USL Week 26 Recap: Conference Titles, Playoff Picture Coming To Focus

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

Week 26 is complete in the USL and there are tight races in both the East and West for the last playoff spots. Currently Orlando City B and San Antonio FC are holding down eighth place but with one game left to play there are threats from several teams that could dash their USL Championship hopes.

Colorado Springs also retook first place in the West after Sacramento could only grab a late draw against LA. Both teams are tied with 49 points and Rio Grande Valley only one point back with one left to play.

Orlando and San Antonio Holding On to the Bottom

Orlando City B and San Antonio are hoping to mark off 2016 as a successful campaign if they can qualify for the USL Playoffs. Orlando has stumbled mightly down the stretch and if it wasn’t for other teams being unable to win games, they probably would be out of the hunt. Currently, Orlando has lost seven of their last eight games and hasn’t won since August 6th. San Antonio has also stumbled with losses in three of their last five, allowing teams below them back into the race.

This weekend was a bit of a rebound for San Antonio as they beat the Tulsa Roughnecks on Saturday. However, this came after a major loss to Real Monarchs SLC in midweek. Still, the Texas side remains one point above Portland Timbers 2 and Orange County Blues. Portland in particular had a hot weekend, claiming max points in both of their Week 26 fixtures over Arizona and Vancouver. For San Antonio to guarantee a playoff spot a win against Rio Grande Valley is a must. However, the Toros are fighting for first in the West and may make that task difficult.

Orlando’s last game will be against the Bethlehem Steel who have been a seesaw with their results in 2016. Steel FC are already eliminated but they will surely be looking to play the spoiler role as Orlando will need a win to secure their status in the playoffs.

First in the West Up for Grabs

One game left for Colorado Springs, Sacramento Republic and Rio Grande Valley with all of those teams in position to claim first in the West. the Switchbacks have kept the pressure on in recent weeks with three straight wins and four in their last five. They are in the best position having the goal differential math in their favor. However, Sacramento undoubtedly has the easier game over the weekend.

The Republic could have gone top of the table with a win against the LA Galaxy II but could only manage a draw. The late equalizer from Wilson Kneeshaw kept Sacramento in the running with a game against lowly Tulsa to finish out their season. The Republic are currently riding a ten game unbeaten streak and a win, combined with dropped points by Colorado Springs, can give them their second Western Conference title in their three year history.

Rio Grande Valley FC is the only team playing with house money. The first year team started the season slow but picked up over the summer and now has a chance to finish first in the West. They are one point back of both the Switchbacks and the Republic, meaning results outside of their control will need to go their way. However, they have proven to be a resourceful group in 2016. Their final game against OC Blues will be a bit troublesome as the Blues have a chance at the final playoff spot should they secure a win.

WEEK 26 RESULTS:

Portland Timbers 2: 2
Arizona United SC: 1

FC Cincinnati: 0
Pittsburgh Riverhounds: 0

Charlotte Independence: 0
Richmond Kickers: 0

San Antonio FC: 0
Real Monarchs SLC: 2

Rio Grande Valley FC: 0
LA Galaxy II: 1

Charleston Battery: 2
Richmond Kickers: 1

Wilmington Hammerheads: 1
Harrisburg City Islanders: 1

Seattle Sounders FC 2: 1
Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 2

Rochester Rhinos: 1
Charlotte Independence: 0

Louisville City FC: 5
St. Louis FC: 1

Real Monarchs SLC: 2
Arizona United SC: 3

FC Montreal: 0
New York Red Bull II: 4

Tulsa Roughnecks: 0
San Antonio FC: 2

LA Galaxy II: 1
Sacramento Republic FC: 1

Orlando City B: 0
FC Cincinnati: 1

Rio Grande Valley FC: 1
Orange County Blues FC: 0

Pittsburgh Riverhounds: 1
Bethlehem Steel FC: 1

Portland Timbers 2: 2
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2: 0

Swope Park Rangers: 3
OKC Energy FC: 0


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