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USL's Week Ahead – Open Cup takes Center Stage for Nine USL Clubs

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 06/05/18, 11:30AM EDT

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Midweek action sees five USL clubs play host to MLS opposition in Fourth Round matchups


Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

TAMPA, Fla. – The Fourth Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup arrives this week as the centerpiece to Week 13 of the 2018 USL regular season, with nine USL clubs looking to make their mark against opposition from Major League Soccer in the historic tournament. Five USL teams will play host to their top-flight opposition, including 2017 semifinalist FC Cincinnati welcoming Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night, as the league’s clubs look to embark on a run in the national tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Focus then returns to the league on Saturday night with a pair of spotlight games, as Nashville SC takes its six-game undefeated streak on the road to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium and Sacramento Republic FC plays host to Phoenix Rising FC at Papa Murphy’s Park in a meeting of two of the top three teams in the Western Conference.

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

11 THINGS TO KNOW

In the USL’s 11 Things to Know, Nicholas Murray looks back at a major victory for Republic FC that kept it in contention near the top of the Western Conference, comeback victories for FC Cincinnati and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC that helped maintain the hierarchy in the Eastern Conference standings and impressive runs of form from the Charlotte Independence, Reno 1868 FC and Nashville SC.

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2018 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP


Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati

Defending USL Cup champion Louisville City FC is one of five USL clubs that will play host to visitors from Major League Soccer in the Fourth Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as the historic tournament resumes on Tuesday and Wednesday night this week with the most-anticipated round of the tournament.

FC Cincinnati, Nashville SC, San Antonio FC and Sacramento Republic FC are also set to welcome MLS opposition in the next two days, all looking to upset the odds and claim a place in the Round of 16 in the historic tournament.

The action kicks off with three games on Tuesday night that all featured USL clubs, with Louisville City FC playing host to the New England Revolution at Lynn Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville, as it looks to earn its first competitive victory against an MLS club. Additionally, the Richmond Kickers – who won the tournament in 1995 and more recently reached the Semifinals in 2011 – will visit the Philadelphia Union, and North Carolina FC will head to face D.C. United in their Fourth Round ties.

Wednesday night sees four more USL clubs host top-flight opponents, with FC Cincinnati looking to set a course that would emulate its historic run to the tournament’s Semifinals a season ago, as it plays host to Minnesota United FC. San Antonio FC will get to host MLS opposition for the first time when FC Dallas visits Toyota Stadium, and Nashville SC gets to play host to the Colorado Rapids at Vanderbilt Soccer Complex with NSC Head Coach Gary Smith, goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Kosuke Kimura set to face the side they helped claim the 2010 MLS Cup.

Sacramento Republic FC rounds out the night as it welcomes four-time Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC to Papa Murphy’s Park with a chance to advance to the Round of 16 for a second consecutive season. Elsewhere, the Charleston Battery face a rematch from this stage a season ago as they visit Atlanta United FC, and Fresno FC gets to visit a fellow club in its inaugural season in Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC at Banc of California Stadium in its first contest against MLS opposition.

2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Fourth Round
Tuesday, June 5

Philadelphia Union vs. Richmond Kickers, 7 p.m. ET, Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
Louisville City FC vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m. ET, Lynn Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
D.C. United vs. North Carolina FC, 7 p.m. ET, Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, Md.

Wednesday, June 6
Columbus Crew SC vs. Chicago Fire, 7 p.m. ET, Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
Miami United FC vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET, Ted Hendricks Stadium, Hialeah, Fla.
Atlanta United FC vs. Charleston Battery, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw, Ga.
FC Cincinnati vs. Minnesota United FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Nashville SC vs. Colorado Rapids, 8:30 p.m. ET, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Houston Dynamo vs. NTX Rayados, 8:30 p.m. ET, BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
San Antonio FC vs. FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field, San Antonio, Texas
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10 p.m. ET, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Los Angeles FC vs. Fresno FC, 10 p.m. ET, Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif.
LA Galaxy vs. FC Golden State Force, 10:30 p.m. ET, StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium, Carson, Calif.
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. ET, Providence Park, Portland, Ore.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 11 p.m. ET, Papa Murphy's Park, Sacramento, Calif.

USL REGULAR SEASON SPOTLIGHT | RAPID-FIRE PREVIEWS


Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Saturday, June 9
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Louisville City FC

Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania | 5 p.m. ET
Both Bethlehem Steel FC (5-5-2, 17pts) and Louisville City FC (7-2-1, 22pts) will try to build on big road victories in their most recent league outings when they square off for the second time this season. Louisville took a 3-1 victory when the sides met at Slugger Field on April 28, as a pair of goals by leading scorer Cameron Lancaster helped give the hosts a three-goal lead inside the opening 25 minutes. Lancaster was also on target in City FC’s last outing, a 2-0 victory against FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium on May 26 that gave Louisville the inside track to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Bethlehem returned to the playoff positions this past Saturday, taking its third win in its last four games as two late goals earned a 2-1 comeback victory against North Carolina FC.

Indy Eleven vs. ATL UTD 2
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana | 7 p.m. ET
Indy Eleven (4-4-3, 15pts) and ATL UTD 2 (2-6-4, 10pts) are both coming off draws in their last outings as they meet for the first time. Indy was part of a seesaw battle against the Charleston Battery last Wednesday night, as it held the lead twice only for the Battery to strike in stoppage time to claim a 3-3 draw at Lucas Oil Stadium. The result left Indy two points out of the playoff positions and looking to improve on a home record of 2-3-1 as it welcomes Atlanta, which continues its road trip after earning a 0-0 draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies this past Saturday. The shutout marked the first time the Rowdies had been held scoreless in a league contest at Al Lang Stadium since joining the USL prior to the start of the 2017 season. 

New York Red Bulls II vs. Charlotte Independence
MSU Soccer Park, Montclair, New Jersey | 7 p.m. ET
The New York Red Bulls II (4-3-5, 17pts) will reopen the newly renovated MSU Soccer Park as the Charlotte Independence (6-3-2, 20pts) visit with the hosts looking to rebound from its first home defeat of the season. The Red Bulls II surrendered a halftime lead against FC Cincinnati in a 2-1 loss last Saturday at Red Bull Arena that saw New York’s Brian White miss a second-half penalty kick before FCC rallied to take victory. The result saw the Red Bulls II slide into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, and they’ll get a solid test from an Independence side that has won four consecutive games to move into the top four in the conference standings after Yann Ekra’s second goal in as many games earned a 1-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC last Saturday night at TD Place.

North Carolina FC vs. FC Cincinnati
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina | 7 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati (7-3-2, 23pts) will try to maintain its place at the top of the Eastern Conference as it visits North Carolina FC (3-5-2, 11pts), which is in serious need of a victory to boost its playoff prospects. NCFC had a lead late in its last outing but gave up two late goals against Bethlehem Steel FC to suffer a 2-1 defeat on home turf that left the side six points out of the postseason positions. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is coming in off a morale-boosting road victory against the New York Red Bulls II that saw the visitors rally behind goals from Emmanuel Ledesma and Danni Konig to take a 2-1 victory at Red Bull Arena. FCC claimed a 4-1 victory on May 19 when former NCFC player Nazmi Albadawi scored twice and Ledesma had a goal and three assists, and the visitors will be hoping to complete a regular-season sweep as they visit Sahlen’s Stadium for the first time.

Penn FC vs. Toronto FC II
FNB Field, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania | 7 p.m. ET
Penn FC (2-4-5, 11pts) will try to get back on a winning track and boost its playoff hopes in the process as it hosts winless Toronto FC II (0-10-2, 2pts) in the second meeting between the club’s this season. One of Penn’s two victories this season came on the road in Toronto, as a late goal by Miguel Jaime earned a 1-0 victory at Monarch Park, but since that result, Penn has taken one point from its past two games, including suffering a 3-1 defeat on the road against Nashville SC this past Saturday. Toronto made a coaching change this week, appointing Michael Rabasca as the replacement for Laurent Guyot, whose departure from the club was announced late last week, and the club will be hoping it can help formulate a turnaround after the side continued to struggle in a 3-0 loss to Ottawa Fury FC in its last outing.

Richmond Kickers vs. Charleston Battery
City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia | 7 p.m. ET
Two historic rivals meet for the first time this season, with the Charleston Battery (5-2-5, 20pts) aiming to continue a nine-game undefeated streak when they visit the Richmond Kickers (3-6-1, 10pts). The Battery have played to three consecutive draws in league action going into Saturday’s game after claiming a 3-3 draw against Indy Eleven in its most recent outing, with Tah Anunga scoring a stoppage-time equalizer for the visitors at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ataulla Guerra is currently riding a hot run of form for the Battery, with his goal against Indy his fourth in five games in the month of May. The Kickers haven’t been as fortunate, and this past Saturday, they surrendered a second-half lead in a 2-1 defeat to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC that left the side seven points out of the playoff places as it approaches one-third of the way through its season.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Nashville SC
Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Florida | 7:30 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Rowdies (5-5-2, 17pts) will try to maintain an undefeated home record when it plays host to Nashville SC (5-2-4, 19pts), which enters the first meeting between the clubs on a six-game undefeated streak in league action. Nashville claimed a 3-1 victory against Penn FC last Saturday night to earn its third consecutive home victory at First Tennessee Park as recent addition Brandon Allen had a goal and assist, and NSC will be hoping that firepower can lift it to success against a Rowdies side that played to a 0-0 draw against ATL UTD 2 last Saturday. Tampa Bay has only lost once in the regular season at Al Lang Stadium since joining the USL prior to the 2017 season, however, and would overtake Nashville in the Eastern Conference standings with a victory.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Swope Park Rangers
Weidner Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado | 8 p.m. ET
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (5-7-2, 17pts) and the Swope Park Rangers (5-3-4, 19pts) will both look to rebound from tough road defeats in their last outings when they meet for the second time this season. The Rangers took a 1-0 victory on April 4 on an early goal by Tyler Blackwood but have seen their form run into some inconsistency in recent weeks with the side having suffered a 2-0 loss to Saint Louis FC this past Saturday night. Colorado Springs has also gone through ups and downs recently, with a 4-1 loss to Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday continuing a run of four consecutive games where the Switchbacks have alternated wins and losses.

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Portland Timbers 2
H-E-B Park, Edinburg, Texas | 8:30 p.m. ET
The Portland Timbers 2 (7-4-2, 23pts) make their second consecutive trip to the Lonestar State to take on Rio Grande Valley FC (1-4-7, 10pts), with both clubs looking to rebound from defeats in their last outings. T2 let a late lead slip against San Antonio FC this past Saturday night in a 2-1 defeat that saw the club’s three-game winning streak come to an end. Portland still sits in the top four in the Western Conference, however, while the Toros remain off the playoff pace after a 2-0 loss to Real Monarchs SLC on Monday night that saw the visitors record only one shot on goal at Zions Bank Stadium.

Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. Saint Louis FC
ONEOK Field, Tulsa, Oklahoma | 8:30 p.m. ET
Saint Louis FC (4-4-5, 17pts) will try to build on an impressive home victory when it visits Tulsa Roughnecks FC (0-5-7, 7pts), which is still looking for its first win of the season as it returns home to ONEOK Field. STLFC grabbed a 2-0 victory this past Saturday against the Swope Park Rangers to move the club back into the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference as Corey Hertzog and Joey Calistri each found the net. The Roughnecks’ struggles continued, however, as the side missed numerous chances to take something against the LA Galaxy II this past Saturday, only to fall to a 1-0 defeat.

Reno 1868 FC vs. Fresno FC
Greater Nevada Field, Reno, Nevada | 10:30 p.m. ET
Reno 1868 FC (5-3-5, 20pts) will try to continue its club-record nine-game undefeated streak when it plays host to Fresno FC (3-4-6, 15pts), which is also coming off a morale-boosting victory in its last outing. Reno claimed its third victory in the past four games last Saturday night as Lindo Mfeka’s goal earned a 2-1 victory on the road against OKC Energy FC, a win that moved 1868 FC firmly into the playoff positions in the Western Conference. Fresno is aiming to battle its way back into the race for the postseason, and in a 4-0 victory against Seattle Sounders FC that saw Jemal Johnson strike twice the Foxes got a major boost in ending an eight-game winless streak.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Papa Murphy’s Park, Sacramento, Calif. | 11 p.m. ET
Sacramento Republic FC (7-3-3, 24pts) and Phoenix Rising FC (7-3-3, 24pts) will battle for sole possession of second place in the USL’s Western Conference when the teams meet for the second time this season. Sacramento claimed a 3-1 victory when the teams met on May 19 at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, as first-half goals by Cameron Iwasa and Villyan Bijev paved the way to victory for the visitors, and Sacramento is coming off another solid 1-0 victory against fellow California playoff contender Orange County SC this past Saturday night. Phoenix broke a two-game losing streak with an impressive 3-1 win against Saint Louis FC last Wednesday night in its most recent outing, as Solomon Asante recorded a goal and an assist, but Sacramento has never lost to Phoenix on home turf in five previous meetings between the clubs at Papa Murphy’s Park.

Sunday, June 10
Seattle Sounders FC 2 vs. OKC Energy FC

Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Washington | 4:30 p.m. ET
Two teams in severe need of a victory meet when Seattle Sounders FC 2 (2-7-2, 8pts) play host to OKC Energy FC (2-9-1, 7pts) in the first meeting between the teams this season. S2 is coming off a 4-0 defeat to Fresno FC that extended its winless streak to five games, including defeats in three of its last four outings. OKC, meanwhile, fell 2-1 to Reno 1868 FC this past Saturday night as its struggles continued. Both clubs sit in the bottom three in the Western Conference going into Sunday’s matchup.

LA Galaxy II vs. Orange County SC
StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. | 8:30 p.m. ET
The LA Galaxy II (3-6-4, 13pts) will try to build on its first two-game winning streak of the season when it welcomes local rival Orange County SC (6-4-2, 20pts) for the second meeting between the clubs this season. Orange County took a comfortable 3-0 victory when the teams first met earlier this season, but Los Dos are undefeated in their last three games after Miguel Aguilar’s early goal led to a 1-0 win against Tulsa Roughnecks FC this past Saturday. Orange County is coming off a 1-0 defeat to fellow playoff contender Sacramento Republic FC this past Saturday but has yet to sustain back-to-back defeats so far this season which bodes well for a bounce-back display on the road.

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