USL Matchday 30 Roundup
It was an exciting final week of the regular season that saw the East and West both face a final shake up before playoff fixtures set for next weekend. It was a bit boring in the East, although there were some real goal fests out West as teams looked to maximize points in a congested playoff race. Check back later this week for some playoff previews from around the league.
Charleston Battery 1, New York Red Bulls II 2
This match found NYRB only rotating their squad a little bit with the top spot long locked up in the conference. Charleston on the other hand needed a win to have any chance at hosting a playoff game, which ultimately wouldn’t have come to fruition with results elsewhere. The first quarter hour saw NYRB have the majority of possession, getting a few shots off but not troubling Tabakis in goal for the Battery. Charleston got a shot on goal themselves after a dangerous looking counter but it was none too troubling for Ryan Meara. The next passage saw NYRBII hold most of the meaningful possession, although the Charleston counter looked dangerous to say the least. The pressure applied by the Red Bulls culminated in the 37th minute when they earned a free kick 22 yards from goal. 3 RBNYII players stood over the ball, and Vince Bezecourt took it on, sending it over the wall and into the back of the Battery’s net. NYRB took the advantage to the half, but the Battery came out looking to get back into it, and they did exactly that when, in the 50th minute a defensive lapse let the counter get into the box where Dante Marini got a shot off, deflected and fell fortuitously right back at his feet, where he tucked the chance away. New York continued to pressure the Battery goal, and shelled Tambakis for the better part of the half, getting 17 shots on the game. Tambakis did his best to keep the hosts, turning a 6 save performance. Charleston got a few chances off their counter attack but apart from that the Baby Bulls dominated the game. It looked like it was headed for a draw until Shawn Ferguson shoved Derrick Etienne to the turf inside the Battery box in the 75th minute, drawing a pen that Brandon Allen converted. The Battery had a good chance called offside in the 81st minute, and they tried to grind out a draw, but the Red Bull defense was too much. Charleston finish 6th in the East and play FC Cincinnati next Saturday.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0, FC Cincinnati 1
FCC featured almost no rotation in their team last Saturday from Highmark Stadium in the Steel city. It was a fairly processional affair, the winner came in the 31st minute in the form of a penalty that arose when a ball bounced up the turf and sting ‘Hounds defender Willie Hunt on the arm. Okoli converted to take the lead and his season goal tally to 16. FCC host Charleston in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh managed to finish not last, thanks to Montreal.
Bethlehem Steel FC, Orlando City B 2
OCB was looking to lock up the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the right to lose to NYRBII. They got out to a quick start on the road with a goal in the 9th minute when Michael Cox played Johnny Mendoza in on goal, who finished it neatly by Perrella in goal for BSFC. They doubled their advantage just before the hour mark when BSFC defender Pierre da Silva let the ball in to Lewis Neal who pulled out a great volley from long distance to seal up all 3 points. The result sees them break the 8 match winless streak and turn things around before facing a tough test in Red Bull Arena next Sunday.
Tulsa Roughnecks 0, Sacramento Republic FC 4
Sacramento’s oft-latent offense looked to be firing on all cylinders when they demolished USL-worst Tulsa Roughnecks while involving 6 players on offense. The needed to find their shooting boots after getting a goal or less in their last all but one of the last 5. SRFC’s first round opponent, Orange County Blues FC earned a 4-0 win themselves against a strong side in the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. It should be an interesting matchup next Saturday between these sides.
Rio Grande Valley FC 3, San Antonio FC 0
Both these sides came in needing a win, albeit for very different ways. RGV needed maximum points to potentially take over the top spot in the West, should Sacramento have dropped any points to Tulsa. San Antonio started the day in the final spot for the West playoffs, although there were 6 teams mathematically eligible for the final spot, so they needed to hold serve and garner a win, a tough task against a phenomenal Rio Grande Valley FC squad. RGV left it late in the second half, not tallying the opening score until the 78th minute, but the levee broke after that. They scored again 5 minutes later and added a third in injury time. They had 3 different goal scorers and 3 different assists, highlighting their depth and width of talent. They recorded their 16th clean sheet of the season, tied with NYRBII for most in the league.