USL Week 4 Recap: Huge Crowds and Major Upsets

USL

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

It was a weekend of upsets as Portland, Seattle, Arizona and Bethlehem Steel took wins in surprising fashion.

The unpredictability of results is something fans of MLS have become accustomed to and USL has followed suit since their major expansion last season. Week to week is anyone’s ball game and that makes for intriguing games and chaotic standings.

The play on the field wasn’t the only talking point as FC Cincinnati broke the USL attendance record. A mammoth 20,497 fans came out to their second home again against Louisville City FC, up nearly 6,000 from their chilly home opener. This kind of start is just what this new franchise needs as it looks for an on-field identity.

FC CINCINNATI WINS IN THE STANDS BUT LOSES ON THE PITCH

Over 20,000 screaming fans came out to Nippert Stadium to watch the second home game for FC Cincinnati. While the game was extremely exciting, the home team could not bring themselves back from a disappointing first half.

John Harkes side scored first when Austin Berry headed a ball past the Louisville keeper for a 1-0 lead. From there it was all Louisville and, more specifically, Chandler Hoffman, who scored three unanswered goals for the away side – the most impressive goal being his third as a side volley from 12 yard out found the right corner in stunning fashion.

The game wasn’t without controversy. Near the end of the first half, Sean Reynolds garnered his second yellow card, leaving Louisville to defend their two goal lead for the entirety of the second half. FC Cincinnati did fight back, bringing the game within one in stoppage time with a Pat McMahon headed effort into the top left corner. Unfortunately it was too little, too late for the home side who sent one of the largest crowds in USL history home in disappointment.

FC Cincinnati is still holding firm with four points in the standings, just three points from first place despite having two losses.

SEATTLE AND PORTLAND STEAL BIG WINS

Both the Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Portland Timbers 2 entered week four without a win. On top of that, both teams had only scored two goals all season while giving up eight and seven respectively.

For that reason, heading into this week, all signs pointed to another rough week for the MLS2 west coast sides. Fortune however was in their favor as both teams snagged 1-0 wins against the stiff competition of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks and Sacramento Republic.

Portland’s win was probably the bigger shocker as Sacramento Republic appeared to be cruising to start the season. They had not allowed a goal in their first three games and seemed familiar with grabbing points on the road. However that was not to be as former New York Cosmos loanee Kharlton Belmar scored an impressive 19-yard screamer. Belmar stripped the ball from the Republic defense mere seconds into the half. He ran it up to the top of the box before unleashing the shot that would define the game. The Republic pressed forward afterwards but were unable to find the equalizer.

In Seattle, S2 had a bit of their own magic going as Aaron Kovar provided the hero’s touch to push the team past Colorado Springs. Many rankings had the Switchbacks as the top team in USL but this week’s result may see them drop in many eyes — especially after Josh Phillip’s rash challenge on Andy Craven forced the referee to award a penalty kick to the Sounders. Kovar stepped up and beat goalkeeper Devala Gorrick as we sprawled in the wrong direction.

Both teams pulled themselves out of the Western Conference cellar with OKC Energy having a game postponed this weekend. Perhaps this is the momentum both sides needed to jumpstart their season.

BETHLEHEM STEEL KNOCK OFF THE OLD GUARD

Bethlehem Steel FC have not had an easy start to the season. After an opening day win against FC Montreal in Canada, the team dropped two straight — with one being their home opener. Last week they were on the receiving end of thrashing from New York Red Bull II. Fortunately for the Lehigh Valley side they were able to regroup and put the first loss on the Richmond Kickers’ 2016 resume.

Eric Ayuk was the standout performer for Steel FC as he scored a goal and notched an assist in the winning effort. Goalkeeper Ryan Taylor was in top form but a backheel pass in the 22nd minute from Cole Missimo found Ayuk, whose shot took a deflection before finding the back of the net. Just after the start of the second half, Ayuk was at it again as he found Derrick Jones for the second goal of the game. Richmond pulled one back but the Steel’s defense lived up to their name as they held on for their second win of the season and first at home in 2016.

 

WEEK 4 RESULTS:

Rio Grande Valley FC: 2
Seattle Sounders FC 2: 2

San Antonio FC: 1
LA Galaxy II: 1

Arizona United SC: 1
Real Monarchs SLC: 0

Charleston Battery: 2
Charlotte Independence: 3

Louisville City FC: 3
FC Cincinnati: 2

Harrisburg City Islanders: 1
Orlando City B: 0

Tulsa Roughnecks: 0
St. Louis FC: 0

San Antonio FC: 0
Orange County Blues FC: 1

FC Montreal: 0
Wilmington Hammerheads: 2

Richmond Kickers: 1
Bethlehem Steel FC: 2

Rochester Rhinos: 0
New York Red Bull II: 0

Pittsburgh Riverhounds: 2
Toronto FC II: 2

Sacramento Republic FC: 0
Portland Timbers 2: 1

Colorado Springs Switchbacks: 0
Seattle Sounders FC 2: 1