Hello all, I’m happy to be back summarizing USL action after taking last weekend off. Let’s get to it!
It was a goal-packed weekend in the USL which saw 36 goals in 12 games. Another interesting thread is the number of rain and lightning delays, in which no fewer than 3 games were delayed, or in Charlotte/Toronto II’s case, called early. Some of us may have repressed the fact that there were US Open Cup games last midweek, so we pick up on the action from Friday night.
Wilmington Hammerheads 3, Harrisburg City Islanders 2
It took less than 2 minutes into Week 11 to get the scoring underway, which went the way of the Hammerheads last Friday evening from Legion Stadium. Wilmington doubled their advantage just 11 minutes later when Kyle Parker got the ball from Austin Martz on the counter and slotted it home. Harrisburg pulled one back in the 17th minute when Bobby Warshaw caught a ball sweetly from 25 yards away and volleyed the shot past Hammerheads keeper John Smits. Warshaw doubled his money in the 27th minute when a free kick from distance found him free on the far post, where he nodded it past the helpless Smits. That would do it for the scoring in the first half as the teams calmed down and battened down the hatches to go into the half level. The majority of the second half was mostly back and forth, with possession changing hands a little too much for either team to dictate the game. The intensity picked up as the game entered its final stages, coming to a head in the 5th minute of injury time when a scramble in the box saw Wilmington’s Kyle Parker head the ball home for his second of the game. The result highlights Harrisburg’s inconsistency and inability to see out results, and Wilmington’s decent run of form. They’ve won more games in the past week (3 including USOC) than in the previous 9 USL games. They need to keep it up, however- they sit in the bottom half of the East, as does Harrisburg City.
FC Montreal 0, Rochester Rhinos 2
Less than 250 made their way to the foregone conclusion last Saturday, which saw the Rhinos score right on either side of the break. The game saw the visitors turn in 14 shots, where FCM managed just half that. Nothing to say really, Rochester are up to 5th with at least a game in hand on the teams above them, save NYRBII. FCM are probably getting cold in the unfinished basement of the East.
Charlotte Independence 2, Toronto FC II 2
Charlotte got into point-salvage mode early on in this contest after conceding in the 19th minute and again in the 36th. They must have gotten a stern talking-to during halftime, because it took all of 59 seconds for them to get on the board in the second period when Jorge Herrera directed a Dennis Castillo cross into the back of Toronto’s net. Herrera and Charlotte looked to be firing on all cylinders as they equalized 10 minutes later as the Independence forward notched his second of the match from 10 yards away via a neat David Estrada pass. Charlotte were certainly looking to complete the comeback and take all 3 points, but Mother Nature had other plans. Play was halted in the 73rd minute for lightning, and never resumed. The result sees Charlotte’s winless run slide to 4 games (0-1-3) and their conference position fall to 6th. TFCII are 3rd bottom, with 9 points from 12 games.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1, Charleston Battery 2
Although Charleston took a commanding 2-0 lead in the first half from a PK and another scramble in the box, Pittsburgh had the forecheck (warning: hockey reference) on in the second half to keep the ball in Charleston’s third. Rob Vincent had a great driven strike from 30 yards away to push the ball by the Charleston keeper, who was either screened on the shot, or is just a bad goalie. At any rate, it wasn’t enough for the hosts, who’ve dropped their 4th of the last 5. Charleston improve to 6-3-3, good for 4th in the conference.
FC Cincinnati 1, Richmond Kickers 1
FCC took little time in getting down to business after the match start was delayed by lightning, when an opportunistic Sean Okoli was on hand to clean up a botched handling of a headed back pass to Kickers keeper Charlie Horton in the 13th minute. A total of 31 shots by both sides yielded a hectic match for both defenses and keepers alike, but it was the last shot of the game that gave the Kickers a result. A juicy cross from Brian Ownby found Hugh Roberts’ right foot and blasted it past Hildebrandt for the point. After the match, Toyota John Harkes was a little salty about what he called “negative play” from the Kickers, which just makes you wonder if he’s ever watched their game film before. The result keeps FCC in third in the East, with 21 from 11, and Richmond are 7th at 4-4-4.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC 0, OKC Energy FC 2
It was the first Black Gold derby matchup of the season, and OKC Energy followed up its mid-week Open Cup extra time Derby win over Rayo OKC with a dominant first half performance. Left Back Kyle Hyland assisted both of the goals, the first was to Wojcik who volleyed it near-post in the 20th minute, and that was followed 8 minutes later when Hyland’s long cross found Gonzalez on the back post to make it 2-0. OKC pushed for a 3rd well into the second half to eliminate any doubt, but about 20 away from the end they took the air out of the ball and sat on it to take all 3 points home. OKC sit 6th in the West at 4-1-4 and Tulsa are floundering at second from the bottom at 2-8-1.
Rio Grande Valley FC 1, San Antonio FC 0
In another match delayed by rain, it took a while for teams to finally find second gear. The only score of this competition came in the 41st minute when a distanced free kick taken by Jose Rodrigues found the head of RGV captain Kevin Garcia who directed it top right. The Toros kept up their attack, getting a total of 5 shots on goal where San Antonio managed just 2 in the whole match. Plenty of cards contributed to the derby competitiveness of the game, 7 in total. RGV improve to 5-2-4, 4th in the West. San Antonio have yet to quite put it all together, they’re 4th bottom at 2-5-4.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 2, Saint Louis FC 0
StLFC took one on the chin last Saturday out in COS, going down by 2 goals within 18 minutes. StLFC couldn’t convert their attacking third possession into dangerous chances, getting 8 shots and turning just 1 on goal. COS meanwhile got a catalog of chances, converting their first just 124 ticks into the game after StLFC’s Sam Fink practically gave Martin Maybin the ball at the top of the 18 on a brain-neutral play. He should have been credited with the assist. Miguel Gonzalez converted his chance in the 18th minute when a ball from Josh Suggs found him with a bit of space and a narrow angle in St Louis’ box, the difficulty factor did not deter the young Mexican as he doubled his side’s advantage. That would be all the scoring from Switchbacks Stadium, although not for a lack of trying. COS went on to register a total of 13 shots en route to gathering their 13th of 15 possible points at home so far this season. Colorado Springs move into first in the West with this result, level with Vancouver on points, but with a better goal differential and a big game in hand. StLFC are 7th out West at 4-4-4.
Portland Timbers 2 2, Swope Park Rangers 1
In the first USL match held on neutral ground, Portland took all 3 points in the competition from a high school field in Idaho. There were no match stats (I suspect because there’s no internet/electricity in Idaho) so I turned to the Idaho Statesman for their concise, objective journalism. “Neco Brett [Timbers 2] blasted a free kick from 22 yards out into the far upper corner of the Rangers’ net in the 27th minute to get Portland on the board…Brett, a speedy native of Jamaica, added an assist in the 70th minute when he booted the ball just past the Swope Park defense onto the foot of Victor Arboleda… Swope Park… got back into it in the 85th minute when Mark Gonzalez chipped a long ball over overeager goalie Kendall McIntosh from 30 yards out” but that wasn’t enough to turn the match into a result for the ‘visiting’ SPR. Portland is 5th in the West at 5-6-1, and SPR are 11th at 3-5-1.
Seattle Sounders FC 2 2, Orange County Blues FC 5
OCB West hung 5 on 10-man S2 in the second half from Anteater Stadium, as a two-goal advantage was not enough to hold off the disadvantage that befell the visitors when S2 Midfielder Jordan Schweitzer got his second yellow of the match in the 61st minute. Seattle’s Andy Craven notched his 2 first career goals for S2 in the 46th and 58th minutes to put the visitors in the driver’s seat, but it was not enough. A 60th minute goal by Akwafei Ajeakwa saw OCB light the fuse on their goal-explosion. The hosts equalized in the 64th minute, and didn’t look to be slowing down. They took the lead 7 minutes later, and added another from the spot in the 86th minute. Aaaaaaand they registered their fifth in the 4th minute of injury time. Hot and cold OCB is 10th at 4-4-3 and S2 are bottom at just 1-7-4.
Sacramento Republic FC 2, LA Galaxy II 2
The matchup of 2014 and 2015 Western Conference Champions yielded a 2-apiece draw for the competitive sides from packed Bonney Field on Saturday night. Jump to the 51st minute, Daniel Berrera gave the hosts the lead after he got a free header in front of LA’s goal off of a free kick. He went from here to zero minutes later however, when he failed to track LAII’s Jaime Villareal as he redirected his brother’s assist past the arms of Dominik Jakubek in net for SRFC. Things went from bad to worse as Jose Villareal dispossessed SRFC’s last defender in Derek Foran and dribbled by Jakubek to slot the goal home to take a 2-1 lead in the 58th minute. Sacramento found their way back into this one 10 minutes from the end when James Kiffe sent a meted out a great cross for Daniel Trickett in traffic inside the 6 yard box. Things ended level, and Sacramento will be happy to get a draw considering their defensive blunders as well as Los Dos’ status as third-top in the West. Sacramento are just 9th out West, although the 4 teams ahead of them have 16 points, compared to their 15. LA have 21 points from 13 games.
Bethlehem Steel FC 0, New York Red Bulls II 1
It was an early score that decided this rain-delay lengthened match from Goodman Stadium in the middle of nowhere, PA. Brandon Allen put the visitors up just 3 minutes into the game, and didn’t look back. A second half rain-delay looked to interrupt their resilient defensive effort, but the Red Bulls strolled out of the state with all 3 point in hand. NYRBII have 24 from 11, second in the East and Bethlehem Steel continue their mediocre inaugural campaign at 3-4-4, 11th in the Conference.