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USL League One Midseason Review

By USLLeagueOne.com Staff, 06/28/19, 4:27PM EDT

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Halfway through the inaugural regular season, how is your team faring?

This weekend’s action in USL League One will mark the midway point of the 27-week regular season, which has already produced plenty of compelling action and numerous standout performances across the league’s inaugural season.

As we hit the halfway mark, it’s time to take stock of where everyone sits in the race for the top-four positions and a place in the League One Playoffs, and the question each club is going to need to answer over the final three months of the campaign.

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Record: 5-4-3 - 18 pts
Playoff Odds: 53 percent
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
The Red Wolves have seen ups and downs over the first half of the year, but when they’ve been at their best, Beattie has been a big reason why. With six goals, the Irish forward leads the team, but he’s also consistently played set-up man for his teammates with a team-high 14 chances created and a 25.9 percent accuracy rate on his team-best 27 crosses. If the Red Wolves are going to make the playoffs, Beattie will likely be the player to lead them there.
Second-Half Question - Can Chattanooga fix its away form?
The Red Wolves are one of four teams in the league that are still undefeated on their home turf, but the club’s four points from six road games is what has kept it from currently sitting in the playoff positions. If Chattanooga can build on the positive momentum it has built this month, that road form should improve as well, but it’s going to need a far more consistent effort offensively than the one that has produced only four goals in those six road games to make that happen.
FC Tucson
FC Tucson
Record: 4-6-3 - 12 pts
Playoff Odds: 12 percent
FC Tucson
Tucson has sat in the middle of the pack defensively this year, which is part of the reason why it sits in the middle of the pack in the League One standings, but Kyle Venter has been a consistently strong part of the defensive unit that has allowed 16 goals in 13 games so far. Venter leads the league with 15 blocked shots and has won 49 of 68 duels and 28 of 37 aerials this season, while also notching a pair of goals offensively, to stand tall for Head Coach Darren Sawatzky’s squad.
Second-Half Question - Who can effectively lead the attack?
With the exception of Phoenix Rising FC loanee Devin Vega, no-one on FC Tucson’s squad has a goals-per-minute ratio below 250 minutes this season. That fact is the biggest reason why Tucson finds itself in the bottom half of the standings. Whether it’s Devyn Jambga, who leads the side with three goals, one of Jamael Cox or Guillermo Delgado, who each have two, or a wild card like Jordan Jones, someone is going to need to provide consistent finishing over the second half of the season for Tucson to have a chance at the postseason.
Forward Madison FC
Forward Madison FC
Record: 4-6-2 - 14 pts
Playoff Odds: 16 percent
Forward Madison FC
MVP - Don Smart
Smart was the first signing in Madison’s history, and while there have been fits and starts to his campaign the return of four goals and three assists in 11 appearances has been a good one so far from the veteran attacking midfielder. The club has run well when Smart has run well – during its four-game losing streak he recorded only one goal and six key passes – but when the Jamaican is on his game it seems to lift everyone around him to a higher level.
Second-Half Question - Can the Mingos sustain their level?
When Madison is good, it’s shown it can compete with the best in the league – just look at its 3-1 victory against Toronto FC II and 4-1 win against North Texas SC, both clubs currently favored to reach the postseason. When the Flamingos aren’t, it means losses on the road to last-place Orlando City B and at home to Lansing Ignite FC. The odds are currently against them, but if the side can find that higher level consistently over the second half then things might just fall into place for Madison to sneak into that fourth spot in the standings.
Greenville Triumph SC
Greenville Triumph SC
Record: 3-5-4 - 13 pts
Playoff Odds: 7 percent
Greenville Triumph SC
There are plenty of people who can take credit for Greenville currently having conceded the second-fewest goals in League One this season, but at the top of that list is Polak, who leads the club with 32 interceptions and has won 27 of 42 tackles and 83 of 135 duels. Cole Seiler and Kevin Politz also deserve a lot of credit here, but Polak gets the nod as another first signing that has paid off handsomely.
Second-Half Question - Will Triumph SC break out of its scoring slump?
Maybe the most inexplicable part of Greenville’s lack of goals this season is that it’s hardly been for a lack of trying. After leading scorer Jake Keegan – who has five goals on 14 shots on target – the next five players in Triumph SC’s squad have all registered at least five shots on goal this season, but none has yet found the net. According to Opta, Greenville leads the league with 129 chances created and 28 Big Chances created, so a turnaround has felt just around the corner for a while. The problem is it may arrive too late for Triumph SC to get itself back into the conversation for the top four.
Lansing Ignite FC
Lansing Ignite FC
Record: 5-4-5 - 20 pts
Playoff Odds: 43 percent
Lansing Ignite FC
MVP - Nick Moon
There’s a good case here for loan arrival Stefan Cleveland, who has helped stabilize Lansing defensively, but Moon has been key to Ignite FC putting itself in position to contend for a playoff place at the halfway point. With a team-high four goals and 15 key passes – unfortunately none of which have resulted in an assist – Moon has been consistently active in the final third, but he’s also done work defensively, leading the team with 94 duels won of 163 as well as 11 tackles and 12 interceptions.
Second-Half Question - Can Lansing's defensive improvement be sustained?
With a combination of Kyle Ihn and Michael Kirk in goal to start the season, Lansing posted a 1.71 goals-against average over seven contests and a sub-60 percent save percentage. In Stefan Cleveland’s seven appearances since he arrived on loan from the Chicago Fire, the club’s GAA has been 0.86, while Cleveland has posted a save percentage of 81.3. If that first number can be sustained, so will Lansing’s playoff push. If it starts to regress, then it will likely mean no postseason.
North Texas SC
North Texas SC
Record: 8-2-2 - 28 pts
Playoff Odds: 99 percent
North Texas SC
While all of the justified preseason hype surrounded Ricardo Pepi, the other standout youngster on North Texas’ squad has equally come to the fore with a league-leading eight goals going into this weekend’s action. Damus’ potential was reflected in his selection to Haiti’s 40-man preliminary roster for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, and with Pepi now appearing set to get opportunities with FC Dallas after signing as a Homegrown player this month it could allow Damus to thrive even further for the League One leaders.
Second-Half Question - Can the irresistible force defeat the immovable object?
Arguably the biggest thing we have to look forward to in the second half of the season are the three meetings between North Texas SC and South Georgia Tormenta FC, who have been head-and-shoulders ahead of the rest of the field so far this season at the top of the standings. The meetings, the first of which arrives on July 20, should determine which side ends up with the top seed for the postseason. With North Texas boasting the highest-scoring attack with 25 goals and South Georgia having the best defense with more shutouts (8) than goals conceded (7), will NTSC’s talented group be able to break down its biggest rival for first place and come out on top?
Orlando City B
Orlando City B
Record: 3-8-3 - 12 pts
Playoff Odds: 1 percent
Orlando City B
For a thrilling few games, Orlando City B gave the impression of a side that had figured itself out before its recent regression back to the bottom of the standings. In the middle of that success was Thiago Souza, whose four goals and one assist have provided most of the bright spots for the club this season. The 20-year-old has put up good figures consistently this year, in fact, also recording 14 key passes and posting a passing accuracy rate of 77.8 percent in the opposition half. OCB’s season may not be going to plan, but Souza could be setting himself a platform for bigger things to come.
Second-Half Question - Can the Lions find any road form?
With nine home games already done from the schedule, the Lions are going to be hitting the road much more frequently in the second half of the season. Given their 0-4-1 record away from Montverde Academy, that could make for a very long drive down the stretch. OCB has struggled offensively away from home with only three goals scored for a -8 goal differential, so Souza and his cohorts in attack are going to have to get going to give Orlando any chance of affecting the playoff race down the stretch.
Richmond Kickers
Richmond Kickers
Record: 3-7-3 - 12 pts
Playoff Odds: 2 percent
Richmond Kickers
Gallardo has notched four goals on the campaign, a fair return that puts him tied for fifth in the league overall, and has also been consistent in putting 15 of his 23 shots this season on target while hitting the woodwork twice. The former United States U-20 international also ranks second on the team with 80 duels won and has a team-high 18 key passes so far this season and six Big Chances Created, which are tied for eighth and third respectively in the league.
Second-Half Question - Can the Kickers create attacking penetration?
If there’s one number that stands out most from the Kickers’ opening half of the season, it’s that the club is last in the league with only 59 shots overall and 19 shots on target from inside the penalty area in 13 games this season. That means on average, Richmond is only recording 4.5 shots inside their opponent’s penalty area per game. By comparison, North Texas SC averages 8.3 such shots per game through its first 12 games of the season. If Richmond is going to summon a second-half run, it’s going to have to be more assertive – and more accurate with its build-up, in the final third of the field.
South Georgia Tormenta FC
South Georgia Tormenta FC
Record: 7-1-4 - 25 pts
Playoff Odds: 98 percent
South Georgia Tormenta FC
Usually when a team sits with the best defensive record in the league, the spotlight shines on its goalkeeper, but with all due respect to Pablo Jara, it’s been the Tormenta FC backline that has been the key to the club’s success so far. In the middle of that has been Antley, who in addition to notching three goals and three assists this season is also tied for the team lead with 20 interceptions, has won 19 of 23 tackles and 78 of 134 duels. Already a League One Player of the Month award-winner this season, Antley is currently in line for an even bigger spotlight at the end of this season should his form continue.
Second-Half Question - Can the club's attack carry more weight?
There’s obviously something remarkable about the defensive season Tormenta FC has produced so far, with eight shutouts and a current 504-minute shutout streak leaving the side sitting pretty when it comes to the postseason. But with 16 goals in 12 games, there’s still room for improvement at the other end of the field. South Georgia is in the middle of the pack when it comes to chance creation in League One, so if it can find another gear it could help the club’s defense thrive even further with less pressure to eke out victories.
Toronto FC II
Toronto FC II
Record: 5-4-3 - 18 pts
Playoff Odds: 69 percent
Toronto FC II
Perruzza made a bright start to his Toronto FC II career late last season as an Academy signing in the Championship, and with four goals in eight games this year the 18-year-old has taken another good step forward to help power a Toronto attack that sits second in the league with 20 goals overall. With a scoring rate of a goal every 143 minutes and a solid conversion rate of 26.7 percent, there should be plenty more to come this year as TFC II looks to secure a playoff berth.
Second-Half Question - Will home-field advantage be the postseason decider?
With eight of TFC II’s opening 12 games this season coming on the road, and the side sitting at 3-0-1 at the BMO Training Center, there’s a good reason why the Reds are the third-favorite to reach the postseason behind the league’s two frontrunners. Toronto has adapted well to life in League One and if it continues at even 80 percent of the points-per-game clip it has established on its home turf this season it could end up with a substantial edge on the teams that will be chasing it for a postseason spot.

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