshorn Brown got on the end of Hristov’s cross from the left to score on his Rowdies’ debut. Toronto’s Brian James hit the post in the 75th minute with a tight-angle shot, but it would have been little other than a consolation as Tampa Bay took its second consecutive win.

Charlotte Independence 0 – 2 Charleston Battery

Does a win over Charlotte count if no one’s there to see it? We know it was a sparse crowd because a) c’mon, it’s Charlotte and b) USL always mentions attendance when it’s good. Nowhere to be found in this recap, though!

The Southern Derby opened with the Charleston Battery as the victors as Romario Williams and Forrest Lasso tallied in the second half to lead the visiting side to a 2-0 win against the Charlotte Independence on Saturday at Transamerica Field. Williams, who led the Battery last season with 10 goals, opened his scoring account with a 70th-minute tally and seven minutes later it was Lasso off of a Justin Portillo free kick to play the role of spoiler during Charlotte’s season opener. Charleston improves to 2-0-0 (6 points) on the young season. Charlotte, which was without a couple players because of carryover suspensions from the end of the 2016 campaign, was unable to find the back of the net in its first game of 2017.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0 – 1 Cincinnati

Well, our hopes that Pittsburgh was a rejuvenated side able to hold serve against the visiting Knifey Soccer Lion Kings were dashed on Saturday in a game that some people may or may not have gone to. Cincinnati’s Djiby scored his second goal in as many games as the second-year club earned its first win of the season at Highmark Stadium. It also marked the first Cincy win for Head Coach Alan Koch, who spent last season leading Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 to the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs. Cincinnati played up a man for more than half of the match after Andrew Wiedeman drew a second caution against Pittsburgh’s Gale Agbossoumonde (USL All Name Team Nominee!) late in the second half. The Riverhounds fall to 0-1-1 (1 point) while Cincinnati moves to 1-1-0 (3 points).

New York Red Bulls II 1 – 0 Richmond Kickers

Zeiko Lewis’ first professional goal proved the difference as the New York Red Bulls II earned a 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers at their new home, Montclair State University Soccer Park, on Saturday afternoon. The Red Bulls II (1-0-1, 4pts) had the better of the game early, and Arun Basuljevic almost curled home a finish in the 25th minute as the hosts pressured regularly. New York thought it had taken the lead five minutes into the second half, only for the offside flag to be raised on Junior Flemmings’ finish. Richmond’s Mikey Minutillo almost scored midway through the half, his shot from the right side of the penalty area clipping the crossbar, but moments later New York’s Lewis found the net as he capitalized on a scramble in the penalty area after a corner. The Kickers (1-1-0, 3pts) were aggressive in looking for an equalizer, and Chris Durkin pulled a shot wide of the left post with nine minutes to go, but New York held firm for its first win of the season.

Bethlehem Steel 2 – 3 Rochester Rhinos

Not the scoreline you’d expect from either of these teams, is it? Five goals in a Rhinos game? Unheard of! In the Week 2 season opener for both sides, Bethlehem Steel FC and the Rochester Rhinos appeared to be headed to another draw in their head-to-head series. Second-half sub and Rhinos newcomer Jochen Graf put an end to that trend with an 88th-minute winner as the visiting side earned a 3-2 victory Saturday at Goodman Stadium. After drawing against each other twice last year, Graf’s right-footed volley from Jalen Brown’s cross was the difference. It was a topsy-turvy match with a number of goals as the Rhinos could not maintain a two-goal lead. Darius Madison and Wal Fall each scored in the opening half, but Bethlehem fought back. Former U.S. Men’s National Team striker Charlie Davies and then Seku Conneh converted their PK, but Rochester would eventually swing things back in its favor down the stretch with Graf’s winner.

What to Watch For in Week Three:

The midweek games don’t offer much, but on Saturday after Louisville City plays at Richmond, which you’ll watch, of course, Charleston hosts Pittsburgh at 7:00 and Tampa Bay Rowdies get their THIRD CONSECUTIVE HOME GAME, this time against Ottawa Fury. We haven’t figured out whether the Fury are any good or not. After all, they lost to St. Louis. But if they’re just a B squad for Montreal Impact, then Tampa Bay might think they’ve got things allllll figured out in the ol’ US and L before coming to Slugger Field in Week 4. But then BAM, TURF MONSTER AND THE RETURN OF SEAN REYNOLDS. THEY’LL NEVER SEE IT COMING.