Tampa Bay Sports Day

USL: New Home for Independence, and a Playoff Rematch in Cincinnati

FILE Photo

TAMPA – After a busy midweek highlighted by action in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that saw both FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic FC advance to the Fifth Round for the first time in their histories.

An 11-game slate begins a lengthy run of games over the next 10 days, and the weekend’s action is highlighted by a big rematch from the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs and the opening of a new home in the Eastern Conference.
 
After playing their first four home games of the season around the region, the Charlotte Independence will play their first game at the new Sportsplex at Matthews on Saturday night when the Harrisburg City Islanders come to visit.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati and the Charleston Battery are set to square off at Nippert Stadium in the first meeting between the clubs at the venue since the Battery’s upset win in the USL Cup Playoffs a season ago.
 
The clash between the San Antonio FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC highlights Saturday night’s Western Conference action, with the Roughnecks having advanced past SAFC in the Open Cup when they first met this year.

Sunday evening brings another must-see game, with the Swope Park Rangers and Phoenix Rising FC both looking to build off big victories last weekend.

Saturday, June 17
Charlotte Independence vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, Sportsplex at Matthews
The Charlotte Independence move into their new, permanent home at the Sportsplex at Matthews with a visit from the Harrisburg City Islanders, and will aim to end a three-game winless streak to get back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
 
Charlotte (3-3-4, 13pts) earned a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium last Saturday night, and still has games in hand on the teams above it in the standings. With the Independence set to be without standout forward Enzo Martinez due to suspension, however, it needs to start putting wins together to gain ground on the teams in the top eight.
 
The City Islanders (2-5-4, 10pts) are in a similar predicament to the Independence as they look to spoil Charlotte’s party, only Harrisburg’s winless streak has now stretched to eight games. Sitting three points back of the Independence entering Saturday’s contest, and coming off a 3-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Union in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, this game could be a critical one to the course of Harrisburg’s season.
 
FC Cincinnati vs. Charleston Battery (Match Center)
7 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium
The Eastern Conference-leading Charleston Battery and FC Cincinnati meet for the first time at Nippert Stadium since the Battery ended FCC’s season last fall. Since then the Battery also took a victory against Cincinnati on home turf in the opening weekend of this season, making FCC eager to turn the tables in front of another big home crowd.
 
Cincinnati (4-5-4, 16pts) is also in need of a win in a tightly-packed middle of the Eastern Conference standings, but is coming off a 1-0 victory against Columbus Crew SC in front of 30,160 fans at Nippert Stadium in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. The result, and news of a home game against the Chicago Fire in the Fifth Round, could have a buoyant effect on the club’s season as it looks to get back into the top eight.
 
By contrast, the Battery (8-2-3, 27pts) are flying high at the top of the Eastern standings after a 1-0 victory against the Richmond Kickers last Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium. Charleston is undefeated in four previous meetings with Cincinnati, and while the side was edged out 3-2 by Atlanta United FC in Wednesday night’s Open Cup clash, the Battery will enter hopeful of continuing that streak. 
 
Louisville City FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (Match Center)
7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field
Louisville City FC returns home to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds looking to continue its strong form at Slugger Field this season, with a chance it could move into second place in the Eastern Conference with a victory.
 
Louisville (6-1-4, 23pts) took a pair of big wins in Week 12, defeating the Charlotte Independence on home turf in midweek and then earning the club’s first victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Sunday afternoon. Now trailing the Tampa Bay Rowdies by only a point, but with three games in hand, Louisville will look to continue its push toward the top.
 
Pittsburgh (4-5-4, 16pts) is moving in the opposite direction, with Louisville’s 1-0 win on May 20 beginning a four-game winless streak that has dropped the Riverhounds out of the postseason places. The Hounds grabbed a late draw against Toronto FC II last Saturday, though, and will hope the momentum of Romeo Parkes’ first goal of the season carries forward.
 
San Antonio FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC (Match Center)
8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field
San Antonio FC will look to continue its 13-game undefeated streak to start the season, and take another step toward Rio Grande Valley FC’s USL record 758-minute shutout streak when it hosts a Tulsa Roughnecks FC side that eliminated it from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last month.
 
SAFC (9-0-4, 31pts) is coming off back-to-back scoreless draws after playing to a 0-0 draw against OKC Energy FC last Saturday night at Taft Stadium. The side has now gone 644 minutes without conceding, but the two draws have allowed Real Monarchs SLC to move two points ahead at the top of the Western Conference standings.
 
The Roughnecks (5-6-0, 15pts) continued their up-and-down season last Sunday when they conceded twice late to fall 3-1 against the Swope Park Rangers. Tulsa will take some confidence from its Open Cup performance against San Antonio, though, which saw the side earn a 0-0 draw before advancing in a penalty shootout thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Fabian Cerda, who scored himself before saving from SAFC’s Diego Restrepo to send the side into its game against FC Dallas this past Wednesday night.
 
Sunday, June 18
Swope Park Rangers vs. Phoenix Rising FC (Match Center)
5 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field
The Swope Park Rangers and Phoenix Rising FC are separated by just a point, with the Rangers on the right side of the playoff line, and they square off for the second time this season after a high-scoring encounter the last time out.
 
The Rangers (5-4-1, 16pts) grabbed a big win in their past outing as Mark Anthony Gonzalez struck twice late in a 3-1 win against Tulsa Roughnecks FC last Sunday. The win moved Swope Park into seventh place in the West, and after suffering a 4-3 defeat in its visit to the desert earlier this season will be hoping to turn the tables on home turf.
 
Rising FC (5-5-0, 15pts) saw the much-anticipated debut of Didier Drogba pay off as ideally as could have been hoped as the former Premier League champion had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 last Saturday. Sitting in ninth in the standings, but with games in hand on a few teams ahead of them, Rising FC could take a big step forward with a win on the road.