The pursuit of a place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs took more twists and turns this past weekend, with the highest-profile contest of Saturday night’s slate postponement due to weather the only damper on what was a thrill-filled weekend of action. Here are 11 numbers that defined the past three days of the 2018 regular season.
85 – It took just 85 seconds for Orange County SC to go from what would have been a disappointing home defeat to the top of the Western Conference standings on Saturday night, and in the process the hosts might have doomed OKC Energy FC’s bid for a fourth consecutive trip to the USL Cup Playoffs. Orange County’s back-to-back goals weren’t the fastest of the season – they weren’t even this week’s after Toronto FC II’s 37-second barrage on Thursday night – but the tallies by Noah Powder and Aodhan Quinn may have shaped the race for the postseason at both ends of the top eight positions substantially in one of the most dramatic endings to a game in the league’s modern era.
7 – The swing from victory to defeat for OKC Energy FC was only made tougher by the night’s other results around the playoff line, which saw San Antonio FC and Saint Louis FC also take victory to create a seven-point gap to the top nine positions ahead of Energy FC in 10th place. OKC’s points deficit to playoff positions with five games remaining is now seven points, and with each of the three teams sitting ahead of Energy FC holding at least one game in hand it’s going to take a monumental effort starting on Wednesday night against the LA Galaxy II to salvage a playoff place from here.
200 – Almost a month after celebrating Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser’s 25 seasons as the club, the Charleston Battery earned him his 200th victory as their sideline leader on Saturday night with a 1-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies that saw the side get back to what has made it such a difficult side to face this season. Charleston took its biggest chance of the first half impeccably as Patrick Okonkwo continued to show his progression over the course of this year with a terrific low finish for his fourth goal of the season and from there the Battery’s defense and midfield took over, limiting Tampa Bay’s clear looks at an equalizer. The absence of Trinidad & Tobago duo Ataulla Guerra and Neveal Hackshaw didn’t really seem to register much, a sign of what a fine job Anhaeuser continues to do for the club.
37 – His name might not be the first to spring to mind when you think of the top playmakers in the league, but Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Kenardo Forbes once again had a stellar outing on Friday night to lead his side to a 4-1 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC that snapped a four-game winless streak for the Hounds and moved them another step closer to a first home playoff game at Highmark Stadium. Forbes has recorded 37 key passes from open play this season – more than the likes of FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma and Orange County’s Aodhan Quinn – and continues to show an innate ability to find teammates in good positions to finish. “Playing with Kenny is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done,” said Hounds teammate Jordan Dover after Friday’s win. “It’s give him the ball and pretty much run forward. It’s just waiting for the ball to appear in front of my feet. It’s always nice playing with him. His vision is amazing.”
38 – As the images of torrential rain continued to build throughout the first half of Saturday’s third River Cities Cup clash of the season between Louisville City FC and FC Cincinnati at Slugger Field, the more the feeling grew that this was a game that wasn’t going to see a final whistle. That proved to be correct as in the 38th minute a bolt of lightning close to the stadium saw the teams removed from the field, not to return. In that time, though, FC Cincinnati had taken a 1-0 goal lead through a fine finish by Corben Bone off Emmanel Ledesma’s USL single-season record-tying 12th assist of the season to gain a major foot up in the contest, which will resume on Tuesday night finely poised for the final 52 minutes of what has become a crucial game for Louisville after the rest of this weekend’s results.
812 – Given the side’s success since the start of the 2017 season, the fact that Real Monarchs SLC is now on a three-game losing streak after its 2-1 defeat to Rio Grande Valley FC at H-E-B Park on Saturday night feels very different to the last time it happened to the club, a span of 812 days previously when it fell 1-0 to Orange County SC on June 18, 2016. The Monarchs’ have struggled immensely on the road of late, now sitting at 0-5-1 away from Zions Bank Stadium in their last six games, and Saturday’s loss felt like a missed opportunity given Phoenix Rising FC’s loss earlier in the evening in San Antonio. Instead, Real is now looking up at Orange County in the Western Conference standings and almost certainly out of luck when it comes to claiming back-to-back USL Regular Season Championships.
3 – San Antonio FC believed Lance Laing would have a major impact on its bid to return to the USL Cup Playoffs, but after a third consecutive game with a goal and assist in Saturday night’s 3-2 victory against Phoenix Rising FC at Toyota Field it couldn’t have imagined how big of a boost the 30-year-old Jamaican would provide. The instant chemistry Laing has shown with the side has helped a three-game winning streak that includes victories against teams that entered this past weekend in the top two positions in the Western Conference. There’s still a bridge to be crossed for Toyota Field to host a Western Conference Quarterfinal, but as it currently stands there aren’t many teams that will look forward to a visit from SAFC should this form lead to a postseason berth.
13 – Sacramento Republic FC celebrated former player and 2014 USL Cup Most Valuable Player Rodrigo Lopez on Saturday night, but on the field at Papa Murphy’s Park it was the player that has arguably taken on Lopez’s mantle as the face of the club that built on the legacy he’s built in his hometown. Cameron Iwasa’s opening goal of a comprehensive 3-0 victory against Seattle Sounders FC 2 sent him to 13 goals this regular season, surpassing his club record for goals in a single season set two seasons ago. Iwasa’s versatility was praised after the game by Republic FC Head Coach Simon Elliott as he pulled into a more withdrawn role after the introduction of Christian Eissele just past the half-hour mark following an injury to midfielder Adam Moffatt, and Iwasa then finished off the night with a pass-completion rate of 91.7 percent as he completed 33 of 36 passes to help Republic FC maintain its edge in midfield.
21 – Hadji Barry’s excellent run of form continued on Sunday afternoon for the Swope Park Rangers as for a third successive game he notched the game-winner and extended his scoring streak to five games, but it’s been performances at the other end of the field that have also helped carry the Rangers to their current four-game winning streak and back into sixth place in the Western Conference. Goalkeepers Eric Dick and Adrian Zendejas have combined to make 21 saves over the course of the past four games, with Zendejas recording a second consecutive four-save shutout in the side’s 1-0 win against Fresno FC on Sunday. Combined, Dick and Zendejas have recorded a 91.3 save percentage over the current run, a key stat as the side hosts ninth-place Saint Louis FC and seventh-place San Antonio FC over the next two outings in what should be must-see contests.
2 – Good things came in twos for Nashville SC on Saturday evening, whether it was the two halftime substitutions by Head Coach Gary Smith that introduced Alan Winn and Brandon Allen into the game, the two penalty kicks converted by Allen – one to either corner, 29 minutes apart – or the two goals in three minutes that saw the side rally for a 3-3 draw against North Carolina FC at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park that edged NSC back into the top eight ahead of Ottawa Fury FC. For a side that has struggled on the road this season – going only 2-6-7 away from home this season – the good news on top of the point it gained is that it now has only two away games remaining this season, with five contests at First Tennessee Park setting up the side for a strong final push for a postseason berth.
11 – With their parents in the stands, it was a special night for Las Vegas Lights FC’s Carlos Alvarez and the LA Galaxy II’s Efrain Alvarez as their sides squared off at Cashman Field on Saturday night, and it was younger brother Efrain – 11 years Carlos’ junior – who ended up coming out on top as he scored the game-winning goal in Los Dos’ 2-1 victory for his ninth tally of the season. Carlos also found his name on the scoresheet as he provided the assist on Omar Salgado’s opening goal of the game for Las Vegas, but was denied a goal of his own in the 90th minute when Galaxy II goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg saved his penalty kick to preserve the visitors’ win and cap off a spectacular performance of his own as the Los Dos’ shot-stopper finished the night with eight saves, the most of any goalkeeper in a single game this past week.