Rio Grande Valley and Austin Bold FC both put on attacking shows, while Phoenix Rising FC, Las Vegas Lights FC and the New York Red Bulls II were among the other sides to advance to the Round of 16 in the Preliminary Bracket of the USL eCup: FIFA20 Edition on Tuesday night.
1. The king is dead. Long live the king. Rio Grande Valley FC’s Kembo Kibato shone in the Toros’ opening game with Brazil, recording a first-half hat trick with Ronaldo Cabrais on the way to a four-goal game and a 5-0 victory against FC Tucson’s Jonathan Caparelli and the Czech Republic. After Tucson’s Rocket League success, all eyes were on their opener in the FIFA20 Edition of the USL eCup, but it looks like they’ll have to dig their way out of Division C while the Toros look like they’ve got a chance to maximize the potential Brazil offers them in the tournament.
2. It took a little time, but once Phoenix Rising FC’s Corey Whelan got going properly with the Netherlands it felt like there was only going to be one winner in their clash against Orange County SC’s Kevin Coleman and Cameroon. But then the game turned on a dime as Coleman produced a pair of great finishes of his own to even things up midway through the second half to set up a classic finish between the Western Conference rivals. Whelan regained his composure to produce a 3-2 victory with 11 minutes to go, but it felt like both these teams could be a handful when we move into divisional play next week.
3. To start off, everything was going right for Birmingham Legion FC’s Bolu Akinyode and Ireland. Then, very quickly, it wasn’t. The comeback by Austin Bold FC’s Valeriy Saramutin and Italy to go from two goals down midway through the first half to a goal ahead six minutes after the break was highly impressive and allowed the higher seed to eventually advance with a 5-2 victory. Slow starts are never advisable, but Saramutin probably turned some heads with the quality he produced over the final hour of this contest.
- You can make an argument North Carolina FC’s Dre Fortune should have come out on top with Turkey against Real Monarchs SLC’s Damian German and Switzerland. Turkey had more possession and more shots on goal, but a late goal for the Swiss by Breel Embolo meant the Monarchs moved on to the Round of 16 with a 2-1 victory. Late winning goals against what’s felt like the run of play are nothing new and can still make you feel like tossing a controller across the room. But, in the words of German, “that’s FIFA, bro.”
- Saint Louis FC’s Phanuel Kavita was patient with France, but not too incisive against the Charleston Battery’s Rennico Clarke. Goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe gave STLFC a 2-1 victory after going behind in the first half, but after getting a high-quality squad it would be disappointing if a more impressive performance didn’t arrive in the next round. It might be necessary, too, in order to secure a place in Division A.
- The New York Red Bulls II and Omar Sowe playing as Chile might have been an underdog against Loudoun United FC’s Alex Saravia playing as Denmark, but it didn’t play out that way. Sowe looked solid as he picked up a 2-0 victory to move into the Round of 16.
- The Red Bulls II might be feeling decent about their chances of advancing again on Wednesday after a lackluster performance with Spain by the Philadelphia Union II’s Zach Zandi, who needed to go to a second game against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s Luke Ferreira and Paraguay before scoring the decisive goal. The goal, when it arrived, was terrific, but the Union II will need to be sharper next time out to earn a spot in Division A.
- Welcome to the win column, Las Vegas Lights FC. Jose Carrera fared well enough playing as Uruguay to down the LA Galaxy II’s Jorge Hernandez and Sweden 2-0 to kick things off and get the side into the Round of 16 in solid fashion.
- Always fun to see USL Championship alumni in digital form. On Monday we had Tyler Adams for the United States, today it was the turn of Cameroon’s Christian Bassogog, who played for Wilmington Hammerheads FC in 2015 before being sold to Danish side AaB and going on to represent his country.
- Having Kevon Lambert leading the cheers in the background of your stream has got to be worth something, right? Looking forward to seeing what he’s got when he takes the controller for Rising FC.
Real Monarchs SLC (Switzerland) 2, North Carolina FC (Turkey) 1
Saint Louis FC (France) 2, Charleston Battery (Greece) 1
Rio Grande Valley FC (Brazil) 5, FC Tucson (Czech Republic) 0
Phoenix Rising FC (Netherlands) 3, Orange County SC (Cameroon) 2
New York Red Bulls II (Chile) 2, Loudoun United FC (Denmark) 0
Philadelphia Union II (Spain) 1, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (Paraguay) 0
Austin Bold FC (Italy) 5, Birmingham Legion FC (Ireland) 2
Las Vegas Lights FC (Uruguay) 2, LA Galaxy II (Sweden) 0