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Gameday Report: August 4, Week 21

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 08/04/18, 9:19PM EDT

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Bijev lifts Republic FC past Fresno; Nashville strikes late, earns 1-1 draw with FCC


Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. Sacramento Republic FC had done almost everything but score in the opening half-hour against its Highway 99 Derby rivals Fresno FC, but one of the players who came closest in that barrage ended up being the game-winner on the night as Villyan Bijev scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Papa Murphy’s Park that moved the side into third place at the end of the night. Equal parts playmaker and goalscorer, Bijev will continue to be key if Sacramento is going to make a deep playoff run this season.

2. With a goal after just 28 seconds – the fastest in club history – things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for FC Cincinnati against Nashville SC thanks to Danni König, but the rest of the contest showed that while the side is still on top of the Eastern Conference the past week might have put an even bigger target on its backs. Tucker Hume’s late equalizer for Nashville in a 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium was just reward after a contest in which the visitors outshot FCC 19-4 on its own turf and gave the hosts plenty to think about in the upcoming week.

3. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC not only grabbed hold of a lifeline in its pursuit of a place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs, it also made OKC Energy FC’s road to the postseason that much more difficult as the hosts took a 2-0 victory thanks to second-half substitute Tobenna Uzo at Weidner Field. Uzo’s first goal for the Switchbacks put the side ahead a minute after he had come on, a towering header that converted Jordan Burt’s cross and provided the impetus for a bounce-back victory after last week’s troubles in Texas that kept the side within reach of the playoff positions.

GAME REPORTS

SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC (1), FRESNO FC (0)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Villyan Bijev scored a spectacular game-winner as Sacramento Republic FC took a 1-0 victory against Fresno FC in the Highway 99 Derby before a crowd of 10,632 at Papa Murphy’s Park. Jeremy Hall threatened to open the scoring for Sacramento in the seventh minute with a fierce long-range shot that flew just wide of the left post, and the hosts went close again 10 minutes later as Jure Matjasic produced a good run from the left flank into the penalty area that ended with a finish that clipped the crossbar. Republic FC’s Bijev also hit the crossbar moments later, while Fresno goalkeeper Kyle Reynish was called upon to make a big save on the half-hour mark to deny Matjasic’s long-range drive. Fresno almost grabbed the lead nine minutes after the break after a defensive error opened up a chance for Juan Pablo Caffa only for his finish to hit the crossbar, but Republic FC went ahead in the 76th minute as he cut in from the left side and rifled a low finish into the right corner of the net from 20 yards. Sacramento’s Keven Aleman almost added an insurance goal in the final minute as he shot high of the net, but it proved academic as Fresno’s last chance went just high from Pedro Ribeiro deep in stoppage time and allowed Republic FC to take victory on the night and in the Highway 99 Derby’s inaugural series.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Villyan Bijev, Sacramento Republic FC
– Bijev had already hit the crossbar in the first half and recorded four key passes, but his outstanding finish was a worthy winner in the final regular-season meeting between the Northern California rivals.

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC (1), RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (0)

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas Lights FC got a late winner in a 1-0 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC before a crowd of 6,752 fans at Cashman Field. Las Vegas almost struck in the third minute as a floated cross from the left found Omar Salgado at the back post for a volleyed finish back across goal that went just wide of the left post. The Toros also threatened late in the first half as a deep free kick by Todd Wharton found Wilmer Cabrera Jr. at the back post for a header that was turned away by Lights FC goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño, while early in the second half Pablo Aguilar forced another save by Ferriño on a free kick curled toward the top-right corner. RGVFC’s was again denied by Ferriño in the 64th minute as a first-time finish by Matias Zaldivar was kept out, while Jesus Enriquez was kept from opening the scoring for the visitors as Ferriño did enough to keep out his close-range chance. Those saves proved crucial with eight minutes to go when Joel Huiqui scored with a back-post header from a corner kick by Omar Salgado to put Lights FC ahead, and that stood as the winner as the Toros’ were unable to find a late equalizer.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Ricardo Ferriño, Las Vegas Lights FC
– Ferriño recorded a seven-save shutout as the hosts had to hold on at times before taking a big victory to remain in the hunt for the postseason.

ORANGE COUNTY SC (2), SWOPE PARK RANGERS (1)

IRVINE, Calif. – Darwin Jones scored his first two goals for Orange County SC as the hosts took a 2-1 victory against the Swope Park Rangers at Champions Soccer Stadium. Swope Park threatened in the 12th minute as a low shot by Chase Minter tested Orange County goalkeeper Casey Beyers at his left post, but the hosts took the lead four minutes later as Jones benefited from work by Michael Seaton to shoot home from the right side of the penalty area. The Rangers hit back through Felipe Hernandez in the 19th minute as he found the bottom-right corner of the net with a free kick from 25 yards, but Jones struck again two minutes before halftime with a long-range shot that deflected off a defender to wrongfoot Christian Herrera in the Swope Park goal. The second half saw fewer chances, but Orange County almost added to its lead through Thomas Enevoldsen as his shot was blocked behind with 12 minutes to go. Swope Park’ Matheus Silva had a long-range effort saved six minutes later, but that proved the last chance for the visitors as Orange County took all three points.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Darwin Jones, Orange County SC
– Jones’ two first-half goals – his first in Orange County colors – led the hosts to victory as OCSC’s path to the playoffs continues to be open wide.

SAN ANTONIO FC (2), LA GALAXY II (1)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio FC struck once in either half to take a 2-1 victory against the LA Galaxy II that extended the club’s winning streak to four games before a crowd of 7,447 at Toyota Field. San Antonio almost opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Ethan Bryant’s curling shot to the left corner was denied by Galaxy II goalkeeper Eric Lopez. The hosts went close again off the ensuing corner as Cyprian Hedrick’s header went off the crossbar, but after Los Dos were unable to clear their lines SAFC took the lead as Darnell King blasted home a finish from 20 yards at the top of the penalty area into the top-right corner. The Galaxy II almost hit back with a dipping shot by Frank Lopez moments later that produced a diving save by SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, but four minutes into the second half Ever Guzman doubled San Antonio’s lead with a close-range finish from Ethan Bryant’s low cross from the right that found its way through the six-yard area. The Galaxy II pulled a goal back in stoppage time through Lopez as he clipped home a near-post finish from a low cross from the right by Jonathan Hernandez, but the hosts held on for all three points and another big step toward a playoff berth.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Ethan Bryant, San Antonio FC
– Bryant put together a strong all-around display, winning six tackles, recording one key pass and one shot on goal and winning 12 of 16 duels overall.

SAINT LOUIS FC (2), SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 2 (0)

FENTON, Mo. – A pair of first-half goals led Saint Louis FC to a 2-0 victory against Seattle Sounders FC 2 at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis. Saint Louis took the lead in just the third minute when Kyle Culbertson stayed with the play after having a header denied by Seattle goalkeeper Calle Brown and centered to allow Kyle Greig a simple close-range finish. S2’s Henry Wingo almost caught an equalizer with a long-range free kick that went wide of the right post in the 31st minute, but three minutes later STLFC’s Austin Ledbetter put home a tremendous curled finish from 25 yards into the bottom right corner to double the lead for the hosts. Wingo twice went close for S2 in the second half, but was denied in the 54th minute when STLFC goalkeeper Jake Fenlason came off his line sharply to deny a chance from the left side of the penalty area and then 13 minutes later when his shot from the top of the penalty area came back off the crossbar. Fenlason then came through to preserve the shutout with two minutes to go as he kept out David Estrada’s penalty kick to the left corner as Saint Louis claimed its second consecutive victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Pierre Da Silva, Saint Louis FC
– Da Silva was sharp in midfield throughout for the hosts as he recorded two key passes, won 11 of 18 duels and completed 26 of 31 passes.

FC CINCINNATI (1), NASHVILLE SC (1)

CINCINNATI – Nashville SC equalized late to earn a 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati in front of a crowd of 27,426 fans at Nippert Stadium. FCC’s Danni Konig opened the scoring after just 28 seconds as he picked up possession on the left flank and drove into the penalty area, went past a defender and shot high into the left corner. Nashville’s Matt LaGrassa almost equalized in the 17th minute with a powerful header from 12 yards that went just wide of the right post, while Alan Winn found the outside of the side-netting three minutes before the break after a powerful run into the left side of the penalty area. NSC again went close in the 67th minute as Michael Reed’s header was saved by FCC goalkeeper Evan Newton, while Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens denied Fanendo Adi a debut goal with a fingertip save with nine minutes to go. Nashville found its equalizer four minutes later, however, as Tucker Hume curled home a low finish from the top of the penalty area to the left corner after Ropapa Mensah sent the ball back his way after an entry pass by the forward to earn a point for the visitors.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Tucker Hume, Nashville SC
– Hume notched the game-tying goal late to cap a performance that saw him record three key passes and lead the line strongly for the visitors.

COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC (2), OKC ENERGY FC (0)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC got a goal and assist from second-half substitute Tobenna Uzo as it defeated OKC Energy FC 2-0 at Weidner Field. Energy FC almost took the lead in the sixth minute as Adam Jahn found space in the penalty area but was denied by Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouaty. The Switchbacks’ best chance of the first half arrived in the 37th minute when recent addition Micheal Azira fired a long-range shot off the left post before Energy FC sent the ball away to safety, and Energy FC hit the woodwork as well when a header by Atiba Harris early in the second half came back off the crossbar. Jordan Burt almost broke the deadlock for the hosts with a shot that span just wide of the right post in the 65th minute, but with 16 minutes to go the Switchbacks took the lead as Uzo headed home a deep cross from the left by Burt just moments after coming on as a substitute. Energy FC almost hit back immediately but Christian Voleseky didn’t catch his finish cleanly as Pouaty got down to save, but the Switchbacks wrapped up victory with a minute to go as Shane Malcolm played a give-and-go with Uzo before turning his defender and finishing low to the left corner.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Tobenna Uzo, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
– Uzo made an immediate impact with his goal a minute after coming on as a substitute but was also effective otherwise in winning six of nine duels and providing the assist on Shane Malcolm’s insurance goal. 

NORTH CAROLINA FC (0), CHARLESTON BATTERY (0)

CARY, N.C. – North Carolina FC and the Charleston Battery played to a 0-0 draw on Saturday night in their second meeting this season at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. USL Golden Boot contender Ataulla Guerra almost struck in the 26th minute after a cagey opening as he created space at the top of the penalty area for a shot that flashed just wide of the right post. North Carolina threatened soon after only for Kyle Bekker to just mishit his volleyed finish to allow Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky to gather, and Steven Miller also forced a save with a good shot from the left side of the penalty area in the opening minute of the second half. Miller also struck the crossbar in the 55th minute with a deflected shot from 20 yards as the game began to open up more, but while the hosts had more pressure in the closing stages including a powerful shot by Kyle Bekker that went straight at Kuzminsky with a minute to go, the game ended deadlocked for the second time this season between the clubs.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Austin da Luz, North Carolina FC
– Da Luz was all over the midfield in helping the hosts control the tempo of the game, winning 9 of 13 duels overall and completing 88 of 98 passes for the game.

PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (1), TORONTO FC II (0)

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC got a late goal by Neco Brett to earn a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC II at Highmark Stadium. Riverhounds SC almost took the lead on the half-hour mark as a floated free kick from the right by Kevin Kerr found Tobi Adewole for a volleyed finish that caromed off the crossbar and behind. The Hounds tried to strike early in the second half as Kenardo Forbes had go from just outside the penalty area that was saved by TFC II goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell, but the visitors did well to limit Pittsburgh’s clear looks on goal through the hour-mark. Toronto almost broke the deadlock with 15 minute to but Riverhounds SC goalkeeper Dan Lynd denied a big chance for Shaan Hundal, and the hosts squandered a chance of their own a minute later after a good break down the left by Christiano Francois saw him break into the area and find Noah Franke alone only for the midfielder to scuff his finish wide of the right post. The breakthrough arrived for the Hounds in the 81st minute, however, as Brett slid in to redirect Francois’ low ball through the six-yard area for his 11th goal of the season, which earned all three points for the hosts as they took their second consecutive victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Christiano Francois, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
– Francois made a decisive impact on the game after coming on at the hour-mark, recording two key passes that included the assist on the game-winning goal by Neco Brett.

RICHMOND KICKERS (0), BETHLEHEM STEEL FC (3)

RICHMOND, Va. – Bethlehem Steel FC pulled away in the second half with all three goals as it defeated the Richmond Kickers 3-0 at City Stadium. Bethlehem’s Santi Moar tested Richmond goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg with a well-hit free kick that was palmed over the crossbar in the second minute, while Steel FC goalkeeper Jake McGuire was called into action six minutes later to turn away a good header by Brian Shriver for the Kickers. Bethlehem took the lead nine minutes into the second half, however, as Chris Nanco set up Moar for a first-time finish at the top of the penalty area that he curled into the right corner of the net. Omar Holness doubled the lead for Steel FC with 13 minutes to go with a free back-post header off a cross from the right by Oliver Mbaizo, and the visitors wrapped up their sweep of the three-game series between the sides with five minutes to go as Michee Ngalina finished off a perfectly-executed counterattack.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Chris Nanco, Bethlehem Steel FC
– Nanco was consistently dangerous throughout the game, setting up Moar’s opening goal and finishing with four key passes for the contest.

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