By MIKE GRAMAJO
Despite a slow start to the season, week two will feature a wider slate of teams in action.
Orlando City SC kick off their final home season in the USL Pro when they welcome the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
“We’re delighted to play in-front of our fans this weekend and we’ll be looking to come out of the gate strong,” Orlando head coach Adrian Heath said ahead of the match. “Pittsburgh is a good side and we know that we have a bigger target on our backs this year, but we’ll be up for it.”
OCSC are coming off a 1-1 draw last week at Charleston Battery, which saw the Lions concede first before midfielder Austin da Luz delivered the equalizer in the 75th minute. Defender Rob Valentino, who missed the season opener last week due to a calf injury is expected to be back in Orlando’s starting lineup.
Meanwhile, the Riverhounds look to benefit from their MLS affiliate Houston Dynamo. They received forwards Jason Johnson, Bryan Salazar and defender Anthony Arena from the Dynamo earlier in the week. Despite suffering a gruesome 5-0 playoff defeat to Orlando last year, Pittsburgh also kick off their season with the re-signing of team leading goalscorer Jose Angulo. They’ll also strengthen their fire power with the acquisition of former Fulham striker Collins John.
Here is the slate of matches for USL Pro Week 2:
LA GALAXY II VS. SAC REPUBLIC FC (Saturday, March 29 at 10:30 p.m. ET WATCH HERE)
After winning their inaugural match last week, the LA Galaxy II look to keep the momentum going when they welcome new USL Pro side Sacramento Republic FC to the StubHub Center on Saturday.
Midfielder Kenney Walker, who scored and assisted in Los Dos 3-1 victory over Orange County Blues, was named to the USL Pro Team of the Week for week one, along with teammates defender Daniel Steres and forward Charlie Rugg.
Despite having a short preseason, Sacramento Republic get their 2014 season underway a little later after having a bye-week during week one. Former Chivas USA and Toronto FC head coach Preki will lead Sac Republic from the sidelines but on the field, veteran players Rodrigo Lopez, who last played for Orange County Blues and Orlando City, and former Montreal Impact striker Justin Braun look to bring their experience to the Northern California side.
More key players Sacramento could benefit from come via MLS affiliate Portland Timbers, who sent goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, defender Bryan Gallego and midfielder Aaron Long to the Republic ahead of the 2014 season.
CHARLESTON BATTERY VS. RICHMOND KICKERS (Saturday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET WATCH HERE)
Despite squandering their lead in a 1-1 draw against USL Pro champions Orlando City last week, Charleston Battery look to remain unbeaten at home when they welcome the 2013 USL Pro regular season champions Richmond Kickers to Blackbaud Stadium.
The Battery’s partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps paid major dividends during last week’s draw, which resulted into the opening goal created by Whitecap loans Omar Salgado and Mamadou Diouf. Meanwhile, the Richmond Kickers, who are no stranger in utilizing their on-loan MLS players, received four players from D.C. United.
Goalkeeper Joe Willis, defender Jalen Robinson and forwards Michael Seaton and Cristiano Francios joined the Kickers last Tuesday.
Although missing out on the season opener due to a red card suspension the season prior, Battery captain Colin Falvey will return to the lineup. However, defender Quinton Griffith will miss out on the Battery-Kickers clash after picking up a red-card during stoppage time in last week’s match vs. Orlando.
NY RED BULLS RESERVES vs. DAYTON DUTCH LIONS (Sunday, March 30 at 6:00 p.m. ET WATCH HERE)
Perhaps it isn’t the highlighted USL Pro match this weekend but points are on the line, and the Dayton Dutch Lions FC will have to travel to Red Bull Arena to earn them when they face off against the New York Red Bulls Reserves.
The Dutch Lions look to use the return of veteran players to their advantage, after they announced the re-signing of goalkeeper Matt Williams, and midfield duo Eddie Herstenberg and Irakli Khutsidze.
Despite it not being an all-USL Pro team match, this is one of several matches that will be occurring throughout the season, which will see all USL Pro clubs playing two matches — one home, one away — against reserve teams from MLS clubs.
What do you think of Week 2? Do you think Orlando City can crank up a victory? Can the LA Galaxy II continue their momentum against newcomer Sac Republic? Can the Kickers upset the Battery at Blackbaud? What do you think of Dayton playing their season opener against an MLS reserve side?
Share your thoughts below.