After a busy open cup week, Around the East returns to the CST rotation to recap week 20. In week 18 we noticed the gap closing at the top of the standings. That gap has continued to close with only Charlotte looking dominant. With the end of the season quickly approaching, several former strong teams need to get hot quickly. The battle for home playoff games is still alive and well. Spots 4-8 are also contested, and no team has locked anything down quite yet. We break down and highlight the biggest matches of week 20.
New York Red Bulls II vs. Rochester Rhinos 2-1
New York Red Bulls II did everything they could to ruin their playoffs hopes in July. August started out much better. Knocking off the Rhinos is no small feat. Rochester plays a tough defensive match and has recently shifted their style generating several points a game. Trouble brewed early for Rochester. New York scored quickly and then Farrell picked up two yellows in the first half. The Rhinos were able to get one back but were finished after red cards were issued to both teams late in the second half. Rochester will be hurting the following week with all the extra suspensions coming their way. New York Red Bulls II gain three points and sit in the last playoff spot. Rochester holds onto the fifth spot as several other week 20 results helped them despite the loss.
Toronto FC II vs. Charleston Battery 1-0
Best in the East vs. worst in the East, everyone thought they knew the result before the game was played. Everyone was wrong. The Battery were forced to leave several of their star players at home due to Visa and other issues, and it showed. Charleston continued to lack spark and has finally spent the points saved up early in the season. The Charleston Battery fall to second in the standings after spending the majority of the summer on top.
Charlotte Independence vs. Louisville City FC 3-1
This match was easily the match of the week for fans of the USL featuring a red hot Charlotte side vs. a steady Louisville. The result would also shoot one of the teams to the front of the standings. After reviewing statistics, Charlotte is one of the most complete teams in the league when it comes to passing the ball. Players are accurate and make smart decisions. Louisville City dominated the start of the match yet could not hold off smart Charlotte counters. The Independence moved the ball quickly past the Louisville back line as Martinez picked up a hat trick. He also picked up a red card, knocking the hero out of next week’s match. It was a questionable decision by James O’Connor to not start Ownby. He has been the life blood of the Kentucky offense, and the scoring chances looked off without him up front. Charlotte is now king of the East and Louisville rests in fourth with games in hand.
FC Cincinnati vs. Orlando City B 2-2
Not much to say here. Orlando ruined a chance to jump into the playoff picture and is still on the outside by three points. Cincinnati misses a prime opportunity to jump the Rochester Rhinos on a rare week they slip.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Bethlehem Steel 1-2
Correction week for Steel FC who got back to their old winning ways. The Home loss was a real blow for Ottawa who badly needed points to stay relevant in the East. Bethlehem started a 16-year-old goalkeeper, Romero, who became the youngest GK to win a game in the USL. Union Academy kids impress again as Steel boasts one of the youngest rosters in the league. That youth sometimes shows as Ottawa’s only goal was actually an own goal by Bethlehem Steel FC. Even with the help, Ottawa could not rally. Bethlehem is in 7th place but holds two games in hand over 6th place Cincinnati.