We went into this weekend’s action in USL League One with a logjam in the middle of the standings, and after a pair of draws on Saturday night that condition remains. For the trio at the top, though, there’s a bit of separation after all three came out on top. Here’s what we’ve learned from the past two days.
KICKERS FIND THE LEVEL: Before this season began, the Richmond Kickers were a team with a track record where most of their opponents had none, and that left Head Coach David Bulow’s side wondering where it stood in relation to its new surroundings. After struggling early on, though, the Kickers seem to have not only found themselves but also found their level after a 2-0 victory against FC Tucson on Saturday night that arrived on a pair of late goals at City Stadium. The Kickers were made to work for their win by the visitors but have now won three of four in the league and could enter their Open Cup clash with old rival North Carolina FC with a little more confidence than they had a month ago.
CAN’T STOP ‘EM: The Kickers are still having to chase North Texas SC at the top of the standings, as while Head Coach Eric Quill’s side trailed for the first time this season in its contest against Orlando City B on Saturday evening it ended up romping past its visitors 4-1 for a fifth consecutive victory to start the season. You can make an argument that in part North Texas’ record is a product of its schedule – it’s played four of five games at home and its only quality win at this point could be deemed its 1-0 win against Forward Madison FC – but you can only beat the opponents that are in front of you, which NTSC did in impressive fashion as it swept OCB away in the final quarter of the game as Arturo Rodriguez picked up a goal and two assists.
PRESSURE POINT: Toronto FC II had done an admirable job of bending but not breaking to take a halftime lead against South Georgia Tormenta FC on Sunday evening, making the most of its limited opportunities, but in the end the pressure the hosts brought to bear proved too much as Tormenta FC rallied for its third consecutive victory at Erk Russell Park in a 3-2 win on Charlie Dennis’ 93rd-minute goal. Dennis himself is a nice comeback story – he had signed with the Championship’s Nashville SC last year before a preseason knee injury saw Dennis and NSC part ways, setting up his return to Tormenta FC to work his way back last summer – and now he’s the latest player to shine for South Georgia as its strong start continued.
SHORT END OF THE STICK: You’re unlikely to see a more unfortunate – or depending on how you look at it, fortunate – goal this season than the one conceded by Chattanooga Red Wolves SC’s Vangjel Zguro on Saturday night as Forward Madison FC’s Don Smart saw his effort to score into a net vacated by Red Wolves goalkeeper Alex Mangels on a breakaway chance deflect off the right post and then into the net off the poor defender. The fact the Red Wolves were able to respond to both that and Josiel Nunez’s finish two minutes later that put Madison ahead on the road at David Stanton Field with an immediate response on Eamon Zayed’s third goal of the season to earn Chattanooga a 2-2 draw was good, but the side might be wondering when some good fortune is going to come its way.
MAKING STRIDES: Greenville Triumph SC’s winless streak in league play might have reached four games after its 1-1 draw on the road against Lansing Ignite FC, but the past week might have shown signs some positive results are headed its way. From picking up victory against League One rival South Georgia Tormenta FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to recording more shots and shots on goal on the road against Lansing this past Saturday, the only thing that remains missing for Head Coach John Harkes’ side is consistency in front of goal. Greenville gets a big challenge from perennial USL Championship contender the Charleston Battery in the Open Cup on Wednesday night, but could be feeling in the mood for an upset on its home turf after seemingly turning the corner over its last two outings.