By JOHN BOSCHINI
Just as it looked like Orlando City is poised to run away with the American Division, the mid-season leaders go winless over a weekend.
In a move that is becoming all too common among division leaders, Orlando gained just one point from two games over the weekend with a scoreless draw against the woeful Dayton Dutch Lions and a 1-0 loss to the Charleston Battery. The Richmond Kickers split a weekend series with the Charlotte Eagles to move within nine points of Orlando with three games in hand; however, Richmond is on to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup and will have to find a way to avoid distraction.
In the National Division, the Rochester Rhinos opened up a decent lead on on the Harrisburg City Islanders with a win over FC New York. Harrisburg could only manage a draw with Dayton and sits five points back of Rochester.
The Wilmington Hammerheads had the best weekend in the USL, winning both of their games by a combined score of 4-0. The Hammerheads are two points out of second place and only 12 points back of Orlando City with five games in hand.
This weekend is highlighted by a clash of division leaders when Rochester travels south to take on Orlando City.
Here is a look ahead to the weekend's action in the USL Pro:
Harrisburg City Islanders at Charlotte Eagles (Friday, 8 p.m.)
The Islanders have lost only once since the end of May, scoring four goals twice during that time span. The Eagles are still struggling at the bottom of an admittedly strong American Division. Harrisburg thrashed the Eagles, 4-0, when the teams met over the July 4 weekend.
Dayton Dutch Lions at Los Angeles Blues (Friday, 11 p.m.)
Dayton has been an easy victory for most of the teams in the USL Pro this season but there are signs that the Lions are starting to turn things around. Two draws against tough competition last weekend should give them confidence against a Los Angeles side that has not won since May 22.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds at FC New York (Saturday, 3 p.m.)
The Riverhounds, despite a difficult start, have still found themselves in third place. FC New York has had a difficult opening season, gaining only 17 points from 17 games, but could leapfrog Pittsburgh with a home win.
Rochester Rhinos at Orlando City (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)
Both teams could use a win to cement their division leads. Rochester lost 1-0 when the two teams met on June 3 with Jamie Watson scoring the only goal for Orlando. This is Orlando's last game of July and a win could put City in a dominating position
Antigua Barracuda FC at Richmond Kickers (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Antigua was one of USL Pro's more dominating offensive teams early in the season but hasn't scored in its last three games. The Kickers are trying to track down Orlando but have not won consecutive games since May.
Harrisburg City Islanders at Wilmington Hammerheads (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Hammerheads are back on track after a difficult June, winning all three games in July. If Wilmington can string together some good results in its remaining five games in July, then Orlando might have a challenger.
Dayton Dutch Lions at Los Angeles Blues (Sunday, 8 p.m.)
Two under-performing teams meet for the second time in three days on Sunday with both sides looking to just stay respectable in the National Division. Dayton is unbeaten in two games for the first time this season and has shown flashes of some decent play.
What do you think of this weekend's games? Excited about Rochester vs. Orlando? Think anyone can reel in the division leaders?
Share your thoughts below.
Soccer City, USA.
When is MLS going to raid USL Pro and NASL for teams to create MLS-2? I am looking forward to a stable second division sometime in the far future.