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USL's Week Ahead - Packed Schedule Brings Bumper Week of Action

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 06/13/18, 5:50AM EDT

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Twenty-three games across six days include numerous key matchups in either conference


Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

TAMPA, Fla. – The 2018 USL regular season brings a bonanza of action to fans over a busy Week 14 that will see 23 games played between Tuesday and Sunday night, tying the most games in a week for the league this season, as the midway point of the regular season comes closer to arrival. The week features important games on both Wednesday and Saturday night. The midweek slate includes games between defending Western Conference champion the Swope Park Rangers and defending USL Regular Season champion Real Monarchs SLC at Children’s Mercy Park, the start of a regional rivalry between Fresno FC and Sacramento Republic FC at Chukchansi Park and Eastern Conference-leader FC Cincinnati welcoming Bethlehem Steel FC to Nippert Stadium for the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3. Saturday brings more exciting action, as regional rivals the Charlotte Independence and the Charleston Battery square off, while Sacramento completes its week-long road trip with a visit to San Antonio FC at Toyota Field.

All 561 regular-season games, the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs and the 2018 USL Cup can be accessed via USLSoccer.com’s Match Center.

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In the USL’s 11 Things to Know, Nicholas Murray looks back at a landmark for the USL, with the league surpassing one million in total attendance for a season at the earliest point in the league’s season this past weekend, and a pair of players in Saint Louis FC’s Joey Calistri and the Richmond Kickers’ Heviel Cordoves who came up big against their former clubs in the past weekend of action.

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2018 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP


Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

The USL will be represented in the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for a second consecutive season after three teams advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2018 edition of the tournament against opposition from Major League Soccer over the past week. Louisville City FC will play host to Nashville SC after the two regional rivals were drawn against each other, while Sacramento Republic FC advanced to the Round of 16 for the second consecutive year to earn a trip to face MLS expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Louisville claimed the first upset of the Fourth Round in a thrilling 3-2 victory against the New England Revolution that saw Brian Ownby score a remarkable game-winning goal to lift the defending USL Cup champion to its first victory against an MLS side in the historic tournament. Nashville accomplished the same feat in its first competitive meeting with an MLS side, as it took a 2-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids in comprehensive fashion.

Sacramento became the only USL club to claim victory against an MLS opponent in the past two tournaments as it defeated four-time champion Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 after extra time at Papa Murphy’s Park. Jure Matjasic scored the game-winner with five minutes to go in the second period of extra time to give Republic FC what was a deserved win and a trip to Banc of California Stadium on June 20.

Other USL clubs had near-misses, with both FC Cincinnati and North Carolina FC falling in a penalty shootout to Minnesota United FC and D.C. United, respectively. With Louisville and Nashville set to meet at the University of Louisville’s Lynn Stadium on Wednesday, June 20, however, the opportunity for a USL club to match FCC’s run to last season’s semifinals remains open.

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Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery

Tuesday, June 12
Penn FC vs. Richmond Kickers

FNB Field, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
Penn FC (3-4-5, 15pts) and the Richmond Kickers (4-6-1, 14pts) will both aim to build on big victories on Saturday night as they look to push closer to the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference. Penn grabbed a dramatic 3-2 victory against Toronto FC II in its last outing, as Ken Tribbett notched a pair of goals and Jerry Ortiz scored the winner from the penalty spot in the seventh minute of stoppage time to pick up all three points. The Kickers didn’t leave it as late in their 2-0 victory against the Charleston Battery, with Heviel Cordoves scoring the winner against his former club for Richmond, and more will be expected of the Cuban forward after his second goal of the season.

Wednesday, June 13
ATL UTD 2 vs. Charlotte Independence

Coolray Field, Gwinnett, Georgia | 7 p.m. ET
The Charlotte Independence (6-4-2, 20pts) will try to rebound from its first defeat in five games when it takes on ATL UTD 2 (2-7-4, 10pts), as the teams square off for the second time this season. The first game between the clubs ended in a 2-2 draw on March 31 – a contest that saw Atlanta twice take the lead only for a brace by Jorge Herrera to earn a point for the hosts at the Sportsplex at Matthews. Both teams are coming in off defeats in their last outings, with the Independence suffering their worst defensive outing of the season in a 4-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls II and Atlanta falling for a third time in its last four game against Indy Eleven, but should Charlotte take victory, it would solidify its place in the top four of the Eastern Conference standings.

North Carolina FC vs. Ottawa Fury FC
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
North Carolina FC (3-6-2, 11pts) and Ottawa Fury FC (4-5-3, 15pts) meet for the second time this season, with both clubs looking to rebound from defeats in their most recent outings. Ottawa saw a six-game undefeated streak end in a 1-0 loss to the Charlotte Independence on June 2, a defeat that also saw the club’s shutout streak end at 636 minutes, but with a game against ATL UTD 2 to come later in the week, Fury FC will be aiming to rebound strongly against another opponent from the Tar Heel state. NCFC suffered its second consecutive loss in a 2-0 defeat to FC Cincinnati this past Saturday and is now seven points out of the playoffs places, having fallen in three of its last four games. Picking up a win against Ottawa would be a big step in the right direction for the USL newcomer.

FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio | 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
FC Cincinnati (8-3-2, 26pts) plays host to Bethlehem Steel FC (5-5-3, 18pts) in the USL Game of the Week from Nippert Stadium with FCC looking to add to its lead at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Cincinnati claimed its second victory in a row with a 2-0 win against North Carolina FC this past Saturday for its sixth road win of the season. Things haven’t quite gone as smoothly at home so far this year, with FCC sporting a 2-2-1 record at Nippert Stadium, and with Bethlehem coming off a 0-0 draw with Louisville City FC to remain in the top eight in the Eastern Conference the visitors will be hoping to at least match the 1-1 draw that occurred when the sides first met this season on April 15 at Goodman Stadium.

Swope Park Rangers vs. Real Monarchs SLC
Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas | 8:30 p.m. ET
The two-time defending Western Conference champions Swope Park Rangers (6-3-4, 22pts) play host to the defending USL Regular Season champion Real Monarchs SLC (10-2-1, 31pts), with the Rangers looking to reverse the Monarchs’ victory when the sides met earlier this season. Swope Park took an early lead in that encounter, as Kharlton Belmar found the net at Zions Bank Stadium, but Real responded with four consecutive goals to sweep to victory on home turf. Both clubs are coming off wins coming into a week that sees both teams in action twice, with the Monarchs aiming to at least maintain its five-point lead at the top of the Western Conference by completing a series sweep.

Fresno FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California | 10 p.m. ET
The first meeting between regional rivals Fresno FC (3-4-7, 16pts) and Sacramento Republic FC (7-3-4, 25pts) sees numerous members of the Foxes go up against their former club in what should be a fascinating contest at Chukchansi Park. Leading the way is Fresno Head Coach Adam Smith, who was a longtime assistant in Sacramento before becoming the Foxes’ first sideline leader, and he is joined by midfielders Danny Barrera and Agustin Cazarez, forward Christian Chaney and defender Mickey Daly, who all previously suited up in Old Glory Red. Sacramento and Fresno are both coming off draws in their last outings, but with the teams on opposite sides of the playoff line so far this season, a victory would be a major boost for the Foxes as they aim to be part of the postseason in their inaugural season.

Portland Timbers 2 vs. OKC Energy FC
Providence Park, Portland, Oregon | 10 p.m. ET
The Portland Timbers 2 (8-4-2, 26pts) will try to keep up the pressure on Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the Western Conference as they host OKC Energy FC (2-10-1, 7pts) in the second meeting between the club’s this season. T2 took a 3-0 victory on April 7, as Foster Langsforf, Victory Arboleda and Lamar Batista all found the net, and the side also claimed a 1-0 win in its last outing, with Josh Phillips scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win against Rio Grande Valley FC. Energy FC, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from another deflating loss that saw it concede twice in the final seven minutes this past Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC 2 that left OKC second from last in the Western Conference standings as it recorded a Western Conference-high 10th loss of the season.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC
Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Phoenix, Arizona | 10:30 p.m. ET
Phoenix Rising FC (7-3-4, 25pts) will try to pick up its second win in three outings when it hosts Las Vegas Lights FC (3-4-4, 13pts) for the first meeting between the clubs this season. Phoenix played to a 0-0 draw on Saturday night against fellow Western Conference contender Sacramento Republic FC and now enters the week both six points back of conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC, having played one game more. Las Vegas saw its new additions, Raul Mendiola and Zach Mathers, have a positive impact in their debuts, as Lights FC claimed a 4-1 win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on June 2 behind an assist from both players. Las Vegas also added to its defensive corps ahead of its busy week on Monday, with New England Revolution rookie center back Nico Samaoa joining the club on loan.

Saturday, June 16
ATL UTD 2 vs. Ottawa Fury FC

Coolray Field, Gwinnett, Georgia | 7 p.m. ET
Both ATL UTD 2 and Ottawa Fury FC will see action for the second time in the week, as they square off for the second time this season. Ottawa took a 2-0 victory when the teams met on May 12 at TD Place, as first-half goals by Steevan Dos Santos and Carl Haworth lifted the hosts to victory. Dos Santos currently leads Fury FC with three goals entering the week and is the lone player to have scored multiple goals for the clubs this season. Atlanta remains on home turf after welcoming the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. New York Red Bulls II
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania |7 p.m. ET
Third-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (5-1-6, 21pts) will try to remain ahead of the fifth-place New York Red Bulls II (5-3-5, 20pts) in the congested Eastern Conference standings, as the sides meet for the first time in 2018. Riverhounds SC rallied for victory in its last outing on June 2, as Neco Brett had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win against the Richmond Kickers, and with six goals this season, the Jamaican is now only one goal from tying a single-season high set with the Portland Timbers 2 in 2016. New York claimed a 4-2 victory against the Charlotte Independence last time out, as the side scored three second-half goals at MSU Soccer Park and now leads the league with 19 goals after the halftime break in contests this season.

Toronto FC II vs. Indy Eleven
Marina Auto Stadium, Rochester, New York | 7 p.m. ET
The second of this season’s summer series in Rochester, New York, sees Toronto FC II (0-11-2, 2pts) continue to look for its first win of the season, a task that could be a tricky one against Indy Eleven (5-4-3, 18pts). The Eleven snapped a four-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory against ATL UTD 2 this past Saturday before a crowd of 10,034 at Lucas Oil Stadium and are within range of finding themselves in the top eight of the Eastern Conference standings with a win. Toronto suffered another tough defeat in its last outing on Saturday as a penalty kick seven minutes into stoppage time gave Penn FC a 3-2 victory and spoiled the Head Coaching debut of Michael Rabasca.

Charlotte Independence vs. Charleston Battery
Sportsplex at Matthews, Matthews, North Carolina | 7:30 p.m. ET
The Charlotte Independence return home after their midweek trip to Atlanta to take on regional rivals the Charleston Battery (5-3-5, 20pts), who enter the Southern Derby clash looking to get back in the win column. The Battery are winless in their last four contests after falling 2-0 to the Richmond Kickers this past Saturday, with the three draws that preceded the club’s first defeat since March playing a role in the Battery dropping to seventh in the Eastern Conference. The Battery have won the past five meetings in the series, with Charlotte’s last victory coming in early 2016, as Charleston took a 2-0 victory when the teams first met this season on May 5, when Ataulla Guerra and Victor Mansaray were on target at MUSC Health Stadium.

FC Cincinnati vs. Richmond Kickers
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio | 7:30 p.m. ET
Both FC Cincinnati and the Richmond Kickers return to action for the second time in the week, as they square off for the first time this season. Previous meetings have typically been tight affairs between the two squads, with Cincinnati having claimed the only victory in four prior meetings between the teams last season, as the other three matchups ended in 1-1 draws. After their trip to Penn FC on Tuesday night, the Kickers will try to take something from their weeklong road trip, with Cincinnati welcoming Bethlehem Steel FC on Wednesday night to kick off their busy week.

Louisville City FC vs. Penn FC
Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky | 7:30 p.m. ET
Louisville City FC (7-2-2, 23pts) opens a stretch of three home games out of its next four contests, as it is visited by a Penn FC side that returns to action after playing host to the Richmond Kickers on Tuesday night. Louisville is undefeated in its last three outings and enters the week three points back of rival FC Cincinnati with two games in hand at the top of the Eastern Conference. Louisville is 4-1-1 over the past three seasons against Penn, but the visitors claimed their first victory in the series a season ago, as each side took victory on home tuft.

Nashville SC vs. North Carolina FC
First Tennessee Park, Nashville, Tennessee | 8:30 p.m. ET
Nashville SC (5-2-5, 20pts) will try to maintain its perfect record at First Tennessee Park as it plays host to North Carolina FC, which opens a stretch of three road games in its next four contests with its first trip to the Music City after hosting Ottawa Fury FC on Wednesday night. Nashville has scored multiple goals in each of its three victories at its primary home this season, including a 3-1 win against Penn FC in its last outing at FTP on June 2. NSC is also undefeated in its last 10 games in all competitions after a 1-1 draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies this past Saturday night, which maintained the club’s place in the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

OKC Energy FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC
Taft Stadium, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma | 8:30 p.m. ET
Two teams in dire need of a victory square off at Taft Stadium as OKC Energy FC returns home from its two-game trip to Cascadia to host Rio Grande Valley FC (1-5-7, 10pts), which is looking for just its second win of the season. The Toros have lost back-to-back contests after a 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers 2 this past Saturday that marked the club’s first defeat at H-E-B Park this season. With both teams entering the week well off the playoff pace in the Western Conference – and OKC taking to the field after facing T2 on Wednesday night – three points is almost a must for both sides as they look to pull back into the playoff race.

Saint Louis FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC
Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis, Fenton, Missouri | 8:30 p.m. ET
Western Conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC completes its trip to the Midwest with a visit to face Saint Louis FC (5-4-5, 20pts), which enters on a two-game winning streak. STLFC swept to a 3-0 victory this past Saturday, as Joey Calistri had two goals and an assist against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field, and that result moved Saint Louis back into the top eight in the Western Conference. With Kyle Greig also notching his sixth goal of the regular season, the hosts look set to give Real another test after the Monarchs’ Wednesday night clash against the Swope Park Rangers.

San Antonio FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Toyota Field, San Antonio, Texas | 8:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio FC (4-3-5, 17pts) returns to action after a bye week to take on a Sacramento Republic FC side that heads to the Lonestar state after its Wednesday night matchup with Fresno FC. SAFC took a thrilling 2-1 victory against the Portland Timbers 2 on June 2 in its most recent outing but still has work to do in the race for the playoffs, as the club sits in 10th place going into the week’s action, three points back of eighth place while holding at least one game in hand on every team sitting above it in the Western Conference standings.

Orange County SC vs. Reno 1868 FC
Champions Soccer Stadium, Irvine, California | 9 p.m. ET
Two teams that start the week separated by two points in the Western Conference standings square off, as Orange County SC (7-4-2, 23pts) looks to build on a late victory when it hosts Reno 1868 FC (5-3-6, 21pts), which hasn’t lost in its last 10 league games. Orange County claimed a 1-0 win against the LA Galaxy II on Sunday evening, as Thomas Enevoldsen notched his seventh goal of the season with eight minutes to go after goalkeeper Andre Rawls had kept the hosts off the scoresheet with a seven-save display at StubHub Center. Reno played to a 1-1 draw with Fresno FC this past Saturday to continue its undefeated run, with 1868 FC now 5-0-5 since it last suffered a loss in the league on April 14.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Phoenix, Arizona | 10:30 p.m. ET
Phoenix Rising FC returns to action on home turf for the second time in Week 14 when it plays host to Tulsa Roughnecks FC (0-6-7, 7pts), which remains on the bottom of the Western Conference after suffering defeats in its last two outings. The Roughnecks fell 3-0 to Saint Louis FC in its most recent outing this past Saturday and will be hoping to avoid a similar capitulation than the one that occurred on May 12, when Phoenix scored four goals in the final 25 minutes to sweep to a 5-1 win at ONEOK Field.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET
Las Vegas Lights FC returns home after its midweek trip to Phoenix to take on Seattle Sounders FC 2 (3-7-2, 11pts), which is looking to build on a dramatic comeback win as it heads to the entertainment capital of the world. S2 took its third victory of the season this past Sunday, as David Estrada scored twice in the final seven minutes to earn the side a 2-1 win against OKC Energy FC. Estrada’s veteran presence has been one of the bright points of the season for Seattle, with the 30-year-old taking sole possession of the team lead in goals with six after his brace against Energy FC.

Sunday, June 17
Portland Timbers 2 vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Merlo Field, Portland, Oregon | 5 p.m. ET
The Portland Timbers 2 return to action for a second time in the week, as they play host to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (5-8-2, 17pts) in the second meeting between the clubs this season. Portland took a 1-0 victory at Weidner Field on March 24, when Augustine Williams scored the winner in the 82nd minute, a win that helped T2 establish itself as a contender in the Western Conference this season. The Switchbacks, meanwhile, have been up and down for most of the season and are coming off back-to-back defeats after falling 1-0 to the Swope Park Rangers this past Saturday. Sitting outside the playoff places while having played more games than all of the teams sitting above it in ninth place going into the week’s games, Colorado Springs is in need of a road pick-me-up to get its season back on track.

Fresno FC vs. Swope Park Rangers
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California | 9 p.m. ET
Both Fresno FC and the Swope Park Rangers return to action for the second time in the week, as the Foxes wrap up their week-long home stand with their first meeting against the defending Western Conference champions. Fresno has lost only once at home this season going into its Wednesday clash with Sacramento Republic FC, while the Rangers will play their 10th road game out of 15 so far this season, as it heads to California having earned a 3-3-3 record away from Kansas City in 2018.

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