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USL Rewind: Rowdies, Battery keep battling atop East; SLC, San Antonio shine in West

The ninth week of USL action saw the Real Monarchs and San Antonio FC continue to rule the roost in the Western Conference. The Charleston Battery and Tampa Bay Rowdies also kept their dogfight atop the East going strong. Reno 1868 got themselves another blowout win and a wild finish in New York gave Ottawa Fury FC a massive win over an MLS reserve side.

Here’s a closer look at what went down in the USL over the weekend.

Toronto FC II 1-3 Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Rowdies continue to enjoy their transition to the USL, even though they conceded after ten minutes to Luca Uccello. Former Premier League midfielder Joe Cole helped to spearhead their comeback late in the second half with a tap-in from the top of the six yard box in the 68th minute. They would go ahead thanks to a pair of goals in quick succession in the final ten minutes: an 80th minute free kick set up the winning header from Martin Paterson and Cole would provide the assist on the insurance marker by David Jones two minutes later.

The win took Tampa Bay to the top of the Eastern Conference table for about 24 hours until Charleston earned a draw in Harrisburg. They now sit behind the Battery on goal difference.

New York Red Bulls II 3-4 Ottawa Fury

A wild match at MSU Soccer Park saw the other NASL import topple New York Red Bulls II with two goals in the dying minutes of the game. Red Bulls II took the lead after the two sides exchanged goals during the first hour. Benjamin Mines thought he had his side ahead for good in the 69th minute, but the Fury would have other plans. Michael Salazar was able to tuck home a rebound from a tough angle in the 87th minute to tie the score and Ryan Williams found the winner from the penalty spot in the 90th. It was Fury FC’s second win in the USL and the third loss in a row for a struggling Red Bulls II.

FC Cincinnati 2-1 Bethlehem Steel

FC Cincinnati snapped a five-game winless streak thanks to a brace from Danish striker Danni König. His 18th and 52nd minute goals sandwiched the lone Steel goal, a successful penalty from Seku Conneh in the 33rd minute. A crowd of 18,441 came out to Nippert Stadium to see Cincinnati’s third win of the season. They sit in sixth place in the East on 12 points. Bethlehem, meanwhile, is in ninth position with nine points through eight matches.

Harrisburg City Islanders 2-2 Charleston Battery

The Battery looked like they were ascending to the top spot in the Eastern Conference all by themselves in impressive fashion. They were forced to play much of the second half a man down after Tah Anunga was shown a second  yellow card for an egregious foul in the 53rd minute, but they managed to score twice down a man anyway. Ataulla Guerra leveled the game at one in the 68th minute and Romario Williams took the lead less than 90 seconds later. Harrisburg would be able to salvage a point deep into stoppage time with a sliding shot in the six by Jonathan Mendoza. It’s a solid point for the struggling City Islanders, but they will really feel like they should have won the game while playing up a man for 37 minutes.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0-1 Louisville City

Louisville City’s Luke Spencer provided the only goal of this game in the seventh minute. It was a fairly even match, overall, but the Riverhounds failed to take advantage in the final minutes after Paolo DelPiccolo was sent off in the 87th minute. The Riverhounds only managed a single shot while a man up and it wasn’t a particularly threatening effort from Corey Hertzog.

OKC Energy 1-0 Orange County SC

Orange County was forced to play a man down from the 25th minute on thanks to Oscar Sorto’s last man challenge in the penalty area on Miguel Gonzalez. They got lucky at that point when Kyle Hyland’s penalty was saved, but they wouldn’t stay fortunate for long. Hugh Alexander Dixon gave the Energy the one goal they needed in the 35th minute and they never looked back. OKC controlled 70% of possession and outshot the visitors from Southern California, 21-6. It’s somewhat a shame they only found the one goal with that kind of offensive pressure.

Rio Grande Valley FC 1-1 LA Galaxy II

Rio Grande Valley went in front in the 36th minute with a goal from Kyle Murphy, but they wouldn’t maintain the lead. Los Dos would find their equalizer against the run of play in the 72nd minute. A quick counter attack saw Justin Dhillon finish after a brilliant run and pass by Ethan Zubak. Aside from that one moment, this was RGVFC’s game the whole way. Their 65% possession led to 11 total shots, but only two were on target with just the one goal.

San Antonio FC 1-0 Phoenix Rising

San Antonio continue to own the Western Conference with little challenge after this 1-0 win with a tough Phoenix Rising team. The lone goal came early on from a quick move in the 12th minute. A midfield turnover led to a driving run through midfield by Billy Forbes, who picked out Kris Tyrpak for a first time cross to goal scorer Afwafei Ajeakwa. San Antonio’s defense would hold out for the rest of the game to keep them on top of the Western Conference with a league-best 26 points through ten games.

Real Monarchs 5-2 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

The Monarchs are the only side keeping pace with high flying San Antonio FC at the moment thanks to their fifth win in a row. This five goal outburst was highlighted by braes from Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Velazquez. Real’s Michael Gallagher was sent off in the 63rd minute, but that hardly mattered in the grand scheme of this match. The score stood 4-1 at the time and SLC would score again through Daniel Haver in the 83rd minute before conceding the token second goal four minutes later. Real Monarchs are two points back of San Antonio atop the West with one fewer game played.

Reno 1868 6-0 Seattle Sounders 2

Reno scored early and often in this complete destruction of Seattle Sounders 2. Striker Dane Kelly netted a seven minute hat trick between the 28th and 35th minutes thanks to a pair of penalties. Further goals came from Lindo Mfeka, Seth Casiple, and Jimmy Ockford throughout the rest of the match. The expansion team had been winless in their first five matches, but have now won their last two by a combined score of 10-0.

Sacramento Republic 3-2 Tulsa Roughnecks

Two goals in two minutes led got the Republic out to a 2-1 lead by half time, but a 67th minute penalty allowed Juan Pablo Caffa to equalize. The Republic responded well, however, and found their 74th minute winner from Christopher Christian. This was a much needed triumph in Northern California as the Republic had been without a win in their last six matches. They climb to fourth place with 13 points in the very cluttered Western Conference.

Rochester Rhinos 1-1 Richmond Kickers

The Rhinos and Kickers closed out this week of USL action with a 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon. Rochester took the lead through Kevin Forbes in the 32nd minute, but Raul Gonzalez cancelled that with an equalizer just before the half time whistle. Both these teams sit out of Eastern Conference playoff positions right now with nine points. The Rhinos, however, have only played six games, at least two fewer than any team ahead of them in the standings.

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