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USL Week 20 Rewind – Drogba dazzles, several teams snatch late goals, and more

Didier Drogba stole the show with a thunderous free kick for Phoenix Rising this past weekend. The Ivorian veteran continues to make headlines in the USL scoring some audacious goals, even if the results haven’t been there for Pheonix.

In the rest of this weekend’s matchups, six results  were the product of goals scored after the 80th minute. No late goal was more dramatic than FC Cincinnati’s equalizer in front of a record crowd of 25,308. This was the first week of the season in which all the teams in the league were active, and it made for some very exciting results league wide.

Let’s take a look at all the weekend’s action:

New York Red Bulls II 2-1 Rochester Rhinos

The Red Bulls kept pace in the Eastern Conference with a historic victory over the Rhinos. The Rhinos had never lost a regular season match to the Red Bulls II before Saturday afternoon’s encounter at MSU Soccer Park. The home side opened the scoring in the 5th minute, when Stefano Bonomo’s deflected shot fell to the feet of rookie Arun Basuljevic. The Red Bulls controlled the run of play, and earned a man advantage just before halftime when Joe Farrell picked up his second yellow card. A defensive mistake allowed Stefano Bonomo to collect the second goal in the 55th minute. The Rhinos pulled one back in the 70th minute through a Wal Fall penalty. With seven minutes to go, both sides were reduced another man after a midfield dust up between Arun Basuljevic and Kenardo Forbes. The Red Bulls held onto the 2-1 score line earning their second straight home victory.

Toronto FC II 1-0 Charleston Battery

The Battery continued their fall against TFC Saturday, losing to the struggling side 1-0. TFC earned their fourth win of the season on a 52nd minute goal from Shaan Handal. Handal received a ball from Tsubasa Endoh over the top, beating the backline and sending the attacker alone on goal for the easy finish. The loss sees the Battery fall to second place in the Eastern conference.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-1 Richmond Kickers

The Riverhounds snatched a late equalizer against the Kickers Saturday night to keep the visitors on the bottom of the table with a tightly contested draw. The Kickers started the game strong, creating chances but failing to capitalize. The Riverhounds slowly started to gain control and nearly found a go ahead goal from Corey Hertzog, but the striker could not keep his effort on target. Eventually, the Kickers found a goal in the second half from Raul Gonzalez. With the Kickers’s strong defensive form of late, they looked to lock down the 1-0 result, but failed to do so. Stephen Okai made the Kickers pay for that decision. Okai received the ball in the center of the box, quickly settled, than fired his shot low into the net. With every point critical for the Riverhounds, they will be happy to get a point, but will regret not finding more. The Riverhounds are winless in their last five.

Charlotte Independence 3-1 Louisville City FC

Enzo Martinez had an up and down night for the Independence as they steamrolled past Louisville City and took the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Martinez scored all three goals for the Independence, but picked up a red card celebrating the hat trick. Martinez picked up a yellow card in the 1st minute before opening the scoring in the 11th minute. Louisville looked to be climbing back into the match after the goal, but the Independence caught the visitors on the break after a defensive mistake in the 44th minute. Following the halftime break, Mark-Anthony Kaye came into the match and the move immediately paid dividends for Louisville. Kaye scored in the 47th minute and became a focal point of the attack for the rest of the match, nearly finding an equalizer that was cleared off the line by the Independence. The home side would put the game to bed in the 79th minute with a third goal from Martinez bringing his total for the year up to 12. The Independence continue to roll and hold onto first place in the conference with games in hand.

FC Cincinnati 2-2 Orlando City B

The story of the night for FC Cincinnati was the record crowd of 25,308 that watched the home side walk away with a point after a dramatic late equalizer. Orlando City B made the most with their opportunities, but succumbed to a late Cincinnati push. Kyle Greig opened the scoring with his first goal for the club in the 6th minute on a header from a Josu cross. Cincinnati continued to pour on the pressure, earning a penalty just two minutes later. Earl Edwards Jr. saved the Aodhan Quinn penalty keeping OCB from a horror start. The save proved crucial as OCB found an equalizer in the 14th minute from Austin Martz first time strike from the top of the box. Hadji Barry put the visitors in front on the break, beating Mitch Hildebrandt with a shot to the far post. Danni Konig rescued the point for the home side following up a defensive mistake on a ball into the box. Leo Pereira could not clear the lofted pass, and his header backwards was volleyed past Edwards Jr. Orlando City would have moved into eighth place with the win, but now sit two points back of the New York Red Bulls II with a game in hand.

Ottawa Fury FC 1-2 Bethlehem Steel FC

The Fury’s difficult July has now bled over into August as the Bethlehem Steel took all three points on the road. The Fury forced an own goal in the 7th minute, but failed to add to the tally or pressure the visitors goal throughout the half. Bethlehem took advantage of the space afforded them, and began to find chances in the second half. Chris Nanco scored the equalizer for Bethlehem on terrific volley to the far post. Santi Moor won it late for the visitors in the 81st minute. Moor took advantage of a loose ball after Callum Irving collided with his own defender. The ball rolled back across the box, and Moor finished into the empty net.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-0 Harrisburg City Islanders

The Rowdies stretched their run to three consecutive victories and are now unbeaten in five with a clinical 3-0 win over the City Islanders. Neill Collins, Martin Peterson and Walter Restrepo all contributed to the scoring for the home side. The Rowdies controlled the match from start to finish, and rarely looked challenged by the visitors. Marcel Schafer took man of the match honors with a two-assist performance. The win sees the Rowdies level on points with the ailing Charleston Battery. To challenge for the top spot though, they will need to show stronger road form with three of their next four away from Al Lang Stadium.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks 4-1 Portland Timbers FC 2

The Switchbacks took advantage of a poor Timbers defense for a strong 4-1 victory. Shane Malcolm, Josh Suggs, and Kevaughn Frater all scored in the first half to put the game out of reach for the struggling Timbers. Masta Kacher provided the final goal for the Switchbacks in the second half to close out the home side’s scoring. The Timbers would get a consolation goal in the 89th minute thanks to an own goal on Conner Bevans.

OKC Energy FC 2-0 Real Monarchs SLC

In a big upset this weekend, OKC clipped the Monarchs wings and handed the leaders their third loss of the season. OKC earned a 10th minute penalty, but once again Connor Sparrow came up big for the Monarchs with the save. Alex Dixon opened the scoring for OKC in the 23rd minute with thunderous strike from the center of the box. The OKC ability to absorb pressure and counter is largely to thank for the victory. Dixon’s second goal was a picture perfect counter attack that saw Andy Craven off to the races behind the Monarchs defense. As Craven neared the keeper, he laid the ball off to Dixon for the easy goal. OKC capped off their strong week with the victory and moved within striking distance of fourth place Reno 1868 FC.

Saint Louis FC 0-0 Swope Park Rangers

Neither Missourian team could find the winner as defense reigned supreme. Emmanuel Appiah had a strong performance for STL, but the Rangers did their best to keep the attacker at bay. STL eventually earned a penalty when Christian Volesky was taken down in the box. Octavio Guzman hit the penalty low and hard, but Darrin McLeod guessed right and made the save. Konrad Plewa stood tall for STL in the 65th minute, stopping a shot on the open net. Plewa continued to have a strong game and kept the Rangers from finding much in the match. The points split were perfectly fair for the local rivals.

San Antonio FC 1-1 Orange County SC

OCSC dropped below the red line once again despite rescuing a road point with a late equalizer against one of the top teams in the Western conference. San Antonio got the game going in style with a goal in the 2nd minute from Kris Tyrpak. Greg Cocharane’s looping cross found the head of Tyrpak at the back post. The lead would stand until a penalty deep in stoppage time. SAFC gave up the late penalty to OCSC after a collision in the box. Jerry van Ewijk stepped up for the penalty and sent Diego Restrepo the wrong way to earn the draw for OCSC. Restrepo had an otherwise standout performance for SAFC and will no doubt be frustrated with the result.

Tulsa Roughnecks FC 2-3 Reno 1868 FC

Another match that left things late. The Roughnecks overturned two first half goals to level the match before conceding an 84th minute winner to Chris Wehan. Antoine Hoppenot opened the scoring in the 19th minute with a tap in at the back post. Less than ten minutes later, in the 26th minute, 1868 doubled the lead when Dane Kelly latched onto a ball pinging around the box. The Roughnecks came out strong in the second half, scoring first on a Juan Coffa free kick in the 52nd minute before Ian Svantesson took advantage of a goalkeeper error for the equalizer in the 67th minute. As the Roughnecks searched for the winner, they gave up space on the wing to Brian Brown. His low cross found Chris Wehan who finished it from inside the six-yard box.  The win keeps Reno 1868 in fourth place after the weekend’s matches.

LA Galaxy II 0-2 Phoenix Rising FC

A glorious free kick goal from Didier Drogba was enough to see Phoenix Rising win their first match in nearly a month. The Galaxy struggled against the veteran side and failed to create many chances. After committing a foul some 40-yards from goal, the Galaxy were not prepared for the venomous attempt from Drogba that found the upper-90. Phoenix Rising would finish out the scoring in the first half when Alessandro Riggi beat his defender 1-on-1 and slipped his shot under the goalkeeper. Phoenix are now up to seven wins on the season and sit a point back from the final playoff spot.

Sacramento Republic FC 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

A late penalty kick was the difference for Sac Republic in their victory over the Whitecaps in front of a sellout crowd of 11,569. The Whitecaps emergency defending kept Sac Republic from finding much on the night, and it seemed like this would end in a scoreless draw. Tyler Blackwood danced into the box and was tripped. The foul was determined to be inside the box, and the penalty was awarded. Jeremy Hall scored the winner for the home side, keeping the Whitecaps on the wrong side of lady luck for the 2017 season. 

Seattle Sounders FC 2 3-4 Rio Grande Valley FC

With a 3-1 lead in the 51st minute, the Sounders looked well on their way to victory. RGV used a 16-minute wave of attack in the second half to snatch the result. Felix Chenkkam opened the scoring for the Sounders in the 10th minute, finishing a cross from Irving Parra. RGV answered right back in the 23rd minute. Justin Bilyeu took on three defenders before laying the ball of to Jose Escalante, his cross finding the head of Kyle Murphy. The Sounders struck twice more before the end of the half. First, Zach Mathers scored from long range in the 36th minute with a low shot, and then Francisco Narbone scored a looping header in the 42nd minute. RGV had their own long-range effort find the net in the 52nd minute from Jorginho James. Nine minutes later, Jose Escalante snuck a cross into the back post to equalize for RGV. Joe Holland found the winner just seven minutes later, with a tight angle shot that took advantage of Kyle Miller cheating off his post. The Sounders have now lost five straight matches.

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