Week 9 of the USL season rolls on with a number of great matches to look forward to on the weekend.
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds are looking to stay undefeated and come up against an Indy Eleven side that ended Louisville City FC’s unbeaten streak to start the season.
Elsewhere, the aforementioned LCFC will face another tough test against a defensively stout opponent in Nashville SC. Getting a road result to bounce back from their loss last weekend will be tricky, even for the 2017 USL Champions.
Let’s take a look at five matches to keep an eye on this weekend.
Real Monarchs SLC v. Fresno FC Saturday, 3PM
The Monarchs moved atop of the western conference standings midweek, and they look every bit capable of staying there for the long haul. The lone bump in their ascendancy remains a road loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, leaving lingering questions around the team that will need to be answered.
The Foxes are not really the team to provide those answers, but they have been a feisty opponent for their debut season. Despite the strength of teams they have played, the Foxes can never really be counted out of a match. They might not be strong enough to beat the Monarchs, but they will scrap and claw to get a point out of this one.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds v. Indy Eleven Friday, 7PM
The only undefeated team in USL is on the verge of overtaking the top spot in the eastern conference. The Riverhounds are flying under the radar in 2018, despite a tremendous start to the season under Bob Lilley. The emergence of Neco Brett as a consistent goal scoring threat is the perfect compliment to Lilley’s defensively stout side.
Indy Eleven will play the role of foil against the Riverhounds. Indy is coming off of a big win over the previously undefeated Louisville City FC. Patience in attack and a strong defense are traits that Indy Eleven shares with the other elite teams in the eastern conference. Finding a result against the Riverhounds on the road would be a big statement to the rest of the conference.
Charlotte Independence v. FC Cincinnati Saturday, 7:30PM
The Independence is still in recovery mode, from 2017. Heading into the summer stretch, the Independence looked like the team to beat, before a rough stretch through September saw them fall to middle of the pack, losing each of their last five games and exiting the playoffs with a whimper. They looked to have regained some swagger to start 2018, but have fallen back into a run of poor results.
FCC is a bucket of trouble for the Independence. Their inability to win on the road in 2017 has been replaced with a team that is getting wins away from the masses in Cincinnati. Mistakes against FCC will be punished, and the Independence will need to sort out their approach to break them down.
Seattle Sounders FC 2 v. Portland Timbers 2 Saturday, 8PM
The USL version of the Cascadia rivalry has been heavily lopsided in the Sounders FC 2’s favor, but the 2018 version might change that. The Timbers 2 have improved significantly this season, and Cameron Knowles has been showing his value in his first year as head coach. The biggest improvement from this Timbers 2 side is that the offense is multifaceted with no single player responsible for carrying the burden.
That spells trouble for the Sounders FC 2. The team in rave green has only won once in their last five matches, and it is their only win this season. Last year, the Sounders FC 2 looked like a playoff team until a late collapse saw them miss out. This year looks to be a continuation of 2017’s struggles, and finding a few results would be key to helping to stop the bleeding.
Nashville SC v. Louisville City FC Sunday, 6PM
NSC haven’t set the world on fire, but they know how they want to approach their matches and are building an identity in the same vein as other successful teams in the eastern conference. Defense first is the rallying cry, but don’t overlook NSC’s transition. Their offense boasts some very quick players that can punish teams that commit numbers to the attack. Ropapa Mensah looks good for a ten or more goal season, but LCFC may cancel the approach out.
Of all the teams in the eastern conference, LCFC have been the most impressive. With little change to the USL Cup champions from last season, they have kept the ball rolling. Cameron Lancaster is getting it done up top, while Greg Ranjitsingh has been one of the best goalkeepers in USL for the last three seasons. Both of these sides are at the bottom of the list in goals conceded, so expect this one to be a chess match.
Full weekend schedule
Pittsburgh Riverhounds v. Indy Eleven 7 PM
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC v. Las Vegas Lights FC 9 PM
Ottawa Fury FC v. Atlanta United 2 2 PM
Real Monarchs SLC v. Fresno FC 3 PM
Charleston Battery v. Bethlehem Steel FC 7 PM
Richmond Kickers v. Tampa Bay Rowdies 7 PM
Charlotte Independence v. FC Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Seattle Sounders FC 2 v. Portland Timbers 2 8 PM
Tulsa Roughnecks FC v. Phoenix Rising FC 8 PM
Rio Grande Valley FC v. San Antonio FC 8:30 PM
Orange County SC v. Saint Louis FC 10 PM
Sacramento Republic FC v. Reno 1868 FC 10:30 PM
Nashville SC v. Louisville City FC 6 PM