The non-stop USL action continues this weekend with a big match-up between teams splitting the headlines the last few weeks.
Didier Drogba and Phoenix Rising FC will come face to face with Western cConference juggernauts Real Monarchs SLC Saturday night. The Monarchs are now the USL record holders in consecutive games won and look like an unstoppable force. Their midweek game against Reno 1868 FC is a testament to the work happening in Utah with the Monarchs. While Phoenix is not an elite USL squad, they still have plenty of pieces to cause danger, not least Drogba himself, and could well scalp the Monarchs.
Here is a look at all the games this weekend:
Rochester Rhinos vs. Orlando City B 7:05 P.M.
The Rochester Rhinos will look to continue their ascent to the top of the table against Orlando City B Friday night. The Rhinos are on an eight-game undefeated streak and have righted the ship after a tough start. Orlando City are on a very different trajectory, with two wins in their last seven matches. The Rhinos only stumble of late is their inability to find a consistent goal scorer in their roster, though their defensive performances make that a footnote and not the headline. Orlando have to go back to last May to remember what it is like to defeat Rochester. Since the victory last May the sides have two consecutive draws.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. New York Red Bulls II 2 P.M.
Ottawa Fury FC were languishing towards the bottom of the eastern conference table the last time they faced New York Red Bulls II. Since their come from behind victory over NY, Fury FC have steadily improved week over week and are now two points above the Red Bulls. The Red Bulls have been shut out in consecutive weeks for the first time this season, and would like to avenge their loss from a month ago. Douglas Martinez and Brandon Allen will battle it out for a starting spot this weekend in hopes of figuring out how to maximize their offensive output. Fury FC won’t be an easy opponent to breakdown. Callum Irving and the Fury back line have surrendered but a single goal in their last four games.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 vs. OKC Energy FC 6 P.M.
This is a classic battle between teams looking to get back into the playoff conversation. The Whitecaps 2 and Energy FC each have but two wins in their last five games, and each defeated Portland Timbers 2 in that stretch, hardly a victory to hang your hat on as Portland continue to struggle. Vancouver want to regain the form that saw them make an appearance in the conference finals last year, but struggle to create quality scoring opportunities. OKC echo those same concerns with a lack of firepower and a struggling defense under extra pressure thanks to the sputtering offense. With their fortunes so similar, this could be a good chance for either team to start a mid-season turn around.
Charleston Battery vs. Toronto FC II 7 P.M.
The Charleston Battery’s season has slowed a bit recently, but only a bit. They still sit at the top of the eastern conference, but with Louisville City breathing down their necks with games in hand, that could change by next weekend. Luckily for Charleston, they come up against a Toronto FC II team that has struggled all season. TFC recorded their second victory of the season midweek over Orlando City B to finally climb out of the bottom of the table. Charleston may overlook the weaker opposition, which could create an upset here. Romario Williams will be away with the Jamaican National Team for the Caribbean Cup. Keep an eye on this one.
FC Cincinnati vs. St. Louis FC 7 P.M.
FC Cincinnati’s home form from last season has largely been missing this season, despite the crowds showing up for them in droves. The early season returns have been a bit disappointing for Cincinnati even with the talented squad assembled with MLS and USL veterans alike. Djiby Fall’s goal scoring, and disciplinary, exploits have been the main story in Cincinnati this season. Fall lacks a complimentary piece to take some of the goalscoring burden off his shoulders. Coming up against St. Louis and a team that has been stingy defensively, Cincinnati will need to sort out their offensive issues. Either team that gets a result in this game has the potential to go to the top half of the table if other results fall their way.
Harrisburg City Islanders vs. Louisville City FC 7 P.M.
Harrisburg is now the coldest team in the eastern conference, and Louisville City the hottest. A blowout could be in the cards if Harrisburg surrenders an early goal. Louisville has scored 12 goals in their last five games and Harrisburg City have a -8 goal differential this season. The writing is very much on the wall. Harrisburg will look to rely on defense and counter, but it may be too much for them to endure.
Richmond Kickers vs. Charlotte Independence, 7 p.m.
Two team’s that didn’t participate in midweek play will meet this weekend in the midst of disappointing seasons. The Kickers are winless in nine straight while the Independence are coming off of a win over the Harrisburg City Islanders. While that isn’t a quality win as Harrisburg is mired in their own winless streak, a win is a win and the Independence will be looking to string a few together.
Orange County SC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2, 8 p.m.
The Blues will be looking to overcome the embarrassing loss that was handed to them by Sacramento Republic while also looking to end a four-game winless streak. S2 had a wild win over the Energy during midweek play but will be without Ray Sarri for this one as he picked up two yellow cards in their last match.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. San Antonio FC, 9 p.m.
The Switchbacks are the latest team up to try stopping San Antonio’s unbeaten run. Last time they played, the Switchbacks were able to hold San Antonio to a draw and they’ll be hoping to better the result this time around. Both teams didn’t take part in midweek action, so no tired legs here.
Portland Timbers 2 vs. Reno 1868 FC, 10 p.m.
1868 FC suffered a tough loss to the Monarchs in a game that they deserved a point and they’ll be looking to collect all three against the timbers. Antoine Hoppenot stayed hot in midweek action and he’ll be a handful for the Timbers in this matchup. The Timbers are on a five-game losing streak and have only collected one win on the season so the odds will be against them.
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC, 10:30 p.m.
Drogba, Drogba, Drogba. Oh, did we mention that Drogba plays for Phoenix Rising now? Their striker/owner has been lighting up USL since his arrival with his brace securing a draw for Phoenix last week. The Monarchs will try to run their winning streak to 10 after a midweek win over 1868 FC but first, they’ll have to stop Drogba.
LA Galaxy II vs. Sacramento Republic FC, 9:30 p.m.
Sacramento Republic supporters will hope that they saved some goals after a midweek explosion that saw them score six times. Los Dos has been struggling but they will be entering this game after a win over the Toros. Will tired legs prevail or will the Galaxy string together consecutive wins?