USL Week 26 Wrap-Up: Playoff Race Creates Epic Clashes

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

Heading into week 26 of the USL season, several teams had opportunities to lock in their playoff position or at least move themselves a bit closer in the race.

Teams like New York took advantage of favorable results out of their control to lock in a playoff spot, while others like Tulsa lay dormant as they watch the competition creep closer up the mountain.

No matter the results, the six team USL playoff structure has proven to provide late season drama as all of the teams still remaining in qualification are either above .500 or right at the line of breaking even.

New York Loses but Still Secures Playoff Berth

Heading into this weekend, New York Red Bull II needed a win to guarantee their spot in the playoffs. Not only would a good result against FC Montreal extend their point-streak, but also provide some breathing room from results later in the weekend. That didn’t happen as FC Montreal played spoiler with two goals by Alessandro Reggi in the second half to pull out the upset victory.

Thankfully, that much sought after cushion wasn’t necessary. Both Pittsburgh and Harrisburg City had three games in hand, needing to win out in order to overthrow New York. Both teams failed in their efforts as Harrisburg City drew with the Richmond Kickers 1-1 at home.

The real shocker was that Pittsburgh was unable to grab a victory against the Wilmington Hammerheads. Their 1-1 draw leaves them deadlocked with the Islanders for seventh place with two games left to play.

Seattle’s Playoff Hopes Fading Fast

On August 19th Seattle Sounders FC 2 scored a big win over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks to make their case for best team in the Western Conference. Since then they’ve lost four straight and been unable to score more than one goal per game. The situation has become so distressing that the team has fallen below the red line, needing a win in their final home game of the season in order to qualify.

Their latest defeat came at the hands of Orange County Blues FC on Friday night. Orange County started the year as little more than an afterthought, especially after the success that LA Galaxy II has had. However, the Blues have been resilient, having won eight of their last nine games. Seattle fell victim to a Christopher Cortez goal in the fifty-seventh minute and couldn’t recover from there.

Paul Buckle and Sacramento’s Resurgence

Sacramento Republic FC has had a roller coaster season. A hot and cold start gave way to the devastating loss of their head coach Preki. From there, new head coach Paul Buckle had to implement his philosophy mid-season while fighting through an ultra-competitive conference. This weekend’s victory over a listless Portland Timbers FC 2 team can finally signal the return to form of USL’s darling club.

The win is the team’s third in a row with a five game unbeaten streak. That run leaves them in third place and just two points from the top of the West. With two games left to play, Sacramento could still take the top of the conference for the second year in a row.

USL Week 26 Results:

Toronto FC II: 1
Charlotte Independence: 4

New York Red Bull II: 0
FC Montreal: 2

Austin Aztex: 0
Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 3

Orange County Blues FC: 1
Seattle Sounders FC 2: 0

Arizona United SC: 0
Real Monarchs SLC: 1

Richmond Kickers: 1
Harrisburg City Islanders: 1

Pittsburgh Riverhounds: 1
Wilmington Hammerheads: 1

Louisville City FC: 0
Charleston Battery: 2

Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 3
Oklahoma City Energy FC: 3

Charlotte Independence: 0
St. Louis FC: 2

Sacramento Republic FC: 3
Portland Timbers FC 2: 0

Orange County Blues FC: 1
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: 1


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