The month of May has allowed the few top teams in the Eastern Conference to distance themselves from the pack, leaving a cluster of teams fighting for relevance. Most teams are hovering around 9-11 points, leaving the door open for anyone to finish above the playoff line. The wild card teams are Saint Louis FC, Rochester Rhinos and the Charlotte Independence, who all have fallen behind in games played. Once these teams catch up, the Eastern picture will look more clear.
Toronto FC II vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-3
Toronto FC II gave the Rowdies a scare in the first half of this match. There was a strong temptation to write this match off as a Tampa Bay win without even tuning in to watch. The Rowdies struggle to play on road turf, and this match showed that weakness. Luca Uccello scored early for Two-ronto (10′) and the Baby Reds held on to that lead for over 50 minutes. Then the Rowdies found their feet. Tampa added three goals in under fifteen minutes starting at 68′. The potential Canadian upset was foiled, and Toronto FC II falls to dead last in the league.
New York Red Bulls II vs. Ottawa Fury FC 3-4
Is your USL team lacking goals? Are you longing for the sound of a popping kick and a swishing net? Look no further than this goal fest that kicked off the USL Saturday block. If the score is not enough to lure fans in, the flow of this game will. Ottawa struck first in minute fourteen. New York responded with their own goal just six minutes later. Fury FC takes the lead back shortly after the half, only to see the Baby Bulls nab back-to-back scores and go up 3-2. Just when all hope is lost, Fury lands two in the last few minutes of the match to steal an away win. Of note – neither team recorded a brace as all seven goals came from seven different players.
Let's see if NYRB2 can feed off of the crowd's energy… oh, right. Never mind.#NYvOTT
— Bryan Parker (@Bryan_Parker_) May 20, 2017
Harrisburg City Islanders vs. Charleston Battery 2-2
It is rare to see the Eastern leading Battery stumble early in a match. It is even more rare to see a team with ten men score back-to-back goals and take the lead. The Battery did both on Saturday against Harrisburg. Tah Anunga got a second yellow early in the 53rd minute and left Charleston down a man and a goal. The Battery held tough and waited for their chance to counter. Those chances came together in the 67th and 68th minutes. Just when time was running out, the City Islanders took advantage of the extra man in the box and Mendoza equalized the match. Charleston manages to keep their grasp on the #1 spot via goal differential.
FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC 2-1
For the third time this year, Cincinnati and Bethlehem met on the pitch. Unlike before, this battle took place in front of the large crowd in Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati recently acquired Danni Konig from OKC Energy, and he made all the difference in this match. Konig bullied the Steel FC keeper early and had a goal removed for his aggressive play. On cue, he responded with a proper goal a few minutes later. Cincinnati’s Quinn was called for a foul in the box at minute 33, giving Bethlehem a PK score and a level game. After the half, Konig found the back of the net for the second time. Cincinnati would hold Bethlehem from an equalizer until the rain fell in the 90th minute. The USL finally called this match 4 stoppage time minutes short due to the storm. FC Cincinnati picks up a much needed win.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Louisville City FC 0-1
For two teams with many offensive weapons, this match lacked the expected goals. Both teams struggled to keep their shots on target and most of the match was played in the midfield. Both teams had one good breakaway a piece and Louisville’s came early. Louisville’s Spencer tapped in a goal at minute six, but Pittsburgh’s Hertzog aimed his rocket right at the keeper. Louisville’s captain was awarded a red card minutes before the end of the match, but Pittsburgh was unable to use the advantage in their favor. At least this row of fans left with cookies.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) May 22, 2017
Rochester Rhinos vs. Richmond Kickers 1-1
The sole USL Sunday game had all its action in the first half. Both Rochester and Richmond found the net early and both fought hard to find that elusive second goal. The Rhinos generated more chances and looked to be a stronger team overall. Rochester is not in dire need of points yet. The Rhinos are behind most USL teams in games played and have the opportunity to jump teams as they catch up. Richmond takes a point on the road but it isn’t enough to lift them from the bottom of the table.