USL Week 4 Preview

It’s Week 4 already and we’ve already got some controversy brewing in New York after Red Bulls II received 11 one-day loans for their tilt with Toronto FC II last week. I won’t be covering that because Reckless Challenge’s William Brown did such a good job of covering it earlier this week. But that was last week, and this week we’ve got the return of Cascadia Cup as Portland Timbers 2 and Seattle Sounders 2 square off on Saturday night at 10:30 ET in our Game of the Week!

Scouting the Timbers

The Timbers got the Wednesday night game this week, tying 1-1 with Real Monarchs at Rio Tinto and pushed their unbeaten streak to three games to begin the season. Fatawu Safiu scored for Portland in the outing, but the story was Rennico Clarke earning two yellow cards in under a minute. He will miss Saturday night’s match.

Offensively, the Timbers have gotten off to a blistering start scoring six goals on just 12 shots on goal. Kharlton Belmar leads the team with three goals with a shooting percentage of .429. Averaging roughly 8.3 shots per game, Belmar leads the team with 2.3 shots per outing, while four other players, including the suspended Clarke, are averaging one per game.

Defensively, the Timbers defense has given up 30 shots, but only 11 have been on target and they let in one goal each game so far. Blair Gavin and Nick Besler have been providing a steadying influence from the midfield, while Taylor Peay and Andy Thoma have gone the distance in all three matches on the back line. Jake Gleeson has featured twice for Portland between the sticks and has recorded eight saves along with a .800 save percentage.

Scouting the Sounders

If the Timbers have enjoyed a good start, the Sounders have experienced an exceptional start to their return to the USL. They have yet to drop points in two games this season against the reigning champions Sacramento Republic and Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps 2, scoring eight goals in the process. Their most recent victim was Vancouver, who they dispatched 4-0 on the strength of Darwin Jones’ debut hat trick and a goal by Andy Craven while the defense gave up just four shots and only one on goal.

Darwin and Craven are currently tied for the team lead with six points, but the attack also features Pablo Rossi, Sam Garza and Christian Roldan for a potent attack. One of the most attack-heavy teams in the league, the Sounders are currently averaging 15.5 shots per game, with half of their total shots being put on frame. Of their eight goals, five have been assisted.

The Sounders also boast a strong defense, allowing just 5.5 shots per game to their opposition. They have only given up two goals this season, both to Sacramento, and have given up just three good looks at goal. Damion Lowe has been the steady hand on defense, and is the only field player to play all 180 available minutes so far this season. In goal, Charlie Lyon hasn’t really been offered much of a challenge, recording just one save for a .333 save percentage.

The Series

The last time these two teams met in the USL was August 7, 2008, with Seattle emerging 1-0 winners. The two squads last met in Seattle on May 10, 2008 and played to a 0-0 draw. Everyone now knows how heated this rivalry can get in MLS play, so we can only hope for more of the same for the USL product.

Referee Assignment

Chipalo Street will serve as the head official for the derby match. Joshua Haimes and Andrew Deuker will be Street’s assistants. Acting as the fourth official will be Andrew Marihart.

Around the League

– On Friday night, the Richmond Kickers and Wilmington Hammerheads get another crack at each other. The two sides played to a 2-2 draw in Week 2. Game time is set for 7 pm (ET) at City Stadium.

– Real Monarchs and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC meet up on Saturday with both sides still looking for their first win of the season. The Monarchs played on Wednesday night, so fatigue may be an issue. The Switchbacks will look to jump start an offense that finally found the back of the net for the first time this season against the OKC Energy. First kick is 6:30 pm (ET) at Rio Tinto Stadium.

– Another rematch of an earlier game this season happens on Saturday night as Sacramento and Los Angeles Galaxy II met up for their second meeting in three weeks. Rodrigo Lopez, who lives to crush Los Dos’ dreams, scored the stoppage time winner last time these two met. Expect fireworks with the game set to kick off at 10:30 pm at Bonney Field.

– Wilmington plays their second game in three days on Sunday as they make the trip to Red Bull Arena to face Red Bulls II. The Baby Bulls last won 4-1 as mentioned above, and hopefully there are less shenanigans with the roster this time around. The match is set to begin at 4 pm (ET).

Numbers Game

– Tulsa Roughnecks lead the league with 51 shots, but have come away with just one goal so far this season. Not exactly the return you want, but they have been incredibly unlucky running into some class goalkeeping along the way. I would say at least they aren’t FC Montreal, but that team has only played one game so far this season and so zero goals on nine shots is at least justifiable.

– Charleston Battery is riding their hottest start in 12 years, scoring goals at easy so far in 2015. They lead the league with 22 points and are tied for the most goals with Seattle at eight through three games.

– Devin Perales of the Aztex currently leads all keepers with two clean sheets to his credit. He’s recorded 11 saves through three games, the second-most in the league.

– Like we all expected at the start of the year, names such as Jones, Kevin Kerr, Haviel Cordoves, Belmar and Octavio Guzman are leading the golden boot race. Each of these players has three goals to his name so far this season.

– The league is averaging 2893 supporters per game, led by Tulsa who is averaging 5573. Eight teams have yet to play a home game.

(image courtesy of Real Monarchs)

About Jordan Beech

You can follow Jordan at @JBeech13 or @TotalUSL