It was an eventful last week in the USL! Unfortunately, one of our rivals won. On the bright side, one lost! The East got shaken up a little bit, all but guaranteeing our second seed in the playoffs, and also saw a few records set by NYRBII.
FC Cincinnati 2, St Louis FC 1
The two sides left the scoring late in this one. It wasn’t until the 84th minute when Sean Okoli notched the opening tally for the home squad. His goal was a point-blank redirected effort off of an Andrew Wiedeman header that left StLFC keeper Mark Pais defenseless.
Saint Louis responded almost immediately, grabbing an equalizer when a crowd of players from both teams screened Hildebrandt from a technically sound Patrick Doody (I still can’t help but chuckle) half-volley that weaved its way all the way into the back of the FCC net.
Both teams looked like they could have snagged the late, late winner, but it was ultimately Cincy that broke St. Louis’ hearts. They took the lead off of a late penalty that was awarded when StLFC player James Musa was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box when he went to block an FCC shot off of a corner. Okoli took the spot-kick and converted to win it. St Louis looked strong at times, although the best team won it here. [Ed. Note: Okoli is now in the lead for the Golden Boot race. Ugh.]
FC Montreal 2, Charleston Battery 1
5th placed Charleston certainly didn’t do their home field advantage hopes any favors last Wednesday when they lost on the road to an improving FC Montreal. First half goals from Jackson-Hamel and Eboisse for FCM and the Battery respectively canceled each other out and things looked to be headed for a point apiece late on in the second half.
That all changed in the 55th minute when Montreal midfielder Aron Mkungilwa received a straight red for a rash studs-up challenge on Atalla Guerra for the Battery. As the second half wore on, Charleston got some decent possession in the Battery’s third. However, it Montreal that got the bigger boost, especially on the counter. Montreal scored the unlikely winner from an equally unlikely source. Nineteen-year-old substitute Jimmy Sanon absolutely connected on a shot from 20 yards out that evaded the hands of a diving Odinsel Cooper in net for the Battery. Prior to this match, Sanon had less than 90 minutes of action in the whole 2016 campaign. The Battery continued to barrage the Montreal goal, but could not break through.
Rochester Rhinos 1, New York Red Bulls II 1
NYRBII set a USL record for most points in a season last Saturday at Sahlen’s Stadium when they picked up an academic point against the stabilizing Rhinos. The NYRB reserve side clinched the Supporters’ Shield last week, rendering the rest of the season immaterial to the Baby Bulls. Turning to the match against in-state rivals and fellow empty seat ultras company Rochester Rhinos, the match on paper looked like it would be a draw after the season’s previous two meetings of these sides yielded goalless snoozefests.
The first half was pretty cagey, with the teams feeling each other out and careful not to fall asleep on either team’s talented forwards. The deadlock was broken just before a quarter hour elapsed in the second half, thanks to substitute Asani Samuels who simply out-sprinted the RB back line to a ball played by Steevan Dos Santos. He gathered it and slotted it by the hapless Meara in net for the Red Bulls.
It looked as if Rochester were looking to deal NYRB just their 4th loss as the season, but as the game entered its final minute of regulation New York earned a free kick from just outside the Rhinos’ box. Vincent Bezecourt took the free kick on, and sent a supremely placed shot into the upper left 90 to steal a point away from home.
Rochester are slipping further away from home field advantage in the playoffs, and this result does them no favors. Theyre level on points and matches played with Charleston and sit in 6th.
LA Galaxy II 1, Sacramento Republic FC 1
Sacramento saved face last Saturday night when they garnered a late equalizer in the form of a right footed finish from second half sub Will Kneeshaw. LA keeper Clement Diop was well off his line when the Galaxy turned the ball over in the middle third, and failed to get back before the fast break from Sacramento was right on top of him. LA had taken the lead late in the first half when Sacramento keeper Evan Newton turned a shot onto the crossbar, only to fall to the foot of LA striker Arie Lassiter who mopped up the effort. Sacramento remain in top spot out West, thanks in large part to their 9 game unbeaten run.
Rio Grande Valley failed to take advantage of the conference leaders’ slip up, after losing 1-0 at home to a mediocre Portland Timbers Side. Colorado Springs are still on Sacramento’s tail, 2 points back and level on matches. COS has a tougher remaining 2 games- vs Sounders 2 and @Orange County. Sacramento hosts LA and goes on the road to Tulsa. It should be noted that all but one Western Conference team is still mathematically eligible for the playoffs- even with 2 or 3 games remaining on everyone’s schedule.