After the late-game drama that opened Week 16 of the 2019 USL League One season on Tuesday and Wednesday night, this weekend sees all 10 teams in action, including a four-game slate on Saturday night. Here are five things to watch for over the next two days.
AVOID THE TRAP: We haven’t seen an ending anything close to packing the drama of Lansing Ignite FC’s 3-2 victory against Forward Madison FC on Tuesday night, when the sides combined for three goals in stoppage time at Cooley Law School Stadium as Lansing first grabbed the lead, then gave it away, and then reclaimed it again in the span of two minutes and 47 seconds. Alex Bruce’s game-winner led to euphoric scenes in the Ignite FC locker room after the game, but its important that the side’s feet have returned firmly to the ground as there remains work to be done. In a best-case scenario, Saturday’s home contest with FC Tucson could see Lansing create an eight-point gap between themselves and the teams sitting outside the playoff positions if other results go Ignite FC’s way. If it suffers a letdown, though, and things go wrong elsewhere that margin could be just two points, with the chasing pack still holding multiple games in hand.
PRESSURE POINT: There’s going to be plenty of pressure on FC Tucson to perform on Saturday night as well, though, with the side opening a six-game road trip after having lost in each of its past two away outings. Head Coach Darren Sawatzky’s side should have taken some confidence from a positive 3-1 win against Toronto FC II last weekend that kept Tucson in touch with the playoff positions, but the side has yet to string back-to-back wins together this season. If that streak continues against Lansing, the combination of the deficit in points that needs to be made up to the top four and the lengthy road stint that lies ahead could break FCT’s season.
NEARING MUST-WIN: It’s not definitively a make-or-break contest, but after Tuesday night’s defeat, Forward Madison FC could really do with picking up all three points as it returns home to host Chattanooga Red Wolves SC given the five-point gap separating the Red Wolves in the fourth and final playoff position and the Flamingos in seventh. With Chattanooga also having suffered a late letdown in its contest on Wednesday night when it conceded a late equalizer on the road against an Orlando City B side that was down to 10 men, the opportunity to end the Red Wolves’ seven-game undefeated streak seems ripe for the taking. Should Madison do so, it will continue to make the race for the postseason a fascinating one.
WHAT’S THE RESPONSE: South Georgia Tormenta FC saw a pair of streaks come to an end last Saturday night as its undefeated streak at Erk Russell Park concluded at six games and its month-long shutout streak wrapped up at 520 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Forward Madison FC. As the side heads to face Toronto FC II on Friday evening, it will be interesting to see what kind of response Head Coach John Miglarese’s side will produce against a TFC II side that sits just outside the playoff positions, but is undefeated at the BMO Training Ground this season. Tormenta FC took a 3-2 victory on May 12 when the clubs met in Statesboro, Ga. with Charlie Dennis scoring a stoppage-time winner to lift his side to victory. Hopefully there will be just as many thrills this time around.
GET THE GRIND ON: Greenville Triumph SC will certainly have been happy to emerge from its road trip to face North Texas SC last Sunday as the first League One side to take a point from the league-leaders on their home turf, but this week we get back to reality and the necessity for Triumph SC to start racking up wins to keep itself in contention for the postseason. Orlando City B is the visitor to Legacy Early College on Saturday night, itself coming off an impressive rally to earn a point in a 1-1 draw against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on Wednesday night despite being down to 10 men. After knocking in four goals in its prior two contests before visiting North Texas, Triumph SC was starting to capitalize on its chances. It will need to quickly resume doing so to make sure it keeps in touch with the top four after this weekend’s action.