USL Matchday 22 Roundup
It was quite the crazy week in the United Soccer League, which saw FC Montreal equal its win total from the rest of the season (Don’t worry, they’re still the worst team in the league), St Louis fall just short of a remarkable comeback, and FC Cincy drop some points, too.
Real Monarchs SLC 0, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 0
The 4th bottom team in the West played out a draw with the Conference leading Switchbacks last Monday out in Salt Lake City. The match was fairly back in forth, with the Monarchs getting a couple more shots on goal but failing to convert any of those 7 shots.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 0, Orange County Blues FC 1
It was a very tight and cagey match from north of the border last Wednesday. The match featured a grand total of 3 shots on goal and 31 fouls. The match was mostly confined to the middle of the pitch with the midfielders getting most of the time on the ball. the game looked very much like it was headed for another scoreless draw, heading into the dying embers of the contest goalless. The decider came in the 88th minute when Brenton Griffins made a far post run off of a Corner Kick and headed it in after it took a slight deflection on the neat post to give all 3 points to the 7th placed OCB.
Charleston Battery 1, FC Montreal 3
I thought it was interesting when FCM earned just their 3rd win of the season last Wednesday against Pittsburgh (their first since June 21st), but I balked at the sight of this scoreline last Saturday. The Battery ceded a lot of the opening possession to the visiting Canadian side mostly through turnovers, which gave the young midfielders some dangerous confidence. The first real chance of the match came to the hosts though when Romario Williams got past the back line, but Crepeau was equal to the shot from 12 yards out as he parried it to his left. The scoring commenced 5 minutes later when Anthony Jackson-Hamel found himself the recipient of a selfless Ballou assist when the two were in on goal and faced with a charging keeper.
The visitors took the 1 goal edge into the intermission, and certainly didn’t lose the eye for goal during the break. Charleston almost broke through in the 51st minute when a dangerous counter off of a Montreal corner lead to Garbonzo blasting a shot just wide. Montreal doubled their lead just past the hour mark after Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla intercepted a Battery pass in the midfield, took advantage of a mostly open space, stepping into the Battery 12 yd box, and slotting a strike on the far post. Charleston pulled one back in the 78th minute when Maxime Crepeau was forced into a save after a cross was deflected into his purview, and he was forced to extend to get it away but was left helpless when Maikal Chang cleaned up the rebound. Charleston tried to get back into it but Montreal did a good job holding into the ball. Montreal added a third in the last 5 minutes of regulation, but the result had already been decided.
Saint Louis FC 3, Sacramento Republic FC 4
It was a remarkable performance by both teams (perhaps not the defenses) that yielded SEVEN goals, and pretty much from wire to wire, Sacramento grabbed ahold of this game early, in the 5th minute in fact, when JJ Koval got on the end of a great cross by Tommy Thompson to thrust the joint-leaders into the lead. They doubled down just 6 minutes later when Matt LaGrassa picked up the ball off of a StLFC defender when they misplayed it and sent a grounded cross to Cameron Iwasa who slotted it past Thompson in goal. They added yet another just a 6 more minutes later when Octavio Guzman got on the end of LaGrassa’s second assist to seemingly put this one to bed just 17 minutes onto the competition. StLFC managed to stop hemorrhaging goals and got one of their own in the 26th minute when Mike Ambersley’s shot through traffic beat Newton in goal for SRFC to conclude the scoring in the first half.
Sacramento came out of the break looking to hold most of the possession, and they advanced the ball well out of the midfield and into Saint Louis’ third. SRFC restored their 3 goal lead 12 minutes into the second half when Iwasa tallied his second of the match and Tommy Thompson’s second assist. Saint Louis looked to be getting back into it when a nice little piece of individual effort on the part of Jordan Roberts saw them narrow the lead to 2 in the 75th minute, but the way back proved to be too treacherous as they only managed another solitary score in injury time. The result sees StLFC fall to 10th place in the West, 2 points out of the last playoff spot.
Richmond Kickers 1, FC Cincinnati 1
Andrew Wiedeman’s free kick leveled the game in the 80th minute and stole a point for visiting FCC. Richmond tallied a score of their own in the 63rd minute when Sunny Jane nodded home a parried shot to nudge the hosts in front. FCC had dominated most of the possession in this one, pressing Richmond off the ball whenever they got it, but Richmond responded well using pace and quick passing to get around them. FCC sit 3rd in the East, 5 points off Lou City and 2 games in hand. Richmond are looking solid as of late, and sit 4th with 39 points, 3 off of FCC.
In the East, the top 2 spots are pretty much decided between NYRBII and Louisville City (as long as our play gets back to our mid-season form) and FCC look good for third. Only 3 points separate 4th through 7th, so that first round homefield advantage is still up in the air. Orlando City B are kind of cut adrift from the top 7, but ahead of Bethlehem Steel FC in 9th by 5 so they are looking good, with room to improve.
Out West, things are much more tightly contested. The top three teams (COS, SRFC, VWFC2) all have identical records at 10 wins, 6 losses and 7 draws. LA Galaxy are just a point behind them with a game in hand as well. 5 points separate 7th-12th spots so the race to get into playoff contention is certainly on. It’s really anyone’s conference to win, and it’s the most competitive of the 2 conferences by far. Save LCFC hosting the final, I think the USL champion will come from there.