A four-game slate of weekend action that includes a top-four matchup in USL League One kicks off on Friday night when two teams going in opposite directions of late square off as Orlando City B hosts Forward Madison FC. Here are five talking points to keep an eye on over the next two nights.
RETURN THE FAVOR: South Georgia Tormenta FC gets its first chance at avenging its only loss of the regular season so far on Saturday night when it plays host to Chattanooga Red Wolves SC at Erk Russell Park, and will be mindful of avoiding the slow start it got out to when the teams met back on April 20 when the Red Wolves struck three times in the opening 20 minutes to take what proved an insurmountable lead. If South Georgia is going to turn the tables on Chattanooga, though, it’s going to have to regain its scoring touch; Tormenta FC has recorded 23 chances created over its past two outings – second-most in League One over the past two weeks behind Toronto FC II – but has gone scoreless in back-to-back goalless draws. With North Texas on a bye while already holding a game in hand, the hosts will feel like all three points are essential here in their pursuit of first place.
LIONS ON THE UP: After going winless in its first seven games of the campaign, things have picked up impressively for Orlando City B to where it is now out of the cellar in the League One standings, and the biggest key to the side’s success has been its uptick in attacking production. With seven goals in a three-game undefeated streak, OCB is starting to make good on its chances after sitting high up the leaderboard in shots for most of the season, where the club is now second with 133 shots over its opening 10 games. The Lions will look to continue that as they return home to face the side that replaced them at the foot of the table, Forward Madison FC, on Friday night. While the playoff positions won’t quite be within reach with a third win this season, OCB could be knocking on the door depending on how the rest of the weekend’s results play out.
LOOKING FOR A TURNAROUND: Two teams enter their games this weekend off three consecutive league defeats, and with 10th-place Forward Madison FC and the eighth-place Richmond Kickers both on the road this weekend it could be a challenge for either to end their current turns of form. The Flamingos at least have the knowledge that they’ve gone to OCB once already this season and emerged with a 2-1 victory on April 19, but with Madison having scored only once in its past three games things haven’t broken its way of late. The Kickers, meanwhile, head west to face FC Tucson on Saturday night having conceded 11 goals in their last four games in all competitions, which has meant Head Coach David Bulow has been zeroed in on fixing the club’s problems at the back. “I think we can work a little bit more for each other and just doing the little things right,” said Kickers defender Braeden Troyer this week. “Maybe tracking back for someone else and then maybe they'll do it for you.”
HOME COOKING: You can argue that the six-game road trip to start the season had something to do with it, but Toronto FC II has looked like a different team since it kicked off its home slate on May 24 with victory against FC Tucson. With seven points from its last three games, a total that could have been nine if the Reds had held their second-half lead in Chattanooga last weekend, TFC II goes into Saturday evening’s contest against Lansing Ignite FC having recorded 30 chances created and five big chances according to Opta over its past three games, more than anyone else in League One. Lansing has been on a solid run of its own, taking victory on the road against Forward Madison FC last Saturday, but Toronto goes into its second meeting with Ignite FC this season knowing a repeat display of its 2-0 win when the sides last met would create breathing room from the pack and could start to bridge the gap to the top two.
CUTTING THE NUMBER: FC Tucson is on a three-game undefeated streak on its home turf at the Kino Sports Complex as it prepares to host the Richmond Kickers on Saturday night, but with only two wins out of five home games so far this season things haven’t been plain sailing so far for Head Coach Darren Sawatzky’s side. A key reason for that has been the side’s defensive play, which has seen Tucson allow 24 shots on target to its opponents this season at home, the second-highest total in the league. Goalkeeper Philip Ejimadu has helped mitigate some of that with 17 saves on 22 shots on target which is a big reason FCT has lost only once on home turf this season, but limiting the number of clear looks on goal the Kickers earn will be a big factor in whether Tucson can get revenge for its 2-0 defeat at City Stadium when these sides first met last month.