Tampa Bay Sports Day

USL: Historic Rivalry Renewed in Weekend of Action

TAMPA, Fla. – The longest-standing continual professional rivalry in the United States resumes on Saturday night, highlighting a big weekend of action to conclude Week 12 of the 2017 USL regular season. The weekend also brings a major 2016 USL Cup Playoffs rematch, and a much-anticipated debut for Phoenix Rising FC.

The Eastern Conference-leading Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers face each other for the 60th time in their histories on Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium in the first meeting between the clubs in their 25th-anniversary seasons. Saturday night also sees FC Cincinnati host the Charlotte Independence in the first meeting for the Queen City Cup this year, while Sunday brings a clash between the defending champion New York Red Bulls II and Louisville City FC, whose last matchup was for the 2016 USL Eastern Conference Championship last October.

The Western Conference’s weekend slate brings together Reno 1868 FC and USL Player of the Month for May, Dane Kelly, and Sacramento Republic FC for the first time in league action on Saturday night at Greater Nevada Field. The night is also set to see the highly-anticipated debut for Didier Drogba as Phoenix Rising FC hosts Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.

Saturday, June 10
Charleston Battery vs. Richmond Kickers (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, MUSC Health Stadium
The 60th meeting between the longtime rivals sees the Charleston Battery play host to the Richmond Kickers, with both teams in the midst of greatly differing fortunes in their 25th-anniversary seasons. The Battery are also looking to continue to hold the upper hand on their rivals, with Richmond’s last win in the series having come in the 2014 USL Cup Playoffs.
Charleston (7-2-3, 24pts) remained on top of the Eastern Conference after a remarkable 4-4 draw against Louisville City FC last Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium. Romario Williams reached 10 goals this season with a pair of tallies, but Louisville rallied to earn a point with two goals in the final 15 minutes.
The Kickers (2-6-4, 10pts) saw their winless streak reach seven games, meanwhile, as the New York Red Bulls II edged out a 1-0 victory at City Stadium last Saturday night. Richmond’s last win came on April 22, and the side would like nothing more than to get one over on its rival and hope a big road win can kick-start its season.
FC Cincinnati vs. Charlotte Independence (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium
The Queen City Cup rivalry renews at Nippert Stadium with both FC Cincinnati and the Charlotte Independence looking to rebound from defeats in their most recent outings. Both teams took victories on home turf a season ago, and another tight encounter is expected with the teams separated by only three points in the Eastern Conference standings.
Cincinnati (4-5-3, 15pts) saw its two-game winning streak come to an end in a 1-0 defeat against the Rochester Rhinos, and now faces a crucial three-game home stand over the next three weekends. Following the visit from the Independence, the Eastern Conference-leading Charleston Battery will visit next Saturday and a Saint Louis FC side that will be looking to reverse its defeat in the first meeting between the clubs this season on June 24.
The Independence (3-3-3, 12pts) complete a challenging stint that saw the side take a 2-2 draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Sunday on home turf and suffered a 1-0 defeat against Louisville City FC on Wednesday night at Slugger Field. Despite being down to 10 men, though, Charlotte pushed hard late for an equalizer against Louisville, and could take some positive feeling into Saturday’s contest.
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (Match Center)
10:30 p.m. ET, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
Former Premier League and UEFA Champions League winner Didier Drogba is set to make his debut for Phoenix Rising FC as it hosts Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, with Saturday’s clash at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex also set to make the first game in charge for new Rising FC Head Coach Patrice Carteron.
Drogba arrived in Phoenix to a major welcome on April 21, and since then has been working to get match-fit. His presence could potentially boost Rising FC (4-5-0, 12pts), which fell 3-2 on Tuesday night against OKC Energy FC to remain outside the top eight in the USL’s Western Conference. Carteron, who brings experience from Ligue 1 and the Mali National Team, took his first training sessions with the club this week after his appointment last month, and is expected to be on the sideline for his first game on Saturday.
Vancouver (4-5-2, 14pts) is coming off a 1-0 victory against the Portland Timbers 2 last Sunday afternoon as Marco Bustos’ goal earned the side its second win in its past three outings. WFC2 is currently one place outside the playoff positions, and is looking forward to the opportunity to spoil the party its host will be hoping to throw.
Reno 1868 FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC (Match Center)
10:30 p.m. ET, Greater Nevada Field
Reno 1868 FC and Sacramento Republic FC meet for the first time in the USL regular season on Saturday night, with 1868 FC aiming to continue an outstanding run of form that has pushed the side into the playoff positions in the Western Conference one third of the way through the club’s inaugural season.
Reno (4-3-3, 15pts) took its fourth win in its past five games, and extended its league undefeated streak to six overall with a 3-2 win on Wednesday night against Rio Grande Valley FC. Dane Kelly notched his league-leading 11th goal of the season, while Luis Felipe Fernandes and Brent Richards both scored their first league goals for the club as 1868 FC earned another impressive win.
Sacramento (4-5-3, 15pts) played to a 0-0 draw against the Toros last Saturday night in its past outing, and now sits one place behind sixth-place 1868 FC in the Western Conference. Republic FC will take some confidence into the contest, however, having earned a 2-0 victory against Reno when the teams met in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 31.
Sunday, June 11
New York Red Bulls II vs. Louisville City FC (Match Center)
4 p.m. ET, MSU Soccer Park
The New York Red Bulls II and Louisville City FC are both coming off narrow victories as they meet for the first time since NYRB II won the Eastern Conference Final of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs and went on to win the league crown. Separated by two points in the top four of the Eastern Conference this season, the matchup promises to be another important meeting between the two clubs.
The Red Bulls II (5-5-2, 17pts) recorded their second consecutive victory with a 1-0 win against the Richmond Kickers at City Stadium last Saturday night. Brandon Allen’s seventh goal of the season lifted New York to the victory, and the Red Bulls II now return home looking to continue their undefeated record all-time against their visitors on Sunday.
Louisville (5-1-4, 19pts) also earned a 1-0 victory on Wednesday night as it defeated the Charlotte Independence in front of 7,403 fans at Slugger Field on rookie Richard Ballard’s first goal in the USL. City moved ahead of New York into third place in the Eastern Conference with its victory, and will be hoping to continue its pursuit of the top two after earning seven points from the past three games.