By JOHN BOSCHINI
With a week to go in the USL Pro regular season, the playoff picture is clearing up.
The National Division has its playoff participants settled following the Pittsburgh Riverhounds' 2-2 draw with the Charlotte Eagles. Pittsburgh will be joined in the playoffs by the Los Angeles Blues, Harrisburg City Islanders and the Rochester Rhinos. Those three teams all have a shot at the regular season title following Rochester's disastrous 3-0 defeat at the hands of Charlotte.
The playoff picture in the American Division is far less certain and sets up a thrilling final weekend. Orlando City needs only a point against Harrisburg City to wrap up the top seed in the division, but if Wilmington can get past Dayton and Richmond, then a superior goal difference will see them capture the regular-season title.
Charlotte has surged up the table and is in prime position to sneak into the playoffs. The Eagles have only lost once since July 9 and find themselves a point clear of Charleston with a game in hand. The Richmond Kickers have locked up a playoff spot and will likely rest players as they play three games on the final week of the season.
Here is a look back at the weekend action in the USL Pro:
Wilmington Hammerheads 2, Los Angeles Blues 1: Wilmington kept its top-seeded hopes alive with a late goal from Andryi Budnyy.
Manny Guzman gave the home side the lead in the 31st minute, and the Hammerheads took their advantage into the locker room. Peter Byers equalized just after the hour mark, but Budnyy scored in the 77th minute to give the Hammerheads the victory.
FC New York 0, Harrisburg City Islanders 0: Neither team could gain much of a foothold as the teams ended the game with the deadlock still in tact.
FC New York goalkeeper Thorne Holder made seven saves, and Harrisburg keeper Karry Harrison made four. It was a testy game with teams combining for 20 fouls.
Charlotte Eagles 3, Rochester Rhinos 0: Charlotte gave its playoff hopes a serious boost with a dominating win over Rochester.
Sallieu Bundu, Darren Toby and Diego Martins scored for the Eagles, while Eric Reed made six saves in the shutout. Despite forcing a remarkable 14 corner kicks, Rochester couldn't break through for a goal.
Charlotte Eagles 2, Pittsburgh Ricerhounds 2:
Charlotte followed up its victory over Rochester with a vital point against Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh got the lead early with a goal from Jeremey Deighton with an assist from Neil Shaffer. Charlotte followed up with goals just before and just after halftime thanks to Mark Bloom and Darin Toby, but the Eagles couldn't hold on to their lead and Tommy Gray equalized in the 78th minute.
Richmond Kickers 3, Dayton Dutch Lions 0: Richmond scored three goals in 30 minutes to make quick work of the lowly Lions.
William Yomby scored in the 24th minute to give Richmond the early lead. Matthew Delicate scored a brace over the next 25 minutes to give Richmond some insurance.
Orlando City 2, Charleston Battery 1: Little offense was found over the first hour before Orlando scored twice to put the game out of reach.
Jamie Watson and Yordany Alvarez scored in the 65th and 72nd minute respectively to give Orlando the lead. Dane Kelly got one back for Charlotte but it turned out to be little more than a consolation goal.
FC New York 2, Rochester Rhinos 1: FC New York, out of the playoff picture itself, still managed to play spoiler late in the season with a narrow win.
Jhonny Arteaga continued his stellar season with an opening goal, and Christian Turizo added a second. Issac Kissi scored late to give Rochester hope, but the Rhinos still slumped to a disappointing loss.
Antigua Barracuda FC 3, Los Angeles Blues 0: Antigua wrapped up its inaugural season with a thrashing of the Blues.
Christian Ranja scored a double, and Tamorley Thomas added a third for Antigua.
What did you think of the weekend's results? Which teams do you see making the playoffs? Can Wilmington close the gap on Orlando?
Share your thoughts below.