USL Championship Playoffs Quaterfinals
I am a little late on this week’s recap of the USL Championship playoffs but here it is folks! The Championship playoffs is getting even better and this week we saw some MAJOR upsets as both 1 seeds went down in heart crushing fashion. We saw a two seed lose and miracle run continue for another side. I am going to recap these games based on my rankings of them.
Fourth Best Game: #6 El Paso Locomotiv vs #7 Sacramento Republic FC
In the battle of two fantastic playoff runs in the Western Conference, El Paso trained right through to another win! El Paso won this game 3-0 and absolutely dominated Sacramento Republic to move on to the Western Conference Final. When watching this game, a stand out each and every week, Sebastian Velasquez dominated. Velasquez scored late in this one but was a major factor all game. He passed so well, set up a lot for others around him, and even had to play up top rather than further back like normal. It was a big game from left-back James Kiffe as well who has been a force all playoffs. Kiffe assisted on a 40th minute goal getting up and down that left wing. A strong defensive game also helped keep the fierce attackers of Sac Republic off the board. Finally, I have to give a shout out Logan Ketterer who played well in net. Ketterer finished with a shutout win and four big saves. Sacramento’s Iwasa, Werner, and Enevoldsen were all kept quiet and controlled. Defensively, Mitchell Taintor and Jordan McCrary were torn up a bit which did not help Bobby Shuttleworth in net. The goal scorers carried Sacramento until they did not.
Third Best Game: #2 Nashville SC vs #3 Indy Eleven
All season long Indy has had a tough time winning on the road, but sure as shit… in the playoffs things happen. Indy came out of Nashville with a 1-0 win and a trip to the Eastern Conference Final. Indy played their typical Indy ball, swallowing defense and come away with a needed one goal. The back three of Hackshaw, Barrett, and Ouimette were fantastic and swallowed up any type of forward push from Rios, Moloto, Washington, and Winn. Helping support the back three were Gibson and Walker who controlled the middle of the field and controlled the game. Tyler Pasher came out with the difference in this game with the lone goal. A big win from Indy and a big time statement game I feel from them.
Second Best Game: #1 Phoenix Rising FC vs #4 Real Monarchs
The dominant Phoenix Rising that some people were calling the best ever USL Championship team fell. Phoenix made it to this point struggling along in the playoffs, and this time the struggles ended them. Phoenix scored early in the 25th minute but one goal less than 10 minutes after that Real Monarchs were back in it. The Monarchs scored another just before the half and that’s how this one ended. The 3-4-1-2 of the Monarchs absolutely dominated Rising. The three big performers in these playoffs for the Monarch stepped up big again. Jack Blake controlled the midfield, pulled all the string, and also came away with a goal. Tate Schmitt plays an important role at wing-back. Schmitt pushes up into the attack and then can transition back, when the Monarchs do that, the three man back turns into a five man back very easily. Finally, you got to give some love to Maikel Chang. Chang scored the eventual game winner and impacts a games to such a continuous high level. The Monarchs now continue on in these playoffs with their talented roster onto the Western Conference Final vs El Paso.
The Best Game: #1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs #4 Louisville City
The battle of Bob Lilley vs the dominance of Lou City? Who would win? Well… you can’t beat a dominant era. Lou City came away in this game with a 2-1 comeback win. Pittsburgh Riverhounds scored early in the 11th minute and were playing strong defense for a majority of this game. In the 51st minute, Luke Spencer was able to scored for Louisville and get this game tied up. Both teams were playing well and the stress of this game built even though the end of regular time. But the game decider came late in extra time when Paolo DelPiccolo scored in the 118th minute. Louisville City saw this one through thanks again to their backline. Paco Craig and Oscar Jimenez played fantastic! On the other side, Pittsburgh had so many defensive player do their part, but some of their key players just fell short when needed. Kevin Kerr, Mouhamed Dabo, and Joe Greenspan were just blah when they needed to step up in their team’s biggest game of the season.
Now… Louisville City have to travel to Indianapolis for an Eastern Conference Final matchup! I am very excited for this game. Both team’s defensive are playing so well. Can Indy’s defense hang on one more game, as well as, scored another goal when needed. Can that Lou City magic and form continue as well? El Paso are driving their train to Salt Lake City to take on the Monarchs. Can a MLS 2 team make it to MLS Cup after upsetting the league’s best team? Can we see more magic from Sebastian Velasquez? Its getting silly people!!!