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USL’s Week Ahead – March 6-11, 2018

By Staff, 03/06/18, 11:16AM EST


Final week of preseason brings marquee matches across league

Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League, one of the most respected professional leagues in North America, will see some marquee matchups over its final week of preseason, including the return leg of an inter-conference matchup that piqued plenty of interest last March. FC Cincinnati will make its debut at Nippert Stadium on Saturday afternoon against Sacramento Republic FC as both sides complete their preparations for the new season in front of FCC’s passionate fan base. Other matchups include two of the top three teams in the Western Conference squaring off on Wednesday evening, with Reno 1868 FC playing host to Real Monarchs SLC and a meeting between OKC Energy FC and Phoenix Rising FC scheduled for Friday night at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. A preseason edition of the Kings’ Cup heads to Evansville, Indiana, as Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC meet on Saturday evening, while contests between the Charleston Battery and North Carolina FC at MUSC Health Stadium and San Antonio FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Toyota Field will also be games to keep an eye on.  

In the USL’s 11 Preseason Things to Know, Nicholas Murray examines the preseason success of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, where new Head Coach Bob Lilley has led the side to seven wins from seven going into the final week of preparations and includes notes off a weekend that saw numerous all-USL matchups, including a 2-2 draw between FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC.


Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso USL



Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Wednesday, March 7
Reno 1868 FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC

Greater Nevada Field, Reno, Nevada | 8:45 p.m. ET
Two of the top three finishers in the USL Western Conference a season ago meet for a compelling preseason clash in downtown Reno on Wednesday evening, with both looking to build momentum toward the start of the regular season. The Monarchs held the upper hand throughout 2017 on 1868 FC, earning victory in all three meetings between the teams, and while it’s still only preseason, Reno will be looking to reverse that result. Coming off a narrow loss to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday, Reno could also use the confidence boost a win would bring as it closes its official preseason slate.

Friday, March 9
OKC Energy FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Phoenix, Arizona | 5 p.m. ET
Two teams that have put together solid preseason performances so far will meet in a closed-door scrimmage at new USL Division III club FC Tucson’s outstanding facilities, but the intensity will likely be high given the past history between Energy FC and Rising FC on the field as OKC completes its training-camp trip to Arizona. Phoenix put in a stellar performance last week as it ventured to Quito, Ecuador, earning a 2-2 draw thanks to Joe Farrell’s late equalizer against L.D.U. Quito at altitude. Friday’s contest could be informative as to how these clubs will enter the new season.

Saturday, March 10
Charleston Battery vs. North Carolina FC

MUSC Health Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina | 11 a.m. ET
The Charleston Battery and North Carolina FC make their final preparations for the new season in what has become an annual preseason meeting between the clubs, with both aiming to end the preseason on a high note. After finishing second in the 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup ahead of both Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC, the Battery have experimented with their starting lineup, looking to get newcomers like Victor Mansaray more action as the preseason moves on. North Carolina, meanwhile, has had a low-key preseason so far, but took a solid 2-0 victory against North Carolina State University in is most recent outing, as Steven Miller continued his scoring form.

San Antonio FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Toyota Field, San Antonio, Texas | 2 p.m. ET
A rematch from the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs will wrap up the preseason for both San Antonio FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC, with both teams looking to end their preparations on a positive at Toyota Field. SAFC played to a scoreless draw last Friday night against fellow USL Western Conference side Rio Grande Valley FC in its most recent outing, while the Roughnecks put in an admirable display, taking a first-half lead against a Chicago Fire side that included Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty and 2017 MLS Golden Boot-winner Nemanja Nikolic before falling 2-1 after a second-half rally. With numerous new players to bed in, how Tulsa performs against a solid returning SAFC group could be instructive as both clubs break training camp.

FC Cincinnati vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio | 4 p.m. ET
After meeting for the first time 12 months ago in preseason at Papa Murphy’s Park in Sacramento, FC Cincinnati and Republic FC get their final tune-up ahead of the new season after what has been a productive preseason for both. Cincinnati enters the week undefeated in its preparations as Head Coach Alan Koch has looked to bring together a very different squad than he had a season ago, with a game against the University of Cincinnati on Wednesday night the prelude to its first appearance at Nippert Stadium this year. New Sacramento Head Coach Simon Elliott faced a similar challenge but has received some good displays from the newcomers to Republic FC. With both fan bases expecting a strong title challenge in the year ahead, there should be a regular-season intensity to the final preseason game for both.

Louisville City FC vs. Saint Louis FC
Arad McCutchen Stadium, Evansville, Indiana | 5 p.m. ET
The lone battle for the Kings’ Cup this year visits Evansville, Indiana, on Saturday night as Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC continue their rivalry on neutral territory in the final preseason outing for both clubs. Saint Louis’ move to the Western Conference for the 2018 season means the two teams won’t meet in the regular season for the first time, but that could simply serve to amp up the intensity with both clubs coming in off positive results this past weekend. For STLFC and its array of newcomers, which include former Louisville defender Sean Reynolds, the goal will be to put one over on the defending USL Cup champion. Should they manage to do so, it would be a major building block toward the structure Head Coach Anthony Pulis is building in his new position.


Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

Tuesday, March 6

  • Bethlehem Steel FC vs. University of Maryland

  • OKC Energy FC vs. Sporting AZ FC

  • Richmond Kickers vs. Liberty University

Wednesday, March 7

  • Charleston Battery vs. University of South Carolina

  • Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Harpo’s FC

  • FC Cincinnati vs. University of Cincinnati

  • Louisville City FC vs. Lipscomb University

  • Reno 1868 FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC

Friday, March 9

  • OKC Energy FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC

Saturday, March 10

  • Bethlehem Steel FC vs. New York Red Bulls II

  • Charleston Battery vs. North Carolina FC

  • Charlotte Independence vs. Old Dominion University

  • FC Cincinnati vs. Sacramento Republic FC

  • Louisville City FC vs. Saint Louis FC

  • Nashville SC vs. Chattanooga FC

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Penn FC

  • Richmond Kickers vs. University of Maryland

  • San Antonio FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC

  • Swope Park Rangers vs. University of Missouri - KC

Sunday, March 11

  • Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Air Force Academy

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