USL Championship Play-In Roundup
The USL Championship had their first round of playoff games yesterday and even for some lower seeded playoff games, there was plenty of excitement! There were big goals, big moments, and players stepping up for their squads when needed. We saw newly awarded MLS side and 7 seeded Sacramento Republic FC host 10 seed New Mexico United in the West. Also in the West was 8 seed Austin Bold taking on 9 seed Los Dos.
Let’s start with and get the boring of those two Western Conference games out of the way, Austin vs LA. Austin coming into this match-up winless in their last three games, and a tough loss in their last one against Tacoma Defiance. The Galaxy came into this one with a win in their last game, and in my opinion, I thought they were a better side than Austin even for being the lower seed. But, Austin grabbed the early lead with a 9th minute goal from Ema Twumasi. Austin took a very quick counter off of a Los Dos free kick that turned into midfielder Xavier Baez burning what felt like the entire LA squad. Baez cut into the box, drew the attention of the Galaxy players, and made the easy lay off pass to Twumasi. Austin sealed the game less than 10 minutes into the second half where defender Sean McFarlane got on the end of a ball that wasn’t cleared and bouncing in the box from a corner. McFarlane was falling but the big man got a foot to it, hit it home, and Austin walks away from this one winners 2-0. Austin Bold now move on to face the #1 seed Phoenix Rising FC in the next round.
The other Western Conference game between Sacramento Republic and New Mexico United was much more exciting if anyone asked me. Republic coming into this game with 3 losses to good teams in their last 5 games, while New Mexico not too hot themselves with 3 draws in their last 5. But this game saw goals being scored from the guys you expected to score if you looked at the starting XIs. In the FIRST minute for New Mexico United, striker Devon Sandoval put in a weak shot attempt that hit defender Mitchell Taintor, deflects off his leg, and into the back of the net to give a very early lead to New Mexico. Sacramento would get things going however and just before the half Keven Aleman scored on a ball bouncing around the box to make it a 1-1 game heading into the second half. The game winner came late in this game. In the 82nd minute, Sacramento’s Sam Werner hits a BOMB. This pass was long, cross field, and into the box which was on a dime. The pass lands directly onto the foot of star striker Thomas Enevoldsen who one times it into the back of the net for a GOLAZO winner! Sacramento avoids the upset, wins this one 2-1, and will now go on to face the 2nd seeded Reno 1868 FC.
If you know anything about USL you know that the Western Conference scores all the goals in their games…. Right? Well not when you saw what happened in the Eastern Conference play-in game between the Birmingham Legion and North Carolina FC. Birmingham came into this game as the 10 seed and with an AWFUL goal differential. They also had 3 losses in their last 5 games as well. Where North Carolina came in playing much better with 3 wins in their last 5 and maybe some motivation for Austin da Luz’s final season. Things looked like they were going NCFC’s way when USL veteran Nazmi Albadawi scored the game opener with ease. However, in the 35th minute Birmingham tied things up with Femi Hollinger-Jenzen redirected a shot from Prosper Kasim to tie things up just before the half. Things went DOWN in the 2nd half! In the 59th minute, NCFC took the lead once again when Dre Fortune hit a STUNNA! A few minutes later Birmingham defender Akeem Ward would hit a hard shot at NCFC keeper Alex Tambakis, the shot was saved but sprayed into the box where NE Revs loanee Zach Herivaux hit home the sitter to tie the game up once again. THEN! 93RD MINUTE! Columbus Crew loanee JJ Williams was dancing with defenders at the top of the box, puts his entire foot through one, it goes top corner, and past Tambakis. JJ Williams winner and the uset over North Carolina FC was done. It was sad as it was the final game ever for Austin da Luz who never even got to get on the field… sad for the club legend. Birmingham Legion will now move on to face the 1 seed Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Now back to the normal Eastern Conference score lines. The 8 seeded Ottawa Fury hosted the 9 seed Charleston Battery. Charleston who has been very inconsistent came into this one with two straight wins while Ottawa was a mixed bag of results. Both of the regular time goals came in the first half. In the 27th minute Charleston winger Kotaro Higashi broke down the left side of the field, had ZERO pressure, and put away an easy goal for a 1-0 lead. Then in the 40th minute Ottawa’s Onua Obasi laid off an easy ball in the box to Mour Samb. Samb hit it home and tied the game up for Ottawa 1-1. This game saw some good attempts in the 2nd half but inevitably, it went to PKs. The eventual deciding PK came when Ottawa’s Mour Samb hit the cross bar and failed to convert. Charleston continues to win, upset the Fury, and now will move on to face the 2 seeded Nashville SC.
Make sure you tune in to the next games! October 26th we have the next 8 games of the USL Championship playoffs! LETS GO!!!