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X-Factors In The Race For The League One Final

By CAMERON KOUBEK -, 10/13/20, 3:50PM EDT


With six teams battling for one remaining spot in the postseason, what does each side need to reach the League One Final?

Ethan Vanacore-Decker (left) and Union Omaha are one of six clubs with a shot at the second spot in the League One Final, alongside Thomas Roberts and North Texas SC / Photo courtesy North Texas SC

While Greenville Triumph SC locked up the first spot in the 2020 League One Final with relative comfort, the race for the second spot looks anything but comfortable. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, six teams have a shot at earning the chance to take on Greenville on October 30. Here is each club’s X-Factor for the stretch run.

Richmond Kickers
Richmond Kickers
Currently: 2nd | 23 points | 7-4-2 | 3 matches remaining (TRM, @ORL, CHA)
X-Factor: Re-discover defensive stability
Though Richmond has slipped up in recent games, the Kickers remain in control of their own destiny. Two wins and a draw in their final three matches would seal a spot in the Final for Richmond, and the way Darren Sawatzky’s side can do it is to get back to the solid defensive structure that made the Kickers so difficult to beat earlier in the season. Richmond has kept just one clean sheet in its last 10 games after recording two in its first three - if the backline can get back to its old ways, Emiliano Terzaghi and Co. up front can score more than enough goals to get the Kickers to the postseason.
Union Omaha
Union Omaha
Currently: 3rd | 23 points | 6-3-5 | 2 matches remaining (@GVL, FTL)
X-Factor: Get the most out of the attacking players
With the fewest matches remaining of any of the six clubs still vying for a postseason place, Omaha is going to need help in other matches to make it. But it wouldn’t be smart to count out Head Coach Jay Mims’ side. The key for the Owls is an attack which seems to have two distinct moods: the one that scored three goals in back-to-back games (both wins), or the one that didn’t score for a three-game stretch (all losses). When Omaha’s attack is firing, the side is nearly impossible to beat: in matches in which they’ve scored a goal or more this season, the Owls are undefeated (6-0-3). Union Omaha’s title ambitions appear to hinge on whether the team can score enough to stay in the race.
North Texas SC
North Texas SC
Currently: 4th | 20 points | 5-3-5 | 3 matches remaining (@NE, @MAD, TRM)
X-Factor: Arturo Rodriguez
It’s not a hot take to say that a team’s fortunes rest on the shoulders of a reigning league MVP, but one only needs to look at the rapid rise up the standings North Texas SC has made since Arturo Rodriguez rejoined the side. The defending title-winners are 4-1-1 since Rodriguez’s return and have won three in a row, bringing Eric Quill’s team from near the foot of the table to the thick of the postseason race in the blink of an eye. Rodriguez has played well himself, but the real benefit he brings to the team is making everyone around him better by demanding attention from opposing defenses - 2019 Golden Boot Winner Ronaldo Damus, who has more than doubled his goal tally this year from two to five since Rodriguez came back, is evidence of that. If Rodriguez can stay hot, North Texas are in with a shot of joining Greenville as League One Finalists for a second consecutive season.
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Currently: 6th | 18 points | 5-5-3 | 3 matches remaining (@ORL, MAD, @RIC)
X-Factor: Establish consistency
The Red Wolves are one of the best squads in League One, but have really struggled with consistently performing to the level they’re capable of this season. Take the team’s five-match run in late August/early September, in which Chattanooga went 4-0-1 and beat two fellow contenders (Richmond Kickers and Union Omaha) in the same week. They followed that up with three defeats in a row to teams around them in the postseason race. Chattanooga is very difficult to beat when it’s at it from the start, but it’s tough to tell which Red Wolves side is going to show up on any given day. Chattanooga has two important games to try to re-discover its top form before a pivotal matchup with Richmond on the regular season’s final day.
New England Revolution II
New England Revolution II
Currently: 7th | 17 points | 5-6-2 | 3 matches remaining (NTX, @TRM, @MAD)
X-Factor: Keep it up
The Revolution II are playing some of the best and most entertaining soccer in the league at the moment. New England is on a four-game winning streak in which they’ve conceded just one goal, and have vaulted themselves from the bottom of the table to the fringes of the postseason race. The side seems to have gelled, and if it had happened a bit earlier, Revs II would look like a really serious contender. If they are to make a miracle run at that second spot, they’ll need to continue the recipe for success that they seem to have found. Even then, New England will likely have to win out and get help from elsewhere, but the Revolution II is not a team that anyone wants to be playing at the moment - who knows what could happen?
Forward Madison FC
Forward Madison FC
Currently: 8th | 16 points | 4-4-4 | 4 matches remaining (@FTL, @CHA, NTX, NE)
X-Factor: Rely on squad depth
Madison is the only club with four games remaining in its regular season schedule, and that looks like it’ll be both a blessing and a curse. While it means the Flamingos have the most possible points still to gain, it also means playing four games in two weeks, including two on the road - a grueling run to finish up the campaign. If Madison is to stake its claim to a postseason place, it’ll need strong performances from everyone in its squad, including those who might not normally be the first names on Daryl Shore’s team sheet. FMFC plays Chattanooga, North Texas and New England in its final three games, and essentially all three are must-wins. No matter what happens, all those matchups with fellow contenders means the Wisconsin club will have played a significant role in the race for second place come season’s end.

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