Didier Drogba is set to steal headlines this weekend in his debut for Phoenix Rising FC as they take on Vancouver Whitecaps 2.
While the 39 year-old Ivorian will steal some of the spotlight, the game of the weekend might be in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The fourth place New York Red Bulls II welcome third place Louisville City FC. Both teams contended for a spot in the USL Cup final last season with the Red Bulls winning in penalty kicks. Both teams will look to keep pace with leaders Charleston Battery as they face the struggling Richmond Kickers.
Let’s take a look at the weekend USL action:
Charleston Battery vs. Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m.
In their 60th ever meeting two teams trending in different directions will take part in a rivalry clash, The Kickers are in the middle of a seven-game winless streak and it will be tough for them to turn it around versus the top team in the Eastern Conference. The Battery have the USL scoring leader in Romario Williams and he will be looking to net a few more this weekend. Can the Kickers turn their unfortunate run around?
FC Cincinnati vs. Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m.
The Queen City Cup rivalry will take center stage at Nippert Stadium this weekend. Both teams will be looking to rebound from tough results last weekend but only one will be able to. Cincinnati will be looking to get their three-game homestand off to a good start while the Independence will be looking to take all three points.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Harrisburg City Islanders, 7 p.m.
Ottawa enters this game riding a three-game unbeaten streak thanks to a Michael Salaza equalizer in their last match against Bethlehem Steel FC. The City Islanders are winless in seven and will need all the help that they can get to turn it around. Ottawa will look to move into the playoff spaces in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7:30 p.m.
The Rowdies need to right the ship following a three-game winless streak and they’ll be against the team that started the slide. The Rhinos are looking like one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as they’re riding a five-game unbeaten streak.What has been interesting is that the Rhinos are sharing the scoring load with eight different scorers which will make them tough for the Rowdies to stop in this one. The Rowdies will be without Georgi Hristov, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last week.
Toronto FC II vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7:30 p.m.
This weekend is another chance for Toronto FC II to finally break out of their slump against the Riverhounds. Mired in an 11-game winless streak TFC II has also been shutout in their last three matches. If TFC II can stop Corey Hertzog then they may have a chance of securing a result in this one. The Riverhounds are winless in three so one team may buck the trend at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
OKC Energy FC vs. San Antonio FC, 8:30 p.m.
This has a chance to be the match of the weekend as two high-flying sides will meet at Taft Stadium. San Antonio FC is still unbeaten on the season but, following two draws in their last four games, the Real Monarchs have now tied them atop the Western Confrence. The Energy have won three of their last four matches and will be looking to break the streak for San Antonio. San Antonio will be without Greg Cochrane for this one as he has been suspended one match for his foul against Swope Park Rangers.
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2, 8:30 p.m.
Two teams battling for playoff position in the Eastern Confrence will duke it out for the first tie this season. There should be a little extra motivation for the Toros as head coach Junior Gonzalez used to serve as an assistant for S2. S2 will also be looking to cope with the suspension to Irving Parra who scored a brace in their 3-0 win over Los Dos last week.
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Portland Timbers 2, 9 p.m.
The Timbers might have a long night in story when Real comes to town. The Monarchs are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, and the last place Timbers don’t look up to the challenge of taking down the current conference leaders. Winless in their last six, the Timbers will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, 10:30 p.m.
The long awaited debut of Didier Drogba will dominate the headlines for Phoenix Rising, but finding consistency is the priority. Their Jekyll and Hyde season finds them lingering around the bottom of the table, despite remaining in the playoff race. The Whitecaps have faced similar struggles this season, though winners last time out, will look to build on that momentum.
LA Galaxy II vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 10:30 p.m.
The Switchbacks will look to build on their dramatic victory over OKC Energy FC last week. Rony Argueta’s stoppage-time winner moved Colorado into fourth place behind Seattle Sounders FC 2 on total wins. Facing an inconsistent struggling team on the road may not prove fruitful. LA are winless in their last three games, and haven’t scored more than a goal in a game since their victory over New York Red Bulls II.
Reno 1868 FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC, 10:30 p.m.
Reno’s remarkable turnaround from the start of the season has them unbeaten in their last five matches. Sac Republic will want to make the most of what could be a six-point swing to slow down Reno and overtake them in the table. Reno comes in on short rest after playing Wednesday, defeating Rio Grande Valley 3-2.
New York Red Bulls II vs. Louisville City FC, 4 p.m.
Another team hoping to keep hold of their momentum is New York. The Red Bulls are in the midst of their first win streak of the season after defeating Charleston and Richmond. Louisville last met New York in the conference finals last season, falling in penalty kicks. The Red Bulls have a lot of ground to make up after faltering in the early months of the season. Their fourth place standing is betrayed by the number of games in hand the teams around them possess. They will need to make the most of their home games to stay in playoff contention.
Saint Louis FC vs. Bethlehem Steel FC, 5 p.m.
Saint Louis got back to their winning ways with a victory over Toronto FC II last Friday. In the first ever match between these two clubs, a pair of mid table teams will look to gain ground in the middle of the pack. Seku Conneh set a single season record for Bethlehem with his sixth goal of the season last week’s draw against Ottawa Fury FC. Steel’s Corey Burke will need to tread lightly as he is on caution for yellow card accumulation.
Swope Park Rangers vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC, 5 p.m.
Swope Park hopes to see their stock rise during the first match of a three-game home stand against the Roughnecks. Swope Park had done well defensively this season, but has struggled in front of goal of late. The Rangers are now winless and goal-less in their last three matches. Tulsa comes into the game fresh having been off since May 27th after defeating the Timbers 3-0.