The top two teams in the overall standings of the USL eCup set up a crucial showdown in the Division A Final, while El Paso Locomotive FC and the New England Revolution II both came through tight fixtures to reach the Division B Final in Thursday night’s action.
1. Thursday night’s result in Division A might just have made the race for the overall title in the USL eCup a two-horse race to the finish as both Rio Grande Valley FC and the New York Red Bulls II claimed victories to advance to Friday’s bracket Final. With the two teams separated by 200 points – the Toros holding the edge over the Red Bulls II – first place in the overall standings will be on the line when they square off for the second time in three week’s at this stage. What’s more important, however, is the gap from the top two to third-place Saint Louis FC will be at minimum 850 points and could be as high as 1,050 points when action resumes next week.
2. There’s obviously something to be said for pulling in your big guns when you can, and the New York Red Bulls II have certainly benefited from that with the play of Red Bulls eMLS player Mike LaBelle. But the way he’s able to manufacture results so consistently with Chile – which was ranked 19th in the seeding list at the start of the tournament – shows how good these top-level players can be. LaBelle took a 1-0 win against Union Omaha’s Dami Viader and Norway on Thursday night, but while the final score might have looked close it never felt like the game was out of LaBelle’s control. As time clicked down, he did what a real team would do with a one-goal lead, held possession, made Omaha chase, and salted away the clock to seal a sixth consecutive victory for him personally in the tournament.
3. Early on in in this tournament, it felt as though El Paso Locomotive FC’s Alexy Bosetti wasn’t quite coming to grips with the level of the competition. A couple of upset eliminations against players that have since proven highly capable will do that, but since then Bosetti’s game at the controls of Argentina also appears to have risen as well. On Thursday night he battled out a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Sacramento Republic FC’s Rafael Diaz and Mexico thanks to a well-taken second half finish to advance to the Final of this week’s bracket in Division B. If he’s back on the sticks on Friday against the New England Revolution II, we’ll see if he can claim Locomotive FC’s first bracket victory in the tournament.
- So far this week it’s been no Kembo Kibato, no problem for Rio Grande Valley FC. Instead of the standout from the first three weeks, the Toros have had Juan Chavez at the controls in Week 4 and seen very little drop-off in performance. A 2-0 victory against Austin Bold FC’s Diego Restrepo and Italy on Thursday sent RGVFC into the Division A Final as the Toros posted a 13-2 shot advantage in the contest.
- That which I said above about the Red Bulls II and Mike LaBelle can be almost repeated for the New England Revolution II and John Oliveira, who advanced to the Division B Final with a 2-0 win with Russia against the Charleston Battery’s Rennico Clarke and Greece. The only difference? LaBelle got to start in Division A thanks to a good bracket in Week 1 by the Red Bulls II’s players, and Oliveira’s been pushing to get them up there in the two weeks he’s been eligible to play.
- If the Revolution II win on Friday night against El Paso Locomotive FC, it’ll move them up to sixth place in the overall standings with OKC Energy FC unable to add to its point total this week. But then it will be up to the Revolution II’s players in Week 5 to try and keep them in Division A and give Oliveira a chance at a big finish in Week 6.
Rio Grande Valley FC (Brazil) 2, Austin Bold FC (Italy) 0
New York Red Bulls II (Chile) 1, Union Omaha (Norway) 0
El Paso Locomotive FC (Argentina) 1, Sacramento Republic FC (Mexico) 0
New England Revolution II (Russia) 2, Charleston Battery (Greece) 0