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The Eastern Conference Kickabout: Week 5

The Kickabout is a weekly roundup of USL Eastern Conference results. I have a real job and too many kids, so I don’t actually watch all of the games. USL’s Nicholas Murray does, though, so I shamelessly plagiarize and editorialize his myriad recaps from USLsoccer.com into just one place. Read on!

Week 5 was a little out of character for the Eastern Conference in that there was very little movement in the table. The cause? Nearly half the matches ended in draws. Also, somehow Charleston has snuck to the top of the table, and despite Preki’s mere existence, St. Louis is reverting to its old form.

Harrisburg 1 – 1 Orlando City B

Harrisburg was a little unlucky to drop points in this one, and have quietly had a strong start to the season. The City Islanders were just stoppage-time minutes away from recording their first three-game winning streak in nearly two years. That notion was put to bed as Zach Carroll found a stoppage-time equalizer to help Orlando City B earn a 1-1 draw against Harrisburg on Tuesday at FNB Field. Harrisburg was en route to a win with Tiago Calvano’s second-half penalty kick. Paul Wilson drew a foul in the box late in the second half, and in the 80th minute, Calvano calmly picked out the left side of the frame to convert. However, in stoppage time, Orlando drew a foul just outside the penalty box and Carroll redirected the free kick into the back of the net past City Islanders goalkeeper Brandon Miller. Harrisburg moves to 2-1-1 (7 points) while Orlando is now 1-3-2 (5 points).

Cincinnati 1 – 1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

I caught the second half of this one. Tampa should probably feel pretty good about this draw, as Cincy had all the momentum before Kadeem Dacres saw red late in the second half. Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Rowdies played to a 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium as the hosts hit back late in the first half after Tampa Bay’s early goal. The Rowdies settled well, and took the lead in the seventh minute after forcing a turnover in the FCC half when Marcel Schäfer blasted home his first goal from the club from 35 yards into the right corner. FCC almost took advantage of a Tampa Bay turnover in the 20th minute, only for Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens to come off his line quickly to deny Jimmy McLaughlin at the edge of the penalty area, but the hosts leveled nine minutes before halftime as Harrison Delbridge headed home a corner from the left. Cincinnati almost took the lead in the 64th minute when Matt Bahner slid in substitute Daryl Fordyce, only for Pickens to save low, while Kenney Walker just curled an effort wide for the hosts from a free kick 30 yards out with 19 minutes to go. FCC was reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes to go when Kadeem Dacres was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Tampa Bay’s Deshorn Brown.

Ottawa Fury 0 – 0 Torontwo

No one cares, so not gonna bother other than to say this is a classic Canadian matchup: lots of handshakes and no offense.

Richmond Kickers 2 – 1 Pittsburgh Riverhoundz

Richo, at least temporarily, might have figured out their (lack of) scoring problem! The Richmond Kickers, who were shut out during their previous three matches, garnered some long-awaited goal scoring on Saturday. Fred Owusu Seykere’s 15th-minute tally and Alhaji Kamara’s 46th-minute score helped Richmond earn a 2-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at City Stadium. Kickoff was pushed back an hour because of a weather delay, and both teams endured the rain-soaked conditions throughout Saturday’s match. Columbus Crew SC loanee Marshall Hollingsworth netted a goal for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to keep his side in the match. Richmond improved to 2-3-0 (6 points) overall and 2-2-0 at home, earning its first win since its home-opening 1-0 victory against the Harrisburg City Islanders on March 25. Pittsburgh fell to 1-3-2 (5 points) and lost for the first time on the road this season.

Rochester Rhinos 2 – 2 New York Red Bulls II

This is an odd season for both New York teams, who have been so strong the prior two campaigns. The Rochester Rhinos scored deep in stoppage time through Joe Farrell to earn a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls II on Saturday night at Capelli Sport Stadium. Both teams came out brightly, and the Red Bulls II created the first big chance in the 23rd minute when Vincent Bezecourt and Florian Valot linked up and Bezecourt shot just high and wide of the left corner. Rochester’s Kenardo Forbes also went close with a shot from the top of the penalty area that went just wide three minutes later. Darius Madison also fired well over for the Rhinos six minutes before the break and Red Bulls II goalkeeper Evan Louro made an excellent stop to deny Forbes, but Mike Garzi broke through in first-half stoppage time with a half-volleyed finish from 20 yards out to give the hosts the lead. New York hit back five minutes into the second half as Brandon Allen fired home from the left side of the penalty area, and almost took the lead eight minutes later when a shot by Florian Valot was saved. The Red Bulls II hit the front in the 65th minute, however, as a collision in the penalty area on a cross gave Vincent Bezecourt a chance to bury his fifth goal of the season. The Rhinos pressed late to get back on level terms, and with the final chance of the game earned an equalizer as Farrell got on the end of a long free kick by Kenardo Forbes to deny the Red Bulls II victory.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 – 3 Charleston Battery

It’s been a rough ten days for the Rowdies. The Charleston Battery closed out both halves in strong fashion, the latter being the most crucial as Tah Brian Anunga’s 89th-minute score lifted the Battery to a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday in front of a crowd of 5,016 at Al Lang Stadium in Tampa. The match had its share of ebbs and flows for both sides as the Rowdies had the early lead on Joe Cole’s rebound. Charleston responded just before halftime with Forrest Lasso and Maikel Chang scoring back-to-back to take a 2-1 lead through the first 45 minutes. Georgi Hristov’s 62nd-minute score leveled things for the host side, but the Battery would ultimately find the final tally. Heading into the match, Tampa Bay had not allowed a goal in three previous home matches. With the win, Charleston improves to 4-1-0 (12 points) while the Rowdies fall to 3-2-1 (10 points).

St. Louis 1 – 2 Charlotte Independence

Is St. Louis finally settling back to their normal level, by which I mean: slightly better than bad? We don’t truly know yet, but that won’t stop me from saying it! The Charlotte Independence – the last remaining Eastern Conference side without a win – were in need of some sort of spark. They found it in the form of 2016 USL MVP finalist Enzo Martinez. Martinez tallied two first-half goals and propelled the Independence to a 2-1 victory against Saint Louis FC on Saturday at Toyota Field – Saint Louis. Charlotte overcame an early deficit as Martinez scored in the eighth and 28th minute to give the Independence the lead on the road. Jose Angulo had the game’s opening goal in the fourth minute, but the host side was unable to hang onto the early advantage. Charlotte improves to 1-1-2 (5 points) while Saint Louis drops to 3-2-1 (10 points).

Bethlehem Steel 0 – 2 Orlando City B

Richie Laryea scored both goals as Orlando City B earned a 2-0 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC on Sunday evening at Goodman Stadium. The game opened evenly, but Steel FC came close to taking the lead in the 20th minute when Cory Burke was denied by Orlando goalkeeper Earl Edwards. Edwards made another big save to deny Seku Conneh three minutes later, and Burke had a good header off a corner kick by 12 minutes before the break that was comfortably saved by Edwards. Orlando took the lead four minutes into the second half, however, as a good move down the right released Austin Martz, who cut back a pass to Laryea for a finish to the left corner. Pierre da Silva almost added to OCB’s lead in the 63rd minute as his free kick was saved, but Lareyea added a second in the 71st minute as he rifled a shot into the left corner from the top-right of the penalty area. Bethlehem’s Conneh forced a good save from Edwards four minutes later, but OCB threatened to add to its lead late on as the visitors ended their three-game road trip to the Northeast with a victory.