Midweek games kicked off Week 8 of the USL season, with a number of scoreless draws peppering the results.
First up, Real Monarchs SLC and Las Vegas Lights FC played Monday to a scoreless draw. The Lights were reduced to 10 men in the 18th minute when Marcelo Alatorre was sent off for a DOGSO foul on Masta Kacher. The Lights turned in a strong defensive effort keeping the Monarchs at bay for over 70 minutes.
Rio Grande Valley FC’s match with Reno 1868 FC and New York Red Bulls II’s clash against Ottawa Fury FC also played to a scoreless draws this week.
The Portland Timbers 2 ended Sacramento Republic’s undefeated start to the season with a 2-0 victory that should make plenty of team’s take notice in the western conference. Goals from Darion Asprilla and Modou Jamada were the difference. The Timbers 2 have now matched their entire win total from 2017, and now sit in fourth place in the western conference.
The last match for the midweek slate was another road win for FC Cincinnati. The visitors came from behind to defeat Indy Eleven 3-2. Corben Bone was the star of the show, providing a goal and an assist to give FCC their fourth road win of the season.
Moving onto the weekend, here are five matches to keep an eye on:
Real Monarchs SLC v. Orange County SC Friday, 9PM EST
Two weeks ago, the Monarchs would have been the easy pick in this match, but OCSC has continued their strong start to the season, and the Monarchs are tripping themselves up a bit.
After falling to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Monarchs followed that performance up with a 0-0 draw against 10-man Las Vegas Lights FC where they had a man advantage for over an hour. The once explosive offense has settled down a bit and they haven’t scored a goal in their last two matches.
OCSC is rolling so far this season. With just two losses on the season, they are looking like a strong contender for the western conference crown, even if there is a lot of the season left to play. Keep your eyes on Thomas Enevoldsen who is having a very good season so far with five goals in eight games.
Indy Eleven v. Louisville City FC Saturday, 12PM EST
Every time LCFC plays, it is worth watching. After standing by the 2017 USL Champion squad in the offseason, LCFC have remained undefeated through six matches and sit comfortably on top of the eastern conference. The whole squad is the star approach is yielding good results, but in USL, no win is guaranteed.
Indy Eleven joins the list of former NASL teams that have transitioned well to life in the USL. They may be winless in their last two matches, but there are plenty of encouraging signs from the team. Jack McInerney and Soony Saad lead the line, and a variety of veterans permeate the field at all levels.
Charleston Battery v. Charlotte Independence Saturday, 7PM EST
Undefeated in their last four matches the Battery are officially over their slow start and are gaining traction in the eastern conference. Ever since losing to NYRBII in March, the Battery have reset and refocused, turning in strong performances to get results.
The Independence are on the opposite path, after starting the season strong, they are now winless in their last four matches. They’ve only scored twice in that span, and the defense is struggling to keep the ball out of the net.
This one could be set up for a disaster for the Independence should they miscalculate their approach.
San Antonio FC v. Fresno FC Saturday, 8:30PM EST
Ahead of the season, this match would have looked like an easy one to call, giving SAFC the advantage over the Foxes in their rookie campaign. However, the visitors have not always looked as strong as SAFC this season, but they are finding ways to get results. The Foxes haven’t lost since opening day, and their intentions to make the playoffs and challenge for a top spot in the west is clear for all to see.
SAFC is still shaking off an atrocious start to the season, though they may have done so with a big win last week. Momentum should be the priority for the home side, and that comes with consistency.
These teams played a 0-0 draw a couple of weeks ago, but I’m willing to bet there are more fireworks this time around.
Bethlehem Steel FC v. Richmond Kickers Sunday, 5PM EST
The Kickers will be out for revenge, and a lifeline in the early part of the season. The last time these teams met, the Steel stomped the Kickers 4-1, and it looked like the Philadelphia Union reserve side was going to make waves in 2018.
Instead it has been a mixed bag, with newly acquired USL starlet Brandon Allen struggling to score and even get on the field at times. Each side is going to be desperate for a result, and that could mean a wide open game with another big scoreline.
These might not be the top teams in the eastern conference, but they each have a lot to prove and that could make for a very exciting match.