USL Playoffs Recap: Upsets, Upsets, Upsets

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

The USL Playoff Quarterfinals did not disappoint as unexpected results rocked the brackets, throwing predictions completely out the window. The Western Conference saw the top three seeds exit the tournament. The East was no better.

If anything, the knockout game playoff format provided entertainment in its unpredictability. Getting into the tournament appears to be all that is required to be competitive, giving credence to the notion that late season form is really all that matters in the USL playoffs.

New York is the Calm in the Chaos

One team did exactly what was expected of them this weekend. That was New York Red Bull II. The 2016 regular season champions dispatched Orlando City B easily — and without much trouble. Two goals from defender Aaron Long shocked OCB and showed that goals can come from anywhere against New York. The 4-0 win pushes them into the Conference semifinal and against Eastern Conference rivals the Rochester Rhinos.

The Rhinos also advanced easily with a 3-1 win over the Charlotte Independence. This makes for an epic clash between teams who have not been able to figure each other out all season long. Three games and three draws with neither side being able to score at Red Bull Arena. The big difference seems to be that both teams have found their goal scoring legs in the playoffs.

The West is a Mess

The Western Conference is easily one of the most chaotic playoff settings in US Soccer. Despite the seeding, only the fourth place Swope Park Rangers were able to win at home. That means that the Sacramento Republic, Rio Grande Valley Toros and Colorado Springs Switchbacks have all been eliminated.

Without a doubt, the most surprising win came from the Orange County Blues. OC Blues pushed the Republic to penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play at Bonney Field. From there it was ***-for-tat in penalties with OC prevailing 5-4.

No one expected such a performance, especially considering the Republic’s recent form. Sacramento fans yearning for a second title in three years had their hopes dashed and their dreams will have to move to next season.

Colorado Springs and Rio Grande Valley also under-performed this weekend. The Switchbacks simply had no answer for a Vancouver team that came prepared to dash their high-powered offense. For the Toros it was more of a chaotic shootout with time not being on their side. Either way, the elimination sends home many picks for the USL Championship game.

USL PLAYOFF QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:

LA Galaxy II: 0
Swope Park Rangers: 3

Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2: 2
Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 1

Charlotte Indpendence: 1
Rochester Rhinos: 3

OKC Energy FC: 3
Rio Grande Valley FC: 2

Orange County Blues FC: 0 (5)
Sacramento Republic FC: 0 (4)

Orlando City B: 0
New York Red Bull II: 4

Charleston Battery: 2
FC Cincinnati: 1

Richmond Kickers: 0
Louisville City FC: 2