USL Week 2 Preview: Rhinos Defense Begins, Potential Midwest Rivalry, More

IMAGE, USLSOCCER.COM

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

The week one layoff is short as USL teams are back in action starting this Wednesday.

Teams like Seattle, LA and Arizona must contend with a congested schedule as they play both midweek and over the weekend. While the turnaround can be problematic for team’s looking to stay fresh, it does offer an opportunity to shift the momentum.

The remaining teams who didn’t participate in week one will play in week two with the highlight being the USL Champion Rochester Rhinos. Pittsburgh and San Antonio also hope to kick off their seasons on the right foot.

The Champs are Here!

The 2015 USL Champion Rochester Rhinos have had a rocky start to 2016. First, they lost their ownership, throwing the team’s future into question. Then, nearly as quickly, they find new and potentially more reliable ownership who are also willing to invest heavily in the team’s stadium renovation.

Now that the dust has settled, the team and their fans can focus on what matters most — the USL season. In 2015, the Rhinos lost only one game all year and had one of the stingiest defenses in USL history. Bob Lilley is hoping to continue that defensive trend but it won’t be easy against a Pittsburgh Riverhounds team that had no problem scoring goals last year. In fact, the team was tied for second in the league in goals scored with Louisville City only two goals better.

Both teams will want a hot start to the year as a stutter in week one will cast lingering doubts as to whether or not the events of the previous year were just a fluke.

Tulsa and Rangers Look to Spark a Rivalry

Only a four hour drive separates the Swope Park Rangers from their weekend opponents, the Tulsa Roughnecks. That kind of distance is prime for a fanbase and an organization to develop a healthy rivalry. Saturday’s eight o’clock game between the two may be the start of an organic rivalry in the USL.

Both Swope Park and Tulsa started the season off strong with home wins. Rangers won a tight game on the scorecard while Tulsa held Rio Grande Valley away from the back of the net completely. They also had a Goal of the Week Nominee with Carlos Martinez’s fantastic blast from 20 yards out.

Expect this game to be unpredictable as Tulsa’s consistency in 2015 was one of the reasons they couldn’t qualify for the playoffs.

Wilmington Looks to Put 2015 Behind Them

A win in week one went a long way for Wilmington as they look to put a three win 2015 behind them.

This week they play one of the more solid and tested USL sides in the Richmond Kickers who also secured a victory last week. Orlando City B put up a good fight on Saturday but Wilmington was able to pull out a 2-1 victory. Last season, wins like this were few and far between as the Hammerheads lacked a scoring punch with the fewest goals scored in the league.

Richmond also has a significant amount to prove this season. A late season falter had them barely making the playoffs after a hot start. Much like last year it appears that wins may be in the cards early but the Kickers will need to stay on task away from Virginia.

Week 2 Schedule:

St. Louis FC vs. LA Galaxy II March 30th at 10:30PM
Arizona United SC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2 March 30th at 10:30PM
Richmond Kickers vs. Wilmington Hammerheads April 1st at 7PM
Charleston Battery vs. Orlando City B April 1st at 7:30PM
New York Red Bull II vs. Louisville City FC April 2nd at 3PM
Harrisburg City Islanders vs. Charlotte Independence April 2nd at 7PM
Rochester Rhinos vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds April 2nd at 7PM
Swope Park Rangers vs. Tulsa Roughnecks April 2nd at 8PM
LA Galaxy II vs. Real Monarchs April 2nd at 9PM
St. Louis FC vs. Orange County Blues FC April 2nd at 10PM
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Portland Timbers FC 2 April 2nd at 10PM
Arizona United SC vs. Sacramento Republic FC April 2nd at 10:30PM
FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC April 3rd at 3PM
San Antonio FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2 April 3rd at 8PM