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The Eastern Conference Kickabout: March 27 2017

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 USLsoccer.com’s Nicholas Murray and aggregate his wrapups into just one place. Read on!

The opening weekend is behind us, and some good and bad things happened. We all know how our favorite Purple team fared over the weekend (if you don’t, read about it here). City finds themselves seventh in the Eastern Conference table, two points behind the Rowdies, Torontwo, Charleston Battery, and the Kickers. There were some other interesting results you’ll want to pay attention to, starting with:

Charleston Battery 2-1 Cincinnati

First, I’ve decided to stop putting the FC in front of Cincy because you don’t see people calling Arsenal “Arsenal FC” or Real Madrid “CF Real Madrid” or whatever. We know what we’re talking about here! Anyway, didn’t want to bury the lede here because it’s a pretty important result.

The Charleston Battery got a goal and assist from Justin Portillo to earn a 2-1 victory in the club’s 25th home opener on Saturday night. Cincinnati almost took the lead in the ninth minute when Aodhan Quinn’s curling free kick was turned away by Battery goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, and the two teams continued to exchange chances in the opening half-hour. Quinn had a low shot from outside the penalty area saved, while Charleston’s Ataulla Guerra and Forrest Lasso also had efforts denied by Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. The Battery’s Maikel Chang also set up Dante Marini for a shot that was charged down by FCC’s Matt Bahner, but from the ensuing corner Forrest Lasso gave the hosts the lead from Portillo’s delivery. Cincinnati almost struck back from a corner of its own as Harrison Delbridge’s header was cleared off the line five minutes into the second half, but Djiby Fall’s first goal for the club from Andrew Wiedeman’s cross just before the hour-mark made it 1-1. Charleston almost answered immediately, as Chang had a shot saved and Marini shot over moments later. The hosts regained the lead with 19 minutes to go, however, when Portillo scored on the rebound after Hildebrandt had saved his initial penalty kick to earn the Battery a season-opening win.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3-3 NYRBII

  1. I can’t believe the Sugar Frees gave up three goals
  2. I can’t believe Pittsburgh scored three goals on someone other than Harrisburg. What a barn burner!

The New York Red Bulls II’s attack picked up right where it left off in 2016, but the Pittsburgh Riverhounds had answers and secured a point in an exciting 3-3 tie at Highmark Stadium on Saturday. New York looked strong up front in their opening match. Florian Valot scored first goal in the sixth minute of play before Riverhounds attacker Corey Hertzog responded with an incredible solo effort along the end line three minutes later, tying the match. Vincent Bezecourt gave the Red Bulls II the lead with a quality strike in the 16th minute, but once again, the Riverhounds responded. Kevin Kerr scored before halftime to level the score, 2-2. In the 77th minute, Bezecourt gave the visitors the 3-2 lead with a penalty-kick conversion late into the match, but Hertzog bagged another goal to help his club earn a point in its 2017 home opener.

Richmond Kickers 1-0 Harrisburg City Islanders

The Richmond Kickers opened up their 25th season with a 1-0 victory against the Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday in front of an impressive home-record crowd of 8,021 at City Stadium. Once again Richmond defender, former City defender, and Kickers team captain Conor Shanosky tallied early in the second half and the Kickers’ defense was able to make that hold up. Travis Worra earned the clean sheet, making a crucial penalty kick save in the opening 15 minutes. In stoppage time, Paul Wilson had a strong scoring chance for Harrisburg as he had a couple steps on the Richmond defense, but he booted his right-footed shot wide right. The game also marked the first of 25 USL regular-season matches in which the Video Assistant Referee technology was utilized. Well, it was there. But it wasn’t actually utilized.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 Orlando City B

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, the first 2017 USL expansion side to kick off the new season, opened up the campaign with a 1-0 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 7,710 against I-4 rival Orlando City B on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium. That attendance figure also is a Rowdies record at Al Lang. All-time Rowdies goal-scoring leader Georgi Hristov tallied the lone goal, a 57th-minute penalty kick. It was a deceiving score line as Tampa Bay created a multitude of scoring opportunities against second-year OCB.

Phoenix Rising 0-1 Toronto II

This one is a little weird in that it’s an Eastern Conference team playing a Western Conference team. There isn’t much crossover between the leagues this season, but T2 got to get it out of the way in their opener. What wasn’t weird was that despite the rebrand, the professional soccer team in or near Phoenix, Arizona is still pretty bad.

A Phoenix Rising FC club-record crowd of 6,890 fans saw an early goal by Ryan Telfer prove the difference as Toronto FC II took a 1-0 victory on Saturday night. The visitors grabbed the lead early as a through-ball by Jay Chapman slid Ben Spencer into the left side of the penalty area, and his low cross was tucked home by Telfer for his first professional goal. Toronto had the better of possession during the first half, although Phoenix’s Mike Seth (all-USL name team nominee) had a chance to equalize in the 33rd minute that went high, as the visitors carried their lead to the break. Rising FC got onto the front foot to start the second half, and Toronto goalkeeper Mark Pais made a save to deny Víctor Vásquez an equalizer. Toronto’s Raheem Edwards almost doubled his side’s lead with 14 minutes to go, forcing Rising goalkeeper Josh Cohen into a big save at his near post from the left side of the penalty area. Phoenix had a golden opportunity to equalize with three minutes to go when Jason Johnson’s header went wide of the right post after a darting run and cross from the left by Alessandro Riggi, but TII held on to take a big three points to start the season.