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USL Eastern Conference Playoff Race – UPDATES 9/7/2015

#USL Eastern Conference Playoff picture — a lot to be settled in final two weeks.

Kevin Kerr and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are still in the thick of the playoff race despite failing to get win on Saturday against Charleston. (Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds)

Kevin Kerr and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are still taking aim at a playoff spot despite failing to get win on Saturday against Charleston. (Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds)

UPDATED — MON. SEPT. 7- Heading into final two weeks…
While this weekend saw most teams in the thick of the USL’s Eastern Conferernce playoff race play to tightly-contested, room-for-little-error, draws with some dramatic finishes — the New York Red Bulls II (42 pts) made the biggest move in the standings with a 3-2 win at home against Louisville City FC (48 pts).   The three teams hanging right at — and below the playoff line (Charlotte – 37 pts, Pittsburgh – 36 pts and Harrisburg – 35 pts) all have three games remaining.  The Red Bulls, Charleston (40 pts) and Richmond (37 pts) each have two games left, and will hope to hold on to their spots above the line.
Here’s more details on where things stand with two weeks left to go…
Rochester Rhinos (15-1-9, 54 points)
Games Remaining (3)  9/12 H vs Toronto, 9/16 @Pittsburgh, 9/19 H vs NY Red Bulls II
Rochester clinched to top spot with tie at Richmond.  The question will be, now that they’ve clinched, will they be resting key players in their final three which include a mid-week road game at Pittsburgh on September 16?
Louisville City FC (14-6-6, 48 pts)
Games Remaining (2):  9/12 @Charleston, 9/19 @St. Louis
Suddenly Louisville City, maybe playing without as much desperation as their recent opponents, has stumbled a bit with two losses in their last three.  But, it appears they’re pretty locked into the second spot behind Rochester unless they lose their final two and NY Red Bulls II win their final two.
___________PLAYOFF CONTENDERS________________
NY Red Bulls II (12-8-6, 42 pts)
Games Remaining (2):  9/9 @Montreal, 9/19 @Rochester
Two road games remain for the surging Sugar Free Red Bulls.  An impressive 3-2 win over Louisville puts them above the rest of the pack at the moment.  With only two games left, they will need points at Montreal and Rochester to stay ahead of the teams below them.
Charleston Battery (10-6-10, 40 pts)
Games Remaining (2):  9/12 H vs Lou City FC, 9/19 H vs Charlotte
Mikael Chang’s redirected goal in the dying seconds in Pittsburgh keeps Charleston in the fourth spot at the moment.   Coming off a six game winless streak, Charleston picked up four valuable road points at Richmond and Pittsburgh to keep them three points clear of the field for the valuable fourth spot which can secure at least one home playoff game.
Richmond Kickers (9-7-10, 37 pts)
Games remaining (2):   9/12 @Harrisburg, 9/16 H vs Toronto
Talk about a team hanging on in this playoff race, they were able to get a tie against the league’s top team at home.  Now, they have a tough road game — and then come home to Toronto for the weeknight Wednesday game to wrap the season.   They will be doing a lot of scoreboard watching the final weekend.
Charlotte Independence (9-6-10, 37 pts)
Games remaining (3):  9/9 Toronto, 9/12 @Louisville City, 9/19 @Charleston
Back-to-back, Thursday and Saturday, home-and-home games against Wilmington proved to be tougher than expected for Charlotte, as they pulled together a 1-0 road win, and had to force a 2-2 tie in the late stages.  As goes this time of the year — it’s all about survival.  Charlotte has a favorable match with Toronto on Wednesday that can help push them forward possibly into 5th place, but them two tough road games follow.  The Eagles have only won twice on the road all season long.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (10-9-6, 36 pts)
Games remaining (3): 9/12 @Wilmington, 9/16 H vs Rochester, 9/19 @Harrisburg
The Hounds lost a golden opportunity to move past both Richmond and Charlotte in the standings if they had just held on for 10 more seconds against Charleston.   Instead, after picking up just one point, they have lots of work to do beginning with a must-win trip to a place they have had very little success in recent years — Wilmington.  With Rochester clinching the top spot in USL, that Wednesday match could be favorable for the Hounds.   If they can pick up six points in the next two, their playoff fate may hang on the final game at Harrisburg in the 4th Keystone Derby encounter this year.
Harrisburg City Islanders (10-10-5, 35 pts)
Games remaining (3):  9/12 H vs Richmond, 9/16 @Montreal, 9/19 H Pittsburgh
With two games at home this past week, Harrisburg could only get one point against Louisville City and St. Louis.  Still have three games to go, so can still make a push.  All signs still pointing to the match against rival Pittsburgh on the final weekend with a lot at stake as a potential “do-or-die” match with the Turnpike Cup at stake as well.
St. Louis FC, Montreal, Toronto and Wilmington 
St. Louis FC joins this party now.  All of these teams could impact the playoff race as spoilers in the next two weeks.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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