After Forward Madison FC and Greenville Triumph SC faced off on Sunday, all 11 League One clubs had played at least eight games. In the 2020 season’s shortened slate, that figure means every team is done with the first half of its schedule. What grade did your club earn for the first half of its campaign?
Note: Though some teams have played more than eight matches, these grades reflect only the first eight matches played by each club.
After a start to the season that was solid but not thrilling, the Red Wolves have established themselves in the top half of the League One table. A pair of wins over New England Revolution II boosted Chattanooga to the fringes of the playoff races, and the return of Steven Beattie revitalized a Red Wolves attack that includes an in-form Marky Hernandez and Greg Hurst. Chattanooga hasn’t quite put all the pieces together yet, but its form is trending in the right direction as the Red Wolves close the gap on the top two.
Fort Lauderdale’s only loss in its last four games came away to leaders Greenville, a narrow defeat in which the Floridians looked threatening for much of the game. Aside from that blip, the side earned a pair of home wins and drew 1-1 with Chattanooga. Fort Lauderdale sits right in the middle of the League One table, and has proven that it isn’t an easy side to beat with talent all over the pitch. Ian Fray and Sami Guediri are anchoring the defense, Dylan Castanheira has been great in goal and Ricky Lopez-Espin is one of the league’s leading scorers.
A 2-0 loss to Greenville last weekend ended Madison’s four-game unbeaten stretch, but it shouldn’t derail the positive momentum building at the Wisconsin club. The Flamingos are attacking well, scoring 12 goals in their last five games in pursuit of the playoff places. Michael Vang is proving himself an excellent addition, driving the offense with his creativity. So far, Madison’s problem is its inability to beat the teams above it: all three of its wins have come against sides in eighth place or lower. With both Union Omaha and Chattanooga visiting Hart Park in the coming weeks, those matches are must-wins for the Flamingos if they have ambitions of reaching the League One Final this season.
Triumph SC looked untouchable for the first portion of the season, beginning the second quarter with back-to-back 1-0 home wins. But a shock upset at the hands of New England Revolution II and an away defeat to the Richmond Kickers brought Greenville back to earth. Though the gap to the chasing pack was narrowed a bit, Triumph SC never slipped out of first place, and still look like the team to beat in League One. Greenville has yet to drop a point at home this season, and because of that, Triumph SC stays in the A range.
Revolution II’s 1-0 win over Greenville was certainly the most surprising result of the season so far, and it showed that there is real quality in this New England team. Yet it was followed by a pair of 4-0 defeats, keeping Revolution II anchored to the bottom of the table. New England looked promising again versus Chattanooga, but were undone by a late goal in a 2-1 loss. It would take a miracle for this team to make a run at the playoff places now, but the season is not a wash at this point by any means. Joe Rice has stood out between the sticks for Revolution II, and other young players are making their mark in spurts as well. If the team can figure out its identity and find some consistency, it can build a solid foundation for next year.
Slowly but surely, North Texas’ defense is solidifying. The defending title-winners kept their first clean sheet of 2020 against FC Tucson last weekend, but that result was North Texas’ first win since the first day of the season. The team is still nowhere near the dominant force it was last season. Though it’s a side that scores plenty of goals, that defense needs to keep improving to turn draws into wins and start moving up the table. North Texas recalled 2019 League One MVP Arturo Rodriguez from his loan with Real Monarchs last week, a much-welcome boost heading into the second half of the season.
With two draws and two losses in its last four games, Orlando City B fell off the pace of the teams in the mid-table. Only once this season has the team kept a clean sheet, and only once has it scored multiple goals in a game - and both of those things happened in the same match, a 2-0 win away to New England Revolution II. OCB are no pushovers, and have only been blown out on a few occasions. But there just seems to be something missing from this team to make it truly competitive. With half the season still to go, it’s very possible that the Lions find that missing piece and turn the flashes of quality we’ve seen into a consistent run of results.
The Kickers looked set to take over top spot after defeating Greenville 2-1 at home, but have since dropped important points in a draw with Tucson and a loss to Chattanooga. The Tucson match did showcase the Kickers’ strong mentality, as the team quickly fell behind 2-0 but rallied to find a stoppage time equalizer. Emiliano Terzaghi continues to shine for Richmond, as does a versatile midfield cast. The second half schedule looks favorable for Richmond - all but two of its games come against teams below them in the table. But those other two are against Omaha and Chattanooga, two sides likely to contest the race for second place with the Kickers down to the final day.
This Tormenta team is a puzzling one. On paper, it has the ability to battle with the best in League One, as it showed in an excellent comeback win away to Chattanooga. But a home loss to Fort Lauderdale, a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Forward Madison and dropped points against a struggling OCB side mean things are not looking good for South Georgia at this stage. That being said, a second half turnaround is by no means out of the question for Tormenta, but the team will need to start winning games right away to make up the gap to the top.
Tucson finally looked to have clicked into gear with a dominant 4-1 win over Orlando City B a few weeks back. But the Arizona club followed up that performance with a pair of losses and a draw in which it gave away a two-goal lead. At the midway point, Tucson finds itself in seventh place, but has plenty of weapons to turn things around in the second half of the season. Shak Adams, Azaad Liadi and Charlie Dennis have all been bright spots, but Tucson needs to solidify its defense in order to improve results.
Union Omaha fans haven’t had much to complain about in their club’s inaugural season. Omaha occupied the second and final playoff spot at the midway point of the season. Forward Ethan Vanacore-Decker won Player of the Month honors for August with two goals and four assists, and under Head Coach Jay Mims the Owls have been difficult to play against. Mims’ squad looked to be headed for its first loss against Tormenta last weekend, but two second half goals earned the side a point. The key for this team is turning draws into wins - in a playoff race this tight, continuing to compile draws might not be enough.