Week four in the eastern conference pitted many of the top teams against each other. Several marquee games stripped undefeated titles away. Louisville City FC is now the only eastern team without a loss. FC Cincinnati hosted its 2017 home opener, and Tampa Bay hit the road for the first time this season. Let’s recap all the action!
Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Saint Louis FC 1-2
Both teams came into this game fresh off last-minute game winners. However, this match would be decided early. Pittsburgh started the rookie Banjo for the first time in the #9 role, and he delivered quickly with a goal in the fifth minute. Saint Louis seemed to sit back in this game and wait for chances to strike. They capitalized twice with this strategy in the 30′ and 67′ marks. The Riverhounds’ attack was lacking the usual chemistry we have seen the past few games. Midfielders could not find the forwards and crosses into the box missed their marks. Saint Louis FC picks up 3 points but played again Saturday against FC Cincinnati. (score to that one below)
New York Red Bulls II vs. Orlando City B 3-1
The Red Bulls II are back! Well, at least Orlando made it look that way. The young attackers for New York didn’t have a ton of shots, but they made their opportunities count. The fans made this game count, as well. It was $1 hot dog night, which bumped attendance up to a whopping 722 fans! The Baby Bulls gain three points and keep pace with the East as they await players back from injury.
Richmond Kickers vs. Ottawa Fury 0-1
If you really like watching balls getting defensively cleared, this is the game for you. Oh, and throw in a goal kicked from the middle of the field. Ottawa decided to make their only shot on goal count when Dos Santos saw an opening from the other side of the field. A little bit of luck and power gave the Canadian team all they needed. Richmond answered with several shots off the post but fell short. This is Richmond’s third loss in a row at 0-1.
— USL (@USL) April 15, 2017
Harrisburg City Islanders vs. Bethlehem Steel FC 3-2
In the very first Around the East column, I crapped all over Harrisburg. As if last week wasn’t enough, this battle of Pennsylvania is making me eat even more crow. The City Islanders quickly jumped out ahead with two goals before the 22nd minute mark. Bethlehem Steel settled in fairly well after that despite being down by two. The Steel rallied and got one before the half and one after. Harrisburg was bound and determined to score again, and it was a matter of time with the amount of shots they took. Finally in the 90th minute, as the clock was ticking away, Benbow lands the game winner. Quality use of a sub as Benbow didn’t come into the game until 6 minutes before the go-ahead goal.
Charleston Battery vs. Rochester Rhinos 5-0
— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) April 15, 2017
No, you read that graphic right. That was indeed the score at the HALF. Someone once told me Rochester was the defensive model of the USL. 2017 has not been kind to the Rhinos, and Charleston proved once again they should be feared. The hero of this game was Romario Williams who ran circles around Rochester and landed himself a hat trick. If the USL has a mercy rule, they came close to using it. Chang, with no regard for the endangered species, landed the fifth goal in the 81st minute. I thought poaching Rhinos was illegal? I mean if we let the Battery get away with it, then everyone will want to.
FC Cincinnati vs. Saint Louis FC 4-0
FC Cincinnati finally played the much anticipated 2017 home opener game, and it was a beauty. With 23,000 plus fans showing up to watch a Saint Louis beat-down. Saint Louis was #1 going into this game, but they looked outmatched after about 20 minutes. The wheels fell off when Djiby scored his first goal of many. I am not sure if it was the crowd or Alan Koch, but FCC looked like a brand new team. The defense was great, crosses were accurate, and Dacres ran a full marathon playing the whole field. The star of the night was Djiby Fall, who left hatless fans confused about what to toss when the 4th goal hit the net. The Cincinnati players were all smiles towards the end. The crowd had them pumped up, and the energy could be felt by all. Great freaking night.
Charlotte Independence vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-1
You only need to watch the first six minutes of this game to see all the action. Pittsburgh again scored right out of the gate as rookie Banjo put one in the net in only the second minute. The Independence countered shortly thereafter scoring their only goal of the match in the sixth. Charlotte would own possession the rest of the game, warding off the Pittsburgh counter attacks and keeping things level. FC Cincinnati loan Casey Townsend was subbed on in the 55th minute for the Independence, but he was unable to find the go-ahead goal. Pittsburgh gets a point on the road but continues to slip after the hot start to their season.
Louisville City FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1
Tampa Bay’s undefeated start ended on the baseball field. The Rowdies seemed to lack the previous luster they had in their first three home starts. Louisville jumped first with a Davis IV goal in the 22nd minute. After the first goal, the game turned into a stalemate. Both teams had chances, but players seemed hesitant to take the shots. Finally, in the last 10 minutes, Tampa pressed hard. The attacking risk left the defense out of possession and Louisville’s Lancaster capitalized with a goal over the top of Tampa’s keeper. Tampa finally got a late tap-in goal but ran out of time. Louisville walks away from this game #1 in the eastern standings.