I’m back! I’ve been working through final projects and exams the last two weeks, and I apologize for the absence. Quite a bit has happened since my brief sabbatical, and I feel it’s only fair that I give you a recap of some of the major stories for both your benefit, and, especially, mine. After all, I’ve basically been under a rock for half a month. So, without further ado, here’s what’s happened since I’ve been gone:
(Note: At the time of writing, TFC II, Charleston and Montreal hadn’t player their Wednesday games.)
USL Returning to Ohio
My friend Chad Hollingsworth over at Scratching the Pitch was the first to break the news that the United Soccer Leagues would be returning to Ohio. FC Cincinnati, the name and more were uncovered by D.J. Switzer of Wrong Side of the Pond, Jeff Berding, the Director of Sales and Public Affairs for the Cincinnati Bengals, is the lead investor. This, to my recollection, marks the second USL club with ties to the NFL after the Sacramento Republic got some love from the 49ers earlier this year. Expect more expansion news coming throughout the next couple months, as the league has a stated goal of 40 teams.
A Stadium for Every Team
With the impending application for Division 2 status with the United States Soccer Federation, the league office recently announced an initiative with HOK to help build a soccer-specific stadium for each of the league’s numerous teams. HOK, in case you thought the name sounded familiar, just helped design the beautiful Avaya Stadium for the San Jose Earthquakes. This will be a major step up for many of the teams in the league, who have currently been plying their trade in college and high school grounds across the nation, as well as give those MLS-operated teams some hopefully newer fields.
No other way to say it, Canada isn’t doing well in the USL. FC Montreal is the dumpster fire of the league, having yet to win a game, or even manage a point, in its first season of competition. Their first win will probably come either June 24th when they take on a floundering Wilmington Hammerheads squad, or July 4th when they get a rematch with Toronto FC II. TFC II, despite a bevy of young talent, is still connected to Toronto FC, so you knew they’d be doomed from the start. They are the bottom two sides in the East.
Out in the West, Vancouver is second from the bottom of the table, but they are tied on points with both Real Monarchs and the Tulsa Roughnecks. That’s not saying much though when both teams are tied for the second-fewest goals in the league. But hey, at least they’ve managed a win in a stacked Western Conference.
Don’t Mess With the Old Guard
No surprises in the East, as the Rochester Rhinos, Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers currently occupy the top three spots in the conference table. They boast three of the top seven offenses in the entire league, coupled with some of the stingiest defenses. Additionally, Rochester and Charleston are the only two teams remaining without a loss on the season, and Rochester is leading the entire league with 20 points.
Coach Wyss, Take a Bow
Orange County did not enjoy a good season last year under the direction of Dariush Yazdani. They finished 13th in the table, also known as next-to-last. The Blues held a -23 goal differential, which isn’t good by any metric.
This year, however, Wyss has the Blues soaring high and the team is currently the toast of the Western Conference. Tied with Sacramento on points at 15, the Blues have allowed just six goals, the fourth-fewest, through seven games in an offensive-heavy league. I regret my pick in the USL Expert Challenge.
Los Dos Are on a Four-Game Win Streak…
…And you bet I’m bitter about it. I can’t in good conscience root for a team from Los Angeles. It’s physically, and mentally, impossible for me. I leave for two weeks and the league decides to let them be good again? I have no analysis for this, but I’m sad. Maybe now that I’ve returned they can start losing?
US Open Cup Coming Up
The first couple of rounds are wrapped up for the US Open Cup. In the upcoming round next week, the USL will enter the fray. Thanks to Jason Bailey, here’s a look at the matchups for the USL.
USL Expert Challenge
I’ll end with this graphic, also provided by Bailey, that shows that I am in second place in the USL Expert Challenge. I can live with that.
(image courtesy of Yacine Bouhali)