Apparently the top of the eastern leader board has some cracks. A new team took the number two spot and the race is on to become the division leader. Below we will recap the best of week 17 and take a closer look at the developing playoff picture. Now that the season is half over, every point matters more with each passing week.
Orlando City B vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1
Tampa looked to have stopped the backslide with a win over FC Cincinnati last week. Appearances can be deceiving. The Rowdies could only muster four total shots with one on target. Orlando is a tricky team to play due to a rotating lineup, but Tampa was still favored to win. The Rowdies sit in 4th place thanks to a couple extra games played. Three teams are one win away from overtaking the Green and Gold. Tampa Bay needs to rally the troops, bring in some depth, and find a way to stay with the pack to avoid dropping any further.
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-1
Sixteen! That was the age of the starting keeper for the Bethlehem Steel FC last Saturday night. Steel FC has benefited this year from their MLS parent club. However, with a Swansea friendly in town, the decision was made to pull most of the players from Bethlehem this week. This allowed several younger players from the Union academy to get a call up. Youth held their own against the Riverhounds, and Steel FC still managed to pull out a point on the off week. Bethlehem Steel sits in fifth place with games in hand. Pittsburgh sits one point outside the playoff line and needs wins badly.
Louisville City FC vs. FC Cincinnati 2-3
A few weeks ago Louisville looked untouchable in the #2 spot. The Kentucky team surprisingly dropped points against Harrisburg. A surging Charlotte side has also taken the conference by surprise. Louisville needed to win against Cincinnati to hold onto the second spot with the Independence winning earlier in the day. FC Cincinnati had other plans. The Orange and Blue didn’t always look pretty, but they made their chances count. Louisville plays a fast attacking style of soccer. They created many turnovers and looked for Ownby to do the scoring. He did have some chances, but FC Cincinnati defended well. FC Cincinnati now leads Louisville in the Dirty River Derby by a goal. FCC also holds onto sixth place while slowly gaining on most of the top five.
Saint Louis FC vs. Charleston Battery 1-0
That score is correct. This week held a rare loss for Charleston Battery and an unexpected result for Saint Louis. A big win over Charleston is just want Saint Louis FC needed to jump start the squad. The home squad has a couple of games in hand and a lot of work to do. The Battery are sitting pretty even with the loss. The only cause for concern is the loss of Williams on international duty. Even if Charleston drops a few games in Williams’ absence, there is little chance of missing the playoffs.