The USL season rolls on this week with an intriguing group of matchups in both conferences.
On Wednesday night, the Real Monarchs maintained their perfect start defeating Seattle Sounders FC 2, 3-1, on the road. Masta Kacher’s brace proved to be too much for the Sounders 2, and Chandler Hoffman added onto the lopsided scoreline. David Estrada scored the lone goal for the Sounders 2, and 2018 looks to be another tough year for group.
The other midweek result featured a goal by none other than the ageless Didier Drogba who scored the lone goal in Phoenix Rising FC’s 1-0 win over LA Galaxy II. While Phoenix Rising’s season has largely been successful thus far by getting away from their aging veteran’s. Drogba bucked the trend by reminding us that he still brings tremendous value to his side, even at 40.
Now let’s take a look at the highlights from this weekend’s slate:
Saturday, April 14th
New York Red Bulls II v. Tampa Bay Rowdies 4 PM EST
NYRBII have shown their offensive fire power, but are struggling a bit turning chances into goals. That might be a problem against the high-flying Rowdies who seemingly score at will in their wins this season.
While the Rowdies are making waves with their offense, some legitimate concerns around the defensive capabilities temper the expectations for the squad as the season rolls on.
A statement win for either side should set up their next few matches nicely.
Charlotte Independence v. North Carolina FC 7 PM EST
The first matchup between these in-state rivals doesn’t look too good for the visitors. Three losses in three matches is enough to dampen the spirits of NCFC and their fans, and the Independence have exploited teams mistakes, turning counter attacks into goals with ease.
The ageless Jorge Herrera is still getting it done for the Independence, and expect the 37-year old to feast on the NCFC defense that has allowed an average of 2 goals per game so far.
San Antonio FC v. Orange County SC 8:30 PM EST
After five matches, OCSC are turning heads with some strong performances, sitting in second place in the western conference. They come into this match riding three straight shutout wins.
SAFC has had a tough start, drawing their last two matches and struggling to convert chances. That won’t be encouraging against OCSC, who have only conceded twice in their first five matches.
Las Vegas Lights FC v. Sacramento Republic FC 11 PM EST
The Lights are still a mystery in their short USL tenure, but they remain undefeated through three matches and look to be far more stable than many would have guessed. After a week off, can they show the same merit they did against Swope Park Rangers, or will the offense and defense sputter as they did against Reno 1868 FC?
Sac Republic have been one of the best teams in the west for the last few seasons, and this year they look ready to continue that trend. They also boast an undefeated record, even defeating OCSC a few weeks ago. There stout defensively, and get significant contributions from players all over the pitch offensively. This will be a real test for both sides.
Sunday, April 15th
Bethlehem Steel FC v. FC Cincinnati 3 PM EST
FCC certainly look a step ahead of their form in 2017, and that should be encouraging to Cincinnati fans who have yet to see a consistent team, particularly away from home. FCC boast the best defensive record in the league, winning both of their first road games this season. Heading to Bethlehem to face the Steel should see them closing in on their total road haul from 2017, four wins.
The Steel retooled their offense this offseason, picking up USL goal machine Brandon Allen, but are still waiting for significant contributions from the striker. Whether it is fitness or lack of sharpness, Allen needs to be a key part of the Steel attack if they are going to make a serious push towards the playoffs in 2018.