USL Matchday 24 Roundup
It was a pretty good week across the biggest soccer league in the world as FCC lost, St. Louis continues to fall down the table, the race for the playoffs out West heats up, and things get tighter as well closer to home.
FC Cincinnati 1, Rochester Rhinos 1
FCC could have clinched their spot in the 2016 USL playoffs last Wednesday at Nippert, but ultimately fell short after conceding the lead to the visiting Rhinos just minutes from the intermission. Sean Okoli was suspended for yellow card accumulation. Cincy broke the seal in the 28th minute. Austin Berry both literally and metaphorically rose to the occasion to put the hosts ahead off a Tyler Polak cross. Both teams had strong passages in the opposition’s half, but the game lacked an edge until the 41st minute. Steevan dos Santos found himself with a yard inside the box and blasted an effort past Hildebrandt. FCC was playing a man down at the time; Omar Cummings was receiving treatment for a non-contact knee injury. He was eventually subbed off after the Rochester goal.
After the break, Rochester got a few half chances at goal, but failed to turn any of them into legitimate threats. The closing stages saw the squads turn up the wick, and FCC nearly stole all 3 points at the death when Wiedeman headed the ball into the crossbar in the 90+2nd minute.
Richmond Kickers 1, Orlando City B 0
Richmond have quietly been working their way up the Eastern Conference table. Last week they tallied their 7th win from the last 9 games, in which they also haven’t lost. They’ve beaten teams they should have (3-0 HAR, 2-0 PIT) but have also sprung a few surprises, (2-1 v NYRB on 7/31, 1-1 v FCC on 8/13) all of which sees them up to 3rd in conference, level on points with FCC at the time of writing. Their match in particular last Saturday saw them sink Orlando B just 15 minutes from the end. The goal was a combination of a great whipped cross from Lee into the box off a free kick that left OCB keeper Ridgers in no man’s land when Thompsen came through to finish up the effort on the near post. The result helps Richmond assume third place in the East after FC Cincy’s loss, and they sit just 2 points above Charleston. OCB is cut adrift in 8th, 7 behind Charlotte in 7th but 6 above Harrisburg, with a game in hand.
Charleston Battery 1, Charlotte Independence 0
Charleston got a big victory down the stretch against a team needing wins themselves in Charlotte Independence. The sole goal came just 5 minutes after the intermission when Ataualla Guerra displayed a good bit of skill to get around a couple Charlotte defenders and played it to Maikel Chang on the far post who narrowly slotted it by Berner in net for the Independence. Charlotte had a sizeable 11:5 edge in shots, but both teams ended up with just 3 on goal. Despite the loss, Charlotte are just 4 points out of home field advantage for round one of the playoffs and they have a game in hand on the Kickers in that last home field spot. Charleston are a single spot behind the Cincy outfit in 4th, and they are 2 points back with a game in hand.
Rio Grande Valley FC 2, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 1
I am going to apologize in advance, but now comes the obligatory moment when I analyze the Western Conference with its quirks, foibles and all. This match may represent a seminal moment in RGV’s season. The Toros have been producing some impressive results as of late, to the tune of a 9 game unbeaten run in which they’ve outscored their opponents 19-1, thanks in large part to University of Kentucky product Callum Irving in goal. They seem to have found a lethal balance of defensive stability and offensive firepower. Their latest surprise game in the form of a 2-1 home win against flagging Colorado Springs, who themselves have just managed a 2-3-4 record in their last 9, including 2 losses to RGV.
The latest match was characterized by shots, and a lot of them, off of the boots of RGV. 14 of them in fact, 6 of which fell under the purview of COS goal minder Devala Gorrick. Colorado Springs only managed 2 shots on goal, one of which found the back of the net. The effort from COS opened up the scoring deep into the first half, with a great solo effort by Jordan Suggs, who took down a cross on the left side of the RGV box, maneuvered around a defender and then sent a rocketed shot to the far netting to put the visitors up in the 38th minute. That lead would be short lived however, as RGV was awarded a penalty just under 90 seconds later when Gorrick made an ill-advised challenge on Yair Arboleda inside the box, which was converted by Ruben Luna. Things would calm down and go into the break level.
Rio Grande earned another spot kick in the 63rd minute when Emilio Garcia was taken down in the box after he was trying to get on the end of a cross. It was Luna again from the spot and he wouldn’t miss this one either. Colorado continued to look shaky at the back, and Gorrick was hard pressed to keep the deficit at one. To their credit, Colorado had a few ideas of their own in the attacking third, but RGV’s defense was more than enough to quell the chances that popped up. RGV now sit SECOND in the West, and are poised to take the top spot from Sacramento, they’re 2 points behind and a game in hand. COS are still 4th in the conference, but need to reinvent themselves in order to make it into the latter rounds of the Playoffs.
Sacramento Repubic FC 0, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 0
They drew. Sacramento played their game, shutting down the back and getting several mediocre shots. They only managed 2 on goal out of 17 in all. Vancouver didn’t look like a team averaging over a goal and a half a game, they only managed a single shot on goal. It was an important match for playoff positioning, as these first and third placed teams are penciled into the dance.
Ew York Red Bulls II 2, FC Cincinnati 0
Good, FCC lost. Bad, NYRB are poised to run away with the East and the Supporters Shield (if they haven’t already). Okoli returned to the lineup for FCC, and failed to make a meaningful mark on the match as he doesn’t respond well to physicality, and that’s exactly what NYRBII gave him. All of this was overshadowed however by a pair of sendings-off, first of which was in the 11th minute when Hildebrandt took down Etienne in the box. The pen was called right away, but the brandishing of the red came after referee Alan Chapman elected to utilize the VAR, and subsequently sent off the Cincy keeper. Dallas Jaye stepped into the fray to take over in between the posts after Eric Stevenson was sacrificed and let in the PK off the left foot of Brandon Allen.
FCC had their work cut out for them before the opening whistle, and after the sending off and converted pen, they really didn’t have much of a chance. Okoli didn’t seem to learn much from his suspension from yellow accumulation in their last match, as he gave up a penalty via a clumsy tackle on the right side of his box, earning a yellow. Etienne Jr. was responsible for the penalty duty this time around, and he made no mistake to put the game out of reach. NYRBII had a player of their own disqualified in second half stoppage when 17 year old academy product Noah Powder earned himself an early shower after taking down a Cincy player from behind studs up. Proceedings ended less than a minute later and NYRB took their 17th win of the season from 25 games.