USL This Week: What Didn’t Happen, Who’s in Third and I-Don’t-Know What’s Might Happen Next
One of the biggest news items this week in USL is what didn’t happen. Mainly FC Cincinnati, the last remaining league club in the US Open Cup got rained on. In Miami. Rain in Miami, imagine that. FCC were set to meet Miami FC—the last representative of NASL in the Cup—at Florida International University’s stadium this past Wednesday night.
Torrential rains made it unsafe to play however. Late Friday, USSF announced a reschedule for 7:30p ET on Wed., August 2 on the same ground. Two and a half weeks in Florida heat and it should be nice and dry. Well, dry anyway.
USL Conference Races Ignite as Streaking Teams Surge Into 3d Place
Last week MLSMultiplex reported right here that Charlotte Independence were undefeated since opening their new facility. The Independence made us look good by posting a big home win over St. Louis. That makes five in a row. The win moved Charlotte into third in the Eastern Conference past Tampa Bay Rowdies. TBR had been treading water for a few weeks and it finally caught up with them on the table.
In the west Swope Park Rangers ran their own win streak to five with a midweek win on Wednesday away to Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. SPR have now joined Real Monarchs and San Antonio, the two table-toppers, with more than 30 points. Swope are starting to look a whole lot like a playoff team. In fact, last year Rangers made it all the way to the final USL playoff match. Eventually falling to NYRB II, 1-5.
Both Charlotte and Swope put their streaks on the line against road opponents this weekend.
And here are a couple of interesting upcoming matches from elsewhere around the league.
Phoenix Rising FC (H) vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks
Last Time Out: Phoenix have been in a bit of a lull the past month. The club own a four game draw streak currently. In fact they have not won a match since the very first of their owner-player, Didier Drogba. The Rising drew away, 1 all, to Orange County SC last Saturday.
Colorado Springs also drew on Saturday. They went 0-0 with Vancouver 2 at home. Switchbacks have been quietly going about the business of staying in the middle of the table for a while now. Their perfectly even goal differential (“0”) sums up their season thus far. They have a balanced attack with 3 players having 3 assists each and 4 with 3 or more goals. Canadian Mastanabal Kacher is in both of those categories.
Players To Watch For: Thanks to the superstar presence of Drogba there is always something going on in Phoenix off the field. Just Friday ESPN-FC, among others, reported that Florent Malouda is interested in joining his old Chelsea teammate at Phoenix. Malouda and Drogba were UEFA Champions League winners together. The former is in the USA just now participating in the Gold Cup competition for his home country of French Guiana. Malouda has previously competed internationally for France and has played for current Phoenix head coach, Patrice Carteron, in Egypt.
With both sides thus distracted it will be a surprise if anyone were to win this one.
How To Watch: Click below for the live stream on Sat., July 15 at 7:30p ET.
Bethlehem Steel FC (H) vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Last Time Out: Bethlehem have not lost in their last seven league matches. That includes winning 4 of their last 5. But for Charlotte’s recent dominance and Tampa Bay Rowdies’ early season success, BSFC would be the team surging for the conference lead. As it is neither first place Charleston Battery nor any other team should overlook the Steel right now. Bethlehem defeated NYRB II at home, 2-0, last Sunday.
Riverhounds have not had a sustained win streak all season. They seem to find ways to play down to their competition. That has resulted in a -4 goal differential for the first half of 2017. They are only 15 points off the conference lead however and there is still time to move up the table. The added spice of this “Pennsylvania Turnpike” Derby might be just what’s needed to inspire Pittsburgh on the road to a better second half. Pittsburgh drew at nil away to Orlando City B last Saturday.
Players To Watch For: Visiting Pittsburgh will need a good match from keeper Keasel Broome just back from playing for his home nation of Barbados. That’s mainly because his side don’t score many. Steel keeper Jake McGuire is one of the best in the league so Broome will be under even more pressure to keep his side close.
How To Watch: Click below for the live stream on Sat., July 15, at 5:00p ET.