By JOHN BOSCHINI
An early-season clash between a defending champion and and a league co-leader highlights the fourth weekend of fixtures in the USL Pro.
The Easter weekend slate of matches kicks off tonight with the resurgent Orlando City welcoming a Puerto Rico United side that is struggling to find its feet after going winless in its opening homestand.
Six games take place tomorrow, starting with the Richmond Kickers — winners of their first three games — welcoming defending champion Charleston Battery. Down south, Caribbean teams Sevilla FC Puerto Rico and Antigua Barracuda FC try to keep pace in the under-performing International Division.
Another pair of teams off to a slow start meet when FC New York travels south to take on the Charlotte Eagles, as both teams search for their first goal of the season. The Rochester Rhinos will try to bounce back from a couple of losses in their opening weekend with a game against the Dayton Dutch Lions.
The Harrisburg City Islanders finally make their debut against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and the Los Angeles Blues could increase their lead in the International Division with a win over River Plate Puerto Rico in Saturday's late kickoff.
Here is a look at all of the action on tap in the USL Pro:
Puerto Rico United (0-1-1) at Orlando City (2-1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Orlando returns to Florida for its second home game of the season after picking up its second win against Charlotte last week. Puerto Rico United takes the trip to the United States for the first time this season and will have to find some stability in its backline. United conceded four goals against L.A. earlier in the week, bringing its goals-against total to five in two games.
Charleston Battery (2-0-0) at Richmond Kickers (3-0-0), 5 p.m.
It's a matchup of undefeated teams as two of the early front-runners square off in Virginia. Richmond's Matthew Delicate co-leads the league with three goals from three games while goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale has kept two clean sheets. Charleston has managed to squeak out one-goal victories in both of its opening matches. Nicki Patterson is emerging as the center of attack for the Battery with a goal and assist against Dayton.
Sevilla FC Puerto Rico (1-1-2) at Antigua Barracuda FC (0-2-0), 7 p.m.
It's the second matchup in three days between the two clubs as Sevilla looks to topple Antigua Barracuda for the second time. Both teams suffered embarrassing losses against L.A. in week three and Sevilla managed to squeak out a 1-0 victory over Anitgua on Thursday. If Sevilla can notch another road win, Antigua could be in serious trouble early in the season.
Harrisburg City Islanders (0-0-0) at Pittsburgh Riverhounds (0-1-0) 7 p.m.
It's still early days for both teams as Harrisburg makes its debut against a Pittsburgh side that hasn't played since April 9. The Riverhounds almost got a draw against Richmond in its opening match of the season but conceded a late winner to Delicate.
FC New York (0-1-0) at Charlotte Eagles (0-2-0) 7 p.m.
Both teams will be looking for their first points of the season in Charlotte. FC New York made its debut as a club with a 3-0 loss to Orlando City. Matt Weston's young side is still searching for some defensive strength but shouldn't face much of a threat from a sputtering Eagles' offense. Charlotte has only conceded two goals this season, but that won't be enough to get a much-needed win if its offense can't get on track.
Rochester Rhinos (0-2-0) at Dayton Dutch Lions (0-1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Both teams are off to slow starts in 2011 with neither team managing a point in their debuts last weekend. Rochester should have the experience and maturity to power through a rough patch but Dayton showed some promise in its 2-1 loss to the Charleston Battery.
Los Angeles Blues (3-0-0) at River Plate Puerto Rico (0-0-1), 8 p.m.
The Los Angeles Blues have shocked minor-league soccer with a blistering start to their inaugural season, scoring nine goals in their opening three matches. Walter Gaitan is the USL's points leader with eight while Tomislav Colic has contributed two goals of his own. River Plate showed some resiliency by coming back twice to draw Sevilla FC Puerto Rico 2-2 on April 2. If the Blues can get a fourth-straight win, they could open up seven-point lead after only five games in the International Division.
What do you think of this weekend's action? Think L.A. can continue its hot start? Who will win between Richmond and Charleston? Will FC New York or Charlotte get their season back on track?
Share your thoughts below.