Lansing Ignite FC moved into the playoff positions in USL League One with Wednesday's victory against Toronto FC II, and now needs to kick on with a home contest against Orlando City B on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Lansing Ignite FC
After Wednesday night’s clash between Lansing Ignite FC and Toronto FC II threw another wrinkle into the race for the postseason in USL League One, this weekend’s action has plenty to keep an eye on as the regular season nears its midway point. Here are five talking points we’ll be focused on during Saturday night’s four-game slate of action.
SPARK TO A FLAME: Lansing Ignite FC’s second victory in its last four outings against Toronto on Wednesday pushed it into the fourth and final playoff position in the League One standings, but with Saturday’s return to action against Orlando City B marking the 14th game and midway point of the club’s season, making it a six-point week is imperative if Ignite FC is going to remain in its current position. If there’s a time for Head Coach Nate Miller’s side to face Orlando for the first time, though, it is probably now with the Lions on a two-game losing streak after their best run of the form of the season. With his side having failed to claim back-to-back wins yet this season – in fact, Ignite FC has lost each subsequent outing after its first three wins this campaign – Miller’s crew must take this opportunity with both hands.
REVENGE ON THE MIND: Four weeks ago, Greenville Triumph SC threw everything it had at Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, recording a 15-4 advantage in shots when they met at David Stanton Field and thoroughly dominating the contest. Unfortunately for Head Coach John Harkes’ side, a four-save shutout by Chattanooga goalkeeper Alex Mangels and other missed opportunities left the door open for their hosts, and with almost the last kick of the game, the Red Wolves’ first shot on goal of the contest in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time by Eamon Zayed took all three points and left Greenville with a long trip home to South Carolina. This Saturday, Greenville returns to Chattanooga sitting two points below the Red Wolves in the League One standings. After its last visit, the opportunity for revenge for that previous defeat will be at the forefront of the minds of Triumph SC’s players.
ONWARD AND UPWARD: On the flipside of that contest, the late victory by Chattanooga on May 25 has provided a catalyst for the club’s best run of results this season. The Red Wolves are coming off a 2-0 win against the Richmond Kickers last Saturday that gave them seven points from their last nine available, with Mangels producing two shutouts for good measure. The biggest positive the Red Wolves took from their visit to City Stadium was the fact that in addition to taking its first road win of the season, the quality in the side began to shine through. With Saturday marking the opening game of three straight at home over the next three weekends, the time is now for the Red Wolves to make a run at bridging the gap to League One’s frontrunners.
TOP TO BOTTOM: Forward Madison FC got off the slide last weekend with its victory against FC Tucson, but a potentially far bigger test arrives at Breese Stevens Field this Saturday night in the form of league-leading North Texas SC, which has already taken victory twice against the Flamingos this season. Despite that, Madison’s win last week put it in position to make a serious move should things fall right against NTSC. And with a renewed sense of confidence that came thanks to Paulo Jr.’s one goal and one assist display there should be a feeling that with NTSC potentially without leading scorer Ricardo Pepi – who on Friday was unveiled as FC Dallas’ latest Homegrown Signing to its Major League Soccer roster – there are another three points for the taking. With the club giving away free plastic flamingos to the first 1,008 fans in attendance to celebrate National Pink Flamingo Day on Sunday, the atmosphere should be festive as well for what should be an entertaining game.
Forward Madison FC suffered a pair of defeats previously this season on the road at North Texas SC, but with its home fans behind it this Saturday the Flamingos are looking to reverse those results. | Photo courtesy North Texas SC
BEAT THE STREAK: There are two streaks on the line when South Georgia Tormenta FC plays host to the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, one which the hosts would love to continue and the other one the visitors need to break in a bad way. The Kickers are winless in their last five, with a big reason why being that they have been held scoreless over their last 280 minutes of action following last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Chattanooga Red Wolves SC. If they’re going to break that run – and give themselves a chance at a first win since May 11 – the Kickers are going to have to break Tormenta FC’s shutout streak, which currently sits at 414 minutes after four consecutive clean sheets by goalkeeper Pablo Jara and the club’s defense. With South Georgia having not conceded since May 12, Richmond could be up against it as it visits Erk Russell Park, but maybe the concept that it would currently be the most unlikely team to break Tormenta FC’s streak will actually play in its favor as the Kickers look to get back into the playoff race.