It was a very exciting week in the USL, with several games going down to the wire and two games that featured 5+ goals in a half. FC Cincinnati and St Louis both lost in the past week (one was to the other, mind you) and several teams in the East playoff race dropped some points.
Rochester Rhinos 2, FC Cincinnati 1
It took 34 minutes for someone to break through in Rochester last Wednesday, and that someone was Mike Garzi for the Rhinos. The goal came after Cincy keeper Mitch Hildebrandt parried away a cross. The ball fell into the path of Garzi who smashed it home. The goal came against the run of play, and FCC resumed mostly controlling the game for the remainder of the first half.
FCC picked up where they left off in the second half, garnering good chances in the Rhinos’ box with intermittent spells of dangerous possession. One of those spells was a quick counter launched from deep in the Rhinos’ midfield in the 64th minute that released dos Santos into the FCC box, where he was taken down by Harrison Delbridge who earned a yellow for his efforts. Dos Santos converted the pen, going up 2-0 on the visitors.
Cincinnati got a penalty of their own 10 minutes later when Rhinos keeper Tomas Gomez came off his line to clear a cross, only to clean out FCC forward Andrew Weideman. Sean Okoli converted the penalty to finish the scoring. While FCC had more shots than the hosts, it was a case of not making the most of their chances, having an effort go off the crossbar as well as firing several chances just wide. FCC were debatably the better team, but they lacked the killer instinct in the attacking third, which is exactly where Rochester excelled. That being said, Rochester are absolutely not the team they were last year. They have the same middling offense without the stifling defense that got them to the championship.
Sacramento Republic FC 2, Real Monarchs SLC 3
In what may be the most exciting and action-packed half of the season, Real Monarchs won in an exciting fashion last Wednesday, scoring 3 times in 20 minutes to win it going away. Sacramento came dangerously close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute when SRFC forward Adam Jahn was found making a run behind the RMSLC back line, got around Fernandez in goal only to be tackled feet from the goal. Sacramento continued to hold most of the possession for the first half, knocking it around well but not getting very many legitimate chances on goal.
Both of the teams came out of the break with a new fire under them, and RMSLC nearly got a goal off of a corner in the 49th minute, getting deflected at point-blank range. Sacramento opened the scoring in the 53rd minute when a free kick on the left side of the Monarchs’ box was headed home by Michael Da Fonte on the near post. The game looked done and dusted when another free kick found the back of the Monarchs’ net just a few minutes later. The visitors had shown signs of life but were very much second-best.
The next 10 minutes were level as the two sides fought to gain a handle on the game. The Monarchs grabbed a goal in the 72nd minute when Ricardo Velazco launched a shot from outside the corner of the Republic’s box and over Jakubek in goal for SRFC. the visiting Monarchs leveled 9 minutes later when Kevaughn Frater connected on a high difficulty shot from a narrow angle just inside the Republic box, and Jakubek could do no better than stare at the effort as his net bulged.
By now, the Monarchs had a firm grasp on the match and a winner looked imminent. Fast forward to injury time, Sacramento looked to counter off of a saved set piece only to turn it back over at their most exposed. Ricardo Velazco took the shot from just outside the box, only to take a small but significant deflection off the head of Republic defender Derek Foran that sent it looping into Jakubek’s goal.
Charlotte Independence 1, Wilmington Hammerheads 2
It was the goalkeeping that will be making the headlines in this one, with Eric Ati making 7 saves for the Hammerheads on the night, many of them vital and difficult. The visiting Hammerheads opened the scoring just a few minutes from halftime, when Qudus Lawal found Casey Townsend behind the Independence back line who slotted it home. First half sub Lewis Hilton leveled for Charlotte in first half stoppage when he squeezed his side’s lone goal by Ati in traffic to send things into the break level.
Ati was called into action several times early in the second half, most notably in the 53rd minute when a thunderous volley from Caleb Calvert was turned over the bar. The sides exchanged possession, playing real end-to-end stuff, and Wilmington got on top for the last time in the 65th minute when Austin Martz punctuated a quick counter attack by slotting a winner past Berner from 12 yards out. Charlotte nearly equalized in the 78th minute when Brian Brown’s back heeled shot ran just inches wide of the post.
That was the last real chance that any team got, and Wilmington will be ecstatic to bring Charlotte’s 3 game unbeaten run to a close, especially when the 3 points come on the road. Wilmington go to 6-5-5, which puts them in 8th in the East, while Charlotte fall to 7-5-4, good for 5th. A 6-point gap has opened up between 4th in the East (Charleston) and Charlotte in 5th, albeit there’s some games in hand.
St Louis FC 1, FC Cincinnati 2
I did a little research, and it turns out that there is in fact no way for 2 teams to simultaneously lose the same game. If any game could have yielded a total of 0 points, we all would have liked for it to be this one. But look on the bright side, one of our rivals lost! But FCC is in our conference so it makes it a little more annoying that they won.
I’ll try to keep this one short and as sweet as reading about our sworn enemies can be: FCC just straight up out-manned, out-muscled, out-worked, out-everythinged StLFC. They used their size to boss Saint Louis off the ball and they got ahead early. St Louis looked like they were stuck in first gear.
The opener came in just the 8th minute, and had a whiff of offside about it as Okoli found a completely unmarked Omar Cummings who, to his credit, held his run just enough to get the ball and exploit the completely free space in front of him and blast a shot near-post from an unfair distance. The ball spent most of the time in St Louis’ half with FCC pinning them back and peppering Ryan Thompson with shots all game long, 12 of them in fact. StLFC had a few forays into FCC territory but they were more excursions than expeditions.
That’s how most of the game went, and FCC finally got another in the 78th when Cummings’ shot was parried by Thompson only to fall to the feet of Eric Stevenson, who tucked it away. Saint Louis’ goal in the 85th minute was academic and a result of lazy defending and complacency. FCC are 5 points behind the USL-leading Louisville City FC with a game in hand, and StLFC have tumbled down the pecking order in the West, they’re 6th with 23 points from 18 games.
Rochester Rhinos 0, Orlando City B 0
Rochester were certainly looking to forge a path into the top four in the conference after downing Cincinnati earlier in the week, but a combination of inconsistent offense and a stellar individual performance by OCB defender Kyle McFadden kept them off the scoresheet.
Orange County Blues FC 3, Sacramento Republic FC 3
In another dramatic second-half scorefest, Sacramento came from a losing position twice to gain a point away from home. The game featured 4 set piece goals, and either team could have won it. Sacramento looks to have gained offensive potency at the expense of an elite defense. After only letting in 4 goals in their first 9 games they’ve conceded 13 in the last 8.
Harrisburg City Islanders 2, Toronto FC II 4
Toronto scored their 7th goal in 2 games to down the flagging Islanders. They have seemingly turned things around lately, winning two on the trot for the first time this year. In fact, it’s only the 3rd time they haven’t lost 2 games in a row this year.