FC Cincinnati keeps building its lead as they’re running ahead of the pack in the race for first place in the USL’s Eastern Conference.
Now Louisville City FC, the defending USL champs, are getting real hot too.
Despite riding a five game unbeaten string (2-0-3), the Riverhounds SC have their work cut out for them if they’re going to stay in the race for first place as they’ve dropped to third place, and now sit 12 points behind Cincy and a point behind Louisville City.
FC Cincy defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-1, on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. Emmanuel Ledesma scored from the penalty spot in the second minute and the 86th minute, while the Orange and Blue held on after playing the final 28 minutes of the match down a man to secure the win.
With the win, Cincinnati (17-3-6, 57 pts.) extended its club-record unbeaten run to 15 games (11-0-4), which dates back to June 2.
The victory also claimed the season series against Tampa Bay (7-11-7, 28 pts.) after the Orange and Blue claimed a 2-0 win at Nippert Stadium on July 14. Cincinnati is now unbeaten in three consecutive months for the first time in club history.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Riverhounds SC could only muster a draw vs the same Rowdies, while FCC took another three points in beating Atlanta United.
Two draws at home against teams below the playoff line in its last two matches have left the Hounds in a tight battle for second place.
Defending league champion Louisville City looked awfully impressive in sweeping matches on Wednesday and Saturday by a combined 9-0 scoreline against two teams that are reeling, Charlotte and Richmond.
Meanwhile, Charleston blew a chance to move ahead of the Hounds on Saturday, settling for a draw in a wild 4-4 affair against NY Red Bulls II. You have to love the Red Bulls II, who lead the league in goals scored (58), but have conceded a seventh highest total of 48. By comparison, the Hounds have only given up a league low 12 goals this season.
The fall to third place marks the first time since before its August 4 match against Toronto FC II that Pittsburgh has not been in second place. Though only four points separate sixth place (40 pts) from a spot in the top-four (44 pts) and a home playoff date, the Hounds remain in ideal position holding, at minimum, a game in hand over every club in the top-eight save for Louisville.
This coming week the Hounds head out of town for perhaps its toughest road swing to date with visits to Indy Eleven (11-7-7) and first-place FC Cincinnati. The Hounds’ two opponents are a combined 6-0-4 in their past 10 matches.
The Hounds have only one loss on the road this year (5-1-4), and have played both Indy Eleven and FC Cincy to draws earlier this season in USL play.
If they’re going to make a move to get back on Cincy’s heels, they’re going to have to pick up four to six points this week.
Pittsburgh Soccer Now will provide live coverage from Nippert Stadium.
USL WEEK 24 RESULTS:
USL Eastern Conference Playoff Contenders
One note — the bottom three teams, Richmond (21 pts, -32 goal differential!), Atlanta United 2 (17 pts, -28 goal diff) and Toronto FC II (9 pts, -29 goal diff), are so well below everyone else, I didn’t even bother to include them in the standings above.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday, August 28
- 7 p.m. – Louisville City FC vs Toronto FC II
- 8:30 p.m. – Nashville SC vs Richmond Kickers
Wednesday, August 29
- 7 p.m. – Indy Eleven vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Friday, AUgust 31
- 7 p.m. – NY Red Bulls II vs Ottawa Fury
- 7 p.m. – Louisville City FC vs Charleston Battery
Saturday, September 1
- 7 p.m. – Indy Eleven vs Richmond Kickers
- 7 p.m. – North Carolina FC vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
- 7 p.m. – Charlotte Independence vs Nashville SC
- 7:30 p.m. – FC Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Sunday, September 2
- 3 p.m. – Bethlehem Steel FC vs Penn FC