Tampa Bay Sports Day

USL: San Antonio Looks to Stay Undefeated

TAMPA, Fla. – The sixth weekend of the 2017 USL Regular Season kicks off on Friday night as one of the two remaining undefeated teams this season is in action, while a pair of playoff rematches – one in the Eastern Conference and one in the Western – highlights Saturday night’s slate of 10 matches.

San Antonio FC has gone two-for-two in the first two legs of its week-long trip to the Pacific Northwest to open the weekend with a four-point lead at the top of the Western Conference. In the Portland Timbers 2 on Friday night, though, SAFC will visit a side coming off a major boost in its past outing.

The Rochester Rhinos and Charlotte Independence then square off on Saturday night in the first meeting between the teams since the Rhinos’ victory in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs. Meanwhile in the Western Conference, Rio Grande Valley FC will be looking to take its second win of the season against OKC Energy FC.

Saturday, April 29
Rochester Rhinos vs. Charlotte Independence (Match Center)
6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium
The Rochester Rhinos and Charlotte Independence meet for the first time since the Rhinos recorded a 3-1 victory in last season’s playoffs, but Rochester (1-1-2, 5pts) now has a number of new faces who will try to make an impact in the club’s second consecutive home game.

One of the Rhinos’ standouts from a season ago came through late in their past outing, though, as Joe Farrell’s stoppage-time equalizer earned a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls II. An All-League selection a year ago, Farrell is one of only three players to have played every minute of the season so far for the Rhinos in his sophomore professional season.

Charlotte (1-1-2, 5pts) took its first win of the season last Saturday night as it rallied from an early deficit to down Saint Louis FC behind a pair of goals by Enzo Martinez. A 2016 USL Most Valuable Player finalist, Martinez was voted the USL Player of the Week on Tuesday, but won’t have fond memories of his last trip to Rochester that saw him sent off in the Independence’s playoff defeat.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium
The first meeting for the Keystone Derby Cup arrives on Saturday night when the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Harrisburg City Islanders square off. Harrisburg looks to build on a three-game undefeated streak as it visits its longtime rival.

The Riverhounds (1-3-2, 5pts) are winless in their past three outings after suffering a 2-1 loss against the Richmond Kickers last Saturday night at City Stadium. Marshall Hollingsworth scored a fine goal in the loss in soggy conditions on the road, and the Hounds will be hoping to get back in the win column as they look to jump-start their season.

The City Islanders (2-1-1, 7pts) almost bagged their third successive win in their past contest, only for a stoppage-time goal by Orlando City B to leave the game all square in a 1-1 draw. Harrisburg claimed the Keystone Derby Cup a season ago, and can solidify its place in the top eight of the Eastern Conference while also dealing an early blow to the Riverhounds with a win.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. OKC Energy FC (Match Center)
8:30 p.m. ET, H-E-B Park
Rio Grande Valley FC and OKC Energy FC renew their rivalry for a second time this season, and for the first at H-E-B Park as the Toros look to rebound from a tough loss in their past outing. Energy FC returns to action after an extended break in its schedule.

The Toros (2-3-0, 6pts) suffered their second home loss of the season to Tulsa Roughnecks FC last Saturday night as the Roughnecks earned their second win of the season against the South Texas club. RGVFC only lost three times on home turf in the regular season a year ago, a number it will be trying to avoid on Saturday.

Energy FC (1-2-1, 4pts) last saw action on April 11, when Miguel Gonzalez’s bicycle kick earned the side a victory against Sacramento Republic FC in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 for its first win of the season. OKC has been active since then, however, and took a 3-1 victory against the University of Tulsa to try and stay sharp during its layoff.

OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
– Players with USL experience have played a key role in the U.S. U17 team’s progression to the second stage of the CONCACAF U17 Championship in Panama, which included the side’s first win at the tournament against Mexico on Wednesday. Toronto FC II’s Ayo Akinola has recorded three goals to sit tied for second in goals ahead of Saturday’s final group game with El Salvador.

– The USL’s 2018 expansion club Nashville SC unveiled two major partnerships this week, teaming up with Under Armour to become the club’s official apparel provider, and Nissan as a founding partner. The club also unveiled the jerseys the club’s PDL team will wear as it kicks off the 2017 season in the upcoming weeks.

– Phoenix Rising FC has begun a head coaching search after Monday’s announcement that Frank Yallop had resigned. Yallop, who had led the side to back-to-back victories over the past two games, will serve as a consulting member of the club’s international search committee before returning to his family in Northern California.

– The Eastern Conference-leading Charleston Battery (4-1-0, 12pts) will play host to Ottawa Fury FC (1-2-1, 4pts) in the first meeting between the clubs at MUSC Health Stadium (7 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Battery have taken back-to-back wins since their first loss of the season, scoring eight goals in the process, while Fury FC has recorded back-to-back shutouts to earn its first four points of the season.

– Real Monarchs SLC (4-1-0, 12pts) and the Swope Park Rangers (3-1-0, 9pts) meet in a fascinating clash on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium (6 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Monarchs enter the weekend in second place in the West after a 3-1 victory on the road in Seattle last weekend, while the Rangers are aiming to rebound from their first loss of the season, a 4-3 defeat to Phoenix Rising FC that almost saw them run down a four-goal deficit late in the second half.

– The Tampa Bay Rowdies (3-2-1, 10pts) and Richmond Kickers (2-3-0, 6pts) will square off for the first time on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET | Match Center) with the Rowdies looking to get back on a winning track. Tampa Bay is winless in its past three outings after a 3-2 defeat to Charleston last Saturday, while Richmond is coming off a morale-boosting 2-1 win against Pittsburgh.

– Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (2-2-1, 7pts) and Sacramento Republic FC (3-3-0, 9pts) are both looking to bounce back when they meet at Thunderbird Stadium on Saturday afternoon (6 p.m. ET | Match Center). Republic FC has suffered three consecutive defeats, and been held scoreless in all three contests, while WFC2 is coming off a 2-1 loss to San Antonio FC that ended a three-game undefeated run prior.

– Bethlehem Steel FC (1-3-0, 3pts) will try to claim its second win of the season against FC Cincinnati (2-2-2, 8pts) when the sides meet at Goodman Stadium on Saturday evening (5 p.m. ET | Match Center). Steel FC fell 2-0 to Orlando City B in its past outing, while Cincinnati is undefeated in its past three outings (1-0-2) as it had to square off with Saint Louis, Tampa Bay and Louisville across eight days at Nippert Stadium.

– Louisville City FC (3-0-2, 11pts) will try to maintain its undefeated start to the season when it hosts Toronto FC II (1-2-2, 5pts) on Saturday night at Slugger Field (7:30 p.m. ET | Match Center). Louisville earned a 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati last Saturday night at Nippert Stadium, while Toronto has recorded back-to-back 0-0 draws after it secured a point in its visit to Ottawa last Saturday.

– Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (2-1-3, 9pts) will be hoping to use last weekend’s late equalizer as a springboard when it hosts Seattle Sounders FC 2 (2-4-0, 6pts) at Weidner Field on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET | Match Center). The Switchbacks got a stoppage-time leveler from Shane Malcolm to earn a 2-2 draw with Reno 1868 FC at Greater Nevada Field last Saturday, while S2 is coming off back-to-back defeats for the first time this season after falling on Tuesday night to San Antonio.