Back-to-back victories have vaulted the Richmond Kickers up the League One standings and brought a positive energy to the club as it prepares to face Lansing Ignite FC. | Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks / Richmond Kickers
The second full month of the 2019 USL League One season kicks off on Friday night, but major attention will fall on a Saturday slate that sees the two remaining undefeated sides in the league face challenging road contests. Here are five things to watch for over the weekend.
KICKERS FEELING MOMENTUM: Teams can put in positive performances week-in and week-out, but there’s nothing that replaces the feeling of being rewarded with victories for your efforts. With the Richmond Kickers having earned back-to-back wins, they’re in a positive mood ahead of their third meeting with Lansing Ignite FC. “I think momentum is a big thing in this league and we saw that a little bit last year,” said Richmond Head Coach David Bulow. “When it doesn't go your way, it's easy to fall into bad habits and momentum falls down on the group and brings us down a little bit. But, equally, it goes the same way when you start winning a few games. There becomes a little bit of confidence amongst the group and just a general sense of enjoyment.” The Kickers are going to need confidence after falling in both of their prior meetings with Lansing, but there’s a big chance here for Bulow’s side to close the gap to just one point on the idle South Georgia Tormenta FC at the top of the standings.
HEADING NORTH: North Texas SC’s three consecutive victories have all come on the familiar turf of Toyota Stadium, which might make the club’s first road trip to face Greenville Triumph SC on Saturday the most intriguing game of the weekend. Without leading scorer Ricardo Pepi – who started on Thursday as the United States U-17 National Team opened the Concacaf U-17 Championship with a 3-2 win against Canada – the biggest question for the side is going to be which player might step up to fill that attacking hole. With Triumph SC’s midfield and back line possessing the experience and ability of players like Kevin Politz, Cole Seiler and Tyler Polak, this is going to be a major test for Head Coach Eric Quill’s side and its perfect record.
FIND THE SHOOTING BOOTS: You could make a credible argument that Forward Madison FC’s four points this season have been principally earned by goalkeeper Ryan Coulter, who has posted 15 saves in four games to be named one of the nominees for League One Player of the Month on Thursday. After a scoreless draw in their home opener, the Flamingos are expecting far better weather than the snowstorm that made for frigid conditions last Saturday night in their scoreless draw with Greenville Triumph SC, and they should hope their front line can find its shooting boots. With just a 6.06 percent shot conversion rate this season, FMFC is next-to-last in the league while averaging only 2.5 shots on goal per game, so Paulo Jr. or Don Smart getting on the scoresheet for the first time would be big for the hosts.
Paulo Jr. is one of the players Forward Madison FC will be hoping can find his first goal for the club when it hosts Toronto FC II on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Justin Nuoffer / Forward Madison FC
ROAD WARRIORS: The visitors to Breese Stevens Field on Saturday night, Toronto FC II, reached the halfway mark of their six-game road trip to open the season last Friday when it took a 2-0 victory on the road against Lansing Ignite FC. The win continued a surprise undefeated start for the Reds, who have made the most of their chances on the road so far this season. The biggest reason for TFC II’s success, though, has been its defense which through three games has conceded just once and allowed only 11 shots on goal. With Patrick Bunk-Andersen and Fito Ovalle leading the way in clearances and interceptions respectively, the work Toronto is doing to be difficult to break down is paying off handsomely so far.
UPS AND DOWNS: If its form is any indicator, Friday night should bring victory for Chattanooga Red Wolves SC. After all, the club has alternated losses and wins over the first five games of the regular season after falling to the Richmond Kickers last Saturday evening, meaning its trip to Orlando City B should result in an uptick. The downside to this theory? The Red Wolves have lost all three of their previous road games this season and have been held scoreless in the last two outings. For a side with the level of attacking talent that Chattanooga has put together, that’s a worrying sign and one that they need to put right fast to avoid falling too far behind the league’s leaders.