Tampa Bay Sports Day

USL: West Takes Spotlight, San Antonio Showdown, Potential Drogba Debut

TAMPA, Fla. – The Western Conference takes the spotlight in the seventh weekend of the 2017 USL Regular Season, which kicks off on Friday night with a rematch of the 2016 Western Conference Final, and continues on Saturday with three major contests that will bring a showdown in San Antonio, a new home opening in Orange County, and the potential for a major debut in Phoenix.

Orange County SC will open its new home at Orange County Great Park on Saturday evening as it welcomes I-405 Derby rival the LA Galaxy II for its first home game of the season. Also on Saturday, the lone undefeated team remaining in the Western Conference, San Antonio FC, returns to Toyota Field. Its visitor will be Sacramento Republic FC, which will take the next shot at defeating the conference leader for the first time this season. 

The weekend kicks off at Children’s Mercy Victory Field with the first meeting between the Swope Park Rangers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 since the sides met in the Western Conference Final of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs. Then, concluding the week’s action on Saturday night, all eyes will be on Phoenix Rising FC, which could see new signing Didier Drogba make his debut as the club hosts Reno 1868 FC.

Saturday, May 6
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (Match Center)
2 p.m. ET, TD Place
Ottawa Fury FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies meet for the second time this season with both coming off victories in their most recent outings. The Rowdies took a 1-0 win at Al Lang Stadium when the two teams met in early April in the first clash this season.
Ottawa (1-2-2, 5pts) was buoyed in midweek as it took a 1-0 victory against FC Edmonton in the first leg of its Preliminary Round series of the 2017 Canadian Championship. Ryan Williams scored an 89th-minute winner for Fury FC at TD Place to give the team an edge as the series heads to Edmonton next Wednesday.
The Rowdies (4-2-1, 13pts) got back on a winning track last Saturday night with a 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers at Al Lang Stadium. Deshorn Brown’s scissor-kick finish – which earned the No. 1 spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 – was the lone goal as Tampa Bay ended a three-game winless streak.
Orange County SC vs. LA Galaxy II (Match Center)
8 p.m. ET, Orange County Great Park
Orange County hosts its home opener against its I-405 Derby rivals the LA Galaxy II in the second game of a home-and-home series between the clubs. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw two weeks ago at StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium as Adrian Vera earned Los Dos a point with a second-half equalizer.
Orange County (2-1-1, 7pts) made a solid start to the season in its four-game road trip, and on Saturday begins a new era with the opening of its new home. Victor Pineda has been a key figure in the team’s success, scoring once and creating five scoring chances so far from the midfield.
The Galaxy II (1-3-1, 4pts) will look to build on their draw against Orange County, which broke a three-game losing streak for the squad. Los Dos’ young squad hasn’t earned a victory since the opening weekend of the season, with Vera’s goal against OC in its last outing only the fourth goal for the club this year.
San Antonio FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC
8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field
San Antonio FC is on a club-record four-game winning streak and seven-game undefeated streak as it welcomes Sacramento Republic FC to Toyota Field. The Western Conference leader is also home to the USL Player of the Week after Cesar Elizondo earned the honor for Week 6 on Tuesday.
SAFC (6-0-1, 19pts) showed off its depth as it went a perfect 3-0-0 through a 10-day trip to Cascadia that saw the side earn victories against Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. Twenty different players featured in the starting lineup over the three wins, with Sebastian Ibeagha and Greg Cochrane the only two to play all 270 minutes of action over that span.
Sacramento (3-3-1, 10pts) is looking to break out of a scoring slump in Texas, having been held scoreless for a fourth consecutive game in a 0-0 draw against Vancouver last Saturday. When Republic FC last had a four-game scoreless streak in league play, however, it ended the LA Galaxy II’s undefeated start to the 2016 season, a parallel that won’t be lost going into Saturday’s game.
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Reno 1868 FC (Match Center)
10:30 p.m. ET, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba could make his debut for Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday night as the club looks to build on a two-game winning streak. Reno, meanwhile, is hoping to spoil the party, which would also earn the club its first win in its inaugural season.
Rising FC (2-2-0, 6pts) welcomed Drogba at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on April 21, and was introduced prior to the club’s 4-3 victory against the Swope Park Rangers on April 23, which was also its last league outing. Joining former Chelsea teammate Shaun Wright-Phillips and former Mexico international Omar Bravo in Phoenix, Drogba is available for selection.
Reno (0-3-2, 2pts) was moments away from its first win in club history in its last outing, but a late goal by Colorado Springs’ Shane Malcolm resulted in a 2-2 draw at Greater Nevada Field. After a bye week, 1868 FC will be looking to go one step further as its attack led by USL all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly looks to press the Rising FC defense.