USL Week 9 Preview: Battles for Supremacy in the East and West Highlight Short Week

USL San Antonio Rio Grande

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

After weeks of games jam-packing nearly every day of the week, the US Open Cup has given the schedule a bit of breathing room with Week 9 not starting until Friday night.

It’s an opportunity for MLS2 sides to take advantage of the condensed schedule for independent teams, so look forward to potential upsets around the league this week.

There are more than a few games this weekend with big implications on the standings, including an Eastern Conference showdown between Charlotte and Cincinnati which may be a preview of a potential playoff match up. Both teams enter the game with 17 points and look to close the narrow gap on Louisville at the top of the table. Out West, it is undefeated Vancouver who have to maintain their form or else Colorado Springs or LA could overtake them with positive results.

CHARLOTTE AND CINCINNATI LOOK TO PLAY POTENTIAL RIVALRY INITIATOR

When you think of Charlotte and Cincinnati, you don’t think of cities with a past history of sports rivalries. But the way these two sides play could ignite new tensions in the USL.

Cincinnati has had a dream start with 17 points out of their first nine games. Meanwhile, Charlotte has maintained an intensity that slowly developed in 2015. Both teams have a chance to draw even on points with front runners Louisville City FC and that prize could be all that is needed to push these teams into an exciting and intense match up.

For Cincinnati, it’s all about offense. The team ranks second in goals scored with 14 and have not been shutout since Week 1 against Charleston. On the road, the Oranges have also been 3-1-1, solidifying their position.

Charlotte has also been a goal-happy side, having only been shut out twice, most recently by the Rochester Rhinos in Rhino’s Stadium last week. They also have a knack for goal, only one below Cincinnati, but play with a bulldozer-like intensity that has been problematic for nearly every defense in the league. Expect fireworks and lots of goals at Ramblewood Soccer Complex on Saturday night.

VANCOUVER NEEDS TO MAINTAIN PERFECTION TO GUARANTEE FIRST PLACE

It’s rare to say that you must remain perfect, but if Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 want to remain first in the Western Conference, that is exactly what they’ll need.

Vancouver has managed to grab 17 points out of seven games in 2016, with their biggest win coming last week against the LA Galaxy II. It was a seven goal thriller which saw the Canadian side go up by three before the 30th minute. LA made a comeback but they weren’t able to topple the leaders in the West.

This week, Vancouver plays what should be a slightly easier side in Portland Timbers 2. Timbers had a rough start to the season dropping their first three with one of them being a home loss (3-1) to Vancouver in Week 2. This is a rematch to be played at Providence Park as part of a double header with MLS side Portland Timbers. Recently Timbers 2 has regained a bit of form going 2-1-1 in their last four games but a loss last week to Colorado Springs could have shaken their confidence.

WEEK 9 SCHEDULE:

Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Portland Timbers 2 on 5/20 at 10:30PM
New York Red Bull II vs. FC Montreal on 5/21 at 3PM
FC Cincinnati vs. Charlotte Independence on 5/21 at 7PM
Toronto FC II vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds on 5/21 at 7PM
Louisville City FC vs. Richmond Kickers on 5/21 at 7PM
Charleston Battery vs. Wilmington Hammerheads FC on 5/21 at 7PM
OKC Energy FC vs. San Antonio FC on 5/21 at 7:30PM
Saint Louis FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC on 5/21 at 8PM
Swope Park Rangers vs. Rio Grande Valley FC on 5/21 at 8:30PM
Orange County Blues FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC on 5/21 at 9PM
Colorado Springs Switchbacks vs. Arizona United SC on 5/21 at 10:30PM
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Harrisburg City Islanders on 5/22 at 6PM
Rochester Rhinos vs. Orlando City B on 5/22 at 7:30PM
LA Galaxy II vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2 on 5/22 at 8PM