The midweek highlight for the USL was FC Cincinnati pulling off an upset of the Chicago Fire, but now the focus shifts to league play as a full weekend slate awaits.
Reno 1860 and Phoenix Rising should combine for a tasty matchup as one of the most exciting attacking teams in the league takes on one of the grittiest teams in the USL. Patrice Carteron will have to come up with a plan to stop danger men Dane Kelly and Antoine Hoppenot who have combined for 17 of Reno’s 31 goals this season. Carteron will also look to continue his unbeaten run in charge of Phoenix against a tough 1860 FC squad.
Staying in the Western Conference, San Antonio FC will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season and try to complete the season sweep over Sacramento Republic. This will be easier said than done as Sacramento is riding a three-game winning streak while San Antonio will be without some key contributors. Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo will miss the game after being sent off in San Antonio’s loss to the Switchbacks.
Here’s a look at the weekend’s action:
LA Galaxy II vs. Swope Park Rangers, 10:30 p.m.
The Rangers will be looking to continue their three-game winning streak, but they will have to overcome tired legs. Swope Park played the lone midweek league game and came out with a victory over Tulsa Roughnecks on Tuesday. This means that they will be coming into Friday on four days rest while Los Dos have had a week to prepare. Los Dos will be looking to end a disappointing run that has seen them lose four of their last five matches.
Reno 1868 FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC, 10:30 p.m.
Reno had success the last time that these two teams met, winning 4-0 behind a Dane Kelly hat-trick but this is a different Phoenix team now. Phoenix is unbeaten in three as it has been building a tendency to grind out ties under its new leader Didier Drogba. Reno will be tough to stop as it is on a 6-1-1 run that that victory started. They’re rolling on all cylinders as they charge up the Western Conference table behind the boot of Antoine Hoppenot and a strong defense.
New York Red Bulls II vs. Saint Louis FC, 4 p.m.
The Red Bulls return home Saturday afternoon, looking to get back to the top half of the table against Saint Louis FC. Both teams are struggling this season, especially over their last five games. Saint Louis defeated the Red Bulls back on April 8th after falling behind 2-1 in the second half. Former New York Red Bulls player Jose Angulo took care of business on the night for Saint Louis.
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Richmond Kickers, 5 p.m.
Bethlehem is back home to defend a five-game unbeaten streak and will be welcoming the Kickers who are tied on points with Toronto FC II as the worst team in the Eastern Conference. It looks like an easy win on paper, but Bethlehem has been winning through defensive efforts and strong possession numbers. If the Kickers can get an early goal or two, things could be interesting. If they’re not with the Philadelphia Union this weekend, Marcus Epps and Adam Najem will be worth watching as they impressed in their cameos during the US Open Cup on Wednesday.
Toronto FC II vs. Harrisburg City Islanders, 5 p.m.
Harrisburg finally ended a lengthy winless streak with a victory over Louisville, but there is much work to be done for it to climb closer to the playoffs. Knocking off Toronto at home will be a good start. Toronto could be looking for revenge after losing 6-1 its last time out, but it may not have the horses to keep up in this one.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2, 6 p.m.
Whitecaps 2 are winless in three and are looking to stop their slide against Sounders 2. S2 have been alternating wins and losses in their last four games, so if form holds, they are due for a win in this clash. Vancouver center back Dominick Zator picked up two yellow cards in his last outing and will be unavailable for this game.
Charleston Battery vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 7 p.m.
The Rowdies haven’t won in six straight matches and will be traveling to take on the Battery, who have a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference. The Battery are coming off of one of their best performances of the season that saw them put six goals past Toronto FC II while Romario Willams scored a brace.
Charlotte Independence vs. Rochester Rhinos, 7 p.m.
The Rhinos saw their eight-game unbeaten streak come to an end last week and they’ll try to start a new one as they take on the Independence. Charlotte is unbeaten in three straight as its been turning around its early season woes. Thanks to a two-game winning streak, the Independence have moved into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and they’ll be looking to stay there.
Louisville City FC vs. Ottawa Fury FC, 7:30 p.m.
Louisville City FC and Ottawa Fury are ready for a playoff preview in June. Both teams rode undefeated streaks to climb the table, and both teams have stumbled a bit in recent weeks. Despite drawing last week, give Ottawa the advantage after coming from behind and scoring late to draw the Red Bulls. Louisville lost to Harrisburg City Islanders, a shocking result against the cellar dwellers.
Orange County SC vs. Portland Timbers 2, 8 p.m.
Orange County will look to make it a Cascadia double when they take on Portland Timbers 2. Orange County is coming off of a 4-3 win over the Seattle Sounders FC 2. Orange County came out fast against the Sounders, but defensive mistakes on set pieces cost them. Portland continues to languish at the bottom of the table. On paper, this is an easy one to pick, but Orange County’s back line should give fans pause.
Orlando City B vs. FC Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m.
FC Cincinnati will try to keep the ball rolling after their massive win over the Fire in the U.S. Open Cup. Despite its pedestrian record, Cincinnati has been a solid team this year. Defeating an MLS squad should certainly boost their confidence. Orlando City returns home after earning a road scalp over the Rochester Rhinos. If Orlando can take care of Cincinnati at home, it can build some momentum to jump start its season.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC, 8:30 p.m.
Real Monarchs failed to defeat Phoenix Rising at home, stopping their win streak at nine. Tulsa Roughnecks pose much less of a threat for the Monarchs. Currently sitting in 11th place, the Roughnecks enter the match on a three-game losing streak against one of the best teams in the league. The writing is on the wall for this one.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC, 9 p.m.
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks have won three games out of their last four matches, and that spells good news for the Rocky Mountain side. They now sit in fifth place and could climb, thanks to a mostly easy schedule over the next couple of weeks. They start by taking on a Rio Grande Valley side that has won once in its last five games and is coming off a shellacking at the hands of Sacramento Republic FC 6-2.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. San Antonio FC, 11 p.m.
Sacramento Republic is still trying to make up ground after their slow start to the season. To their credit, they have turned the results around and steadily risen up the table from week to week. San Antonio had been keeping pace with Real Monarchs, but have stumbled of late. For Sacramento Republic, a win here means gaining ground on their opponents in a big, six-point swing.