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USL Weekend Preview – Week 17

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 07/14/17, 10:21AM EDT

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The USL Game of the Week on ESPNU visits San Antonio, and the River Cities Cup resumes

TAMPA, Fla. – The spotlight in Week 17 of the 2017 USL Regular Season falls on two matchups that have already developed a high level of intensity in either conference, as the race for the USL Cup Playoffs continues with an 11-game slate of games across the weekend.

The weekend kicks off on Friday night with the USL Game of the Week on ESPNU, as San Antonio FC looks to add to an undefeated record this season at Toyota Field against OKC Energy FC. Elsewhere in the Western Conference, two teams just either side of the playoff line meet when Phoenix Rising FC hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday night.

The second edition of the 2017 River Cities Cup highlights the Eastern Conference’s slate on Saturday night, with Louisville City FC hosting FC Cincinnati at Slugger Field in a must-see contest. The Charlotte Independence will also look to continue their club-record winning streak when they visit the New York Red Bulls II in the second meeting between the teams this season.

Every game of the 2017 USL season will be available on the league’s Match Center, with updates from across the league also available via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

GAMES TO WATCH


Photo courtesy Erik Schelkun / FC Cincinnati

Friday, July 14
San Antonio FC vs. OKC Energy FC
9 p.m. ET, Toyota Field

San Antonio FC and OKC Energy FC meet for the USL Game of the Week on ESPNU at Toyota Field with much on the line for both teams, who enter nine positions apart in the Western Conference standings.

For second-place San Antonio (10-1-5, 35pts), the pressure to close the gap on Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the standings is on, particularly with the Western Conference leader set to visit Toyota Field next weekend. Undefeated at home this season (5-0-3), SAFC would close the gap to five points with a win.

The pressure for 11th-place OKC (5-8-3, 18pts) is to get into the playoff positions. After being hit by injury, the side made the move this week to add striker Jose Angulo on loan from Saint Louis FC for the remainder of the season. Set to make his competitive debut on Friday after appearing in Tuesday’s international exhibition against C.F. Pachuca, Energy FC will hope the 2013 USL Most Valuable Player can help push the side in the right direction.

Saturday, July 15
New York Red Bulls II vs. Charlotte Independence
4 p.m. ET, MSU Soccer Park

The Charlotte Independence set a club record with their fifth consecutive win a weekend ago, and will now have to chance to deliver another blow to the defending champions’ title defense with the New York Red Bulls II coming off a midweek loss that saw them slide out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on Thursday night following Orlando City B’s draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Red Bulls II (6-9-3, 21pts) fell 2-0 to the Harrisburg City Islanders on Wednesday night, a second consecutive defeat that saw the side lose the regular-season series to Harrisburg. New York’s defense continues to struggle, having given up an Eastern Conference-high 34 goals in 18 games, while recording only three shutouts.

Charlotte (8-3-4, 28pts) has tightened up defensively, meanwhile, to put on the strongest run of form in its history. The Independence got a hat trick from USL Player of the Week Jorge Herrera in a 5-1 victory against Saint Louis FC in its last outing, which moved the side into third place in the Eastern Conference. That win matched the Independence’s biggest win this season, with the matching score-line having come against the Red Bulls II.

Louisville City FC vs. FC Cincinnati
7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field

The second league meeting between Louisville City FC and FC Cincinnati comes with both teams under pressure in the Eastern Conference standings. After a 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium earlier this season, the expectations are high on both sides, with the potential for a bumper crowd at Slugger Field.

Louisville (8-2-5, 29pts) earned a 1-1 draw against the Charleston Battery in its last outing, but now finds itself under hot pursuit from the Charlotte Independence while also looking to close the gap on the conference-leading Battery. The hosts are on an 13-game undefeated streak on home turf, however, and have looked much more dangerous offensively in the second quarter of the season.

Cincinnati (6-6-6, 24pts) alleviated some of the pressure on the side with a 2-0 win against the Richmond Kickers last Sunday evening that moved FCC into sixth place in the East. After making the midweek trip to Miami for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal, which was subsequently postponed, getting back up in front of what’s likely to be a good traveling contingent will be big for Head Coach Alan Koch’s squad.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
11 p.m. ET, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex

Five points separate 10th-place Phoenix Rising FC and sixth-place Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the Western Conference standings going into Saturday night’s clash at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. With both teams rallying for a draw last time out, the hosts will be looking to cut into that advantage with a first win in five games.

Rising FC (5-5-4, 19pts) is still undefeated under new Head Coach Patrice Carteron, but four consecutive draws have seen the side remain outside the top eight in the standings. Last Saturday, it took a stoppage-time free kick by Didier Drogba to maintain a five-game undefeated streak, and more will be needed as the side returns home in front of what’s set to be another capacity crowd.

The Switchbacks (6-6-6, 24pts) kept their playoff hopes in solid shape with a comeback of their own last Saturday against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Goals by Masta Kacher and Kevaughn Frater earned Colorado Springs a 2-2 draw at Weidner Field, and continued the solid seasons for both players. A win on the road would provide a big boost toward the hopes of a third consecutive postseason berth.

NUMBER CRUNCHING


Photo courtesy Canada Soccer

47,622 – Nashville’s Nissan Field played host to a crowd of 47,622 last Saturday, as the United States played Panama in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the largest attendance for a soccer game in Tennessee’s history. Nashville SC will join the USL in the 2018 season.

49 – Charlotte Independence forward Jorge Herrera notched his 49th regular-season goal in the USL last Saturday. His next goal would make him second player in league history to 50 after Reno 1868 FC’s Dane Kelly.

32 – Ottawa Fury FC assistant coach Julian de Guzman played the final 32 minutes of his career on Wednesday, coming out of retirement for one final bow as a substitute in an exhibition against the Montreal Impact in front of 6,601 fans at TD Place.

13 – OKC Energy FC goalkeeper Carl Cochran Jr. put on a masterclass with 13 saves in Energy FC’s 0-0 draw with Liga MX’s C.F. Pachuca on Tuesday night in an international exhibition at Taft Stadium.

5 – Three players with USL experience have combined for five goals at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup through Thursday’s action, with youngest goal scorer in league history Alphonso Davies leading the tournament with three goals for Canada.

OTHER NEWS AND NOTES


Photo courtesy Las Vegas Soccer, LLC

- The Charleston Battery’s Romario Williams was named the USL Player of the Month for June on Thursday, earning 44 percent of the vote among fans, media and the USL technical committee. Williams is currently with Jamaica for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup and scored the winner in a 2-0 win against Curaçao last Sunday for the Reggae Boyz.

- Las Vegas Soccer, LLC, announced it and the City of Las Vegas had reached an agreement in principle for a USL team to compete at Cashman Field starting in the 2018 season. The proposal, which is recommended by the City of Las Vegas, will be put before the City Council on Wednesday.

- FC Cincinnati’s Quarterfinal in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against Miami FC was postponed on Wednesday night after torrential rain and lightning swept through Riccardo Silva Stadium on the campus of Florida International University in Miami. The game has been rescheduled for August 2.

- Sacramento Republic FC plays host to 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League winner C.F. Pachuca on Saturday night in an international exhibition at Papa Murphy’s Park. The Liga MX power is facing its second USL opponent this week as it prepares for its new season later this month after drawing 0-0 with OKC Energy FC on Tuesday night.

- Orlando City B (5-6-7, 22pts) edged into the top eight in the Eastern Conference with a 1-1 draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies (7-5-7, 28pts) on Thursday night in the second I-4 Derby of the season. Danny Deakin’s penalty kick in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time earned the host a point at Orlando City Stadium after former Lion Martin Paterson had given the Rowdies the lead.

- Tulsa Roughnecks FC (7-8-1, 22pts) rallied to earn a 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy II (4-11-3, 15pts) on Thursday night at StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium, with goals by Modou Jadama and Ian Svantesson earning the visitors a point. The Roughnecks had been the final team in the league to have yet to see a game end all square this season going into the contest.

- Ottawa Fury FC (5-6-5, 20pts) will try to jump back into the top eight in the USL Eastern Conference when it hosts the Rochester Rhinos (6-3-6, 24pts) on Saturday afternoon at TD Place (2 p.m. ET | Match Center). Fury FC fell 1-0 in an exhibition on Wednesday night against the Montreal Impact, while the Rhinos are coming off a 1-0 win against the Harrisburg City Islanders that saw the side strike late through Jochen Graf.

- Reno 1868 FC (7-4-4, 25pts) aims to make it three wins out of four when it visits Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (4-9-4, 16pts) on Saturday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium (6 p.m. ET | Match Center). Reno currently sits in fourth place in the USL Western Conference, but will be without five players who were called into the San Jose Earthquakes’ squad to face Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday night in an international exhibition, including center back Jimmy Ockford.

- Bethlehem Steel FC (8-6-2, 26pts) can move into a top-four position in the Eastern Conference with a win when it takes on in-state rival the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (5-7-5, 20pts) on Saturday at Goodman Stadium (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). Steel FC has won four of its last five games after last Sunday’s 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls II, while the Riverhounds are looking to find a way back into the playoff race after a scoreless draw with Orlando City B last time out.

- The Charleston Battery (10-2-5, 35pts) will try to maintain, or even extend, their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference when they visit Saint Louis FC (4-7-4, 16pts) at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis on Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). Saint Louis has been stuck in a tailspin over the past two months, winning just once in its last 11 games, and enters having lost four of five after a 5-1 drubbing by the Charlotte Independence last Saturday.

- The Swope Park Rangers (10-4-2, 32pts) will try to continue their five-game winning streak when they visit the Portland Timbers 2 (1-14-2, 5pts) at Providence Park on Sunday afternoon (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Rangers took a 1-0 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on Wednesday afternoon to open their trip to the Northwest, putting the side in hot pursuit of both San Antonio FC and Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the Western Conference.

- The Harrisburg City Islanders (5-8-4, 19pts) will look to continue their recent revival when they play host to the Richmond Kickers (2-9-6, 12pts) at FNB Field on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET | Match Center). The City Islanders earned a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night against the New York Red Bulls II to claim their third win in their last four outings, while the Kickers are still last in the Eastern Conference after a 2-0 loss to FC Cincinnati last Sunday.

- Seattle Sounders FC 2 (7-8-2, 23pts) will try to rebound from a defeat last Saturday that continued its recent run of alternating wins and losses when it hosts Orange County SC (4-4-3, 15pts) at Starfire Stadium on Sunday afternoon (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). S2 fell 4-1 to Real Monarchs SLC at Rio Tinto Stadium in its last outing, while Orange County played to a 1-1 draw with Phoenix Rising FC. OCSC will be hoping for a repeat of its 4-3 victory against Seattle when the two first met this season as its quest to stride up the Western Conference standings continues.

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