Madison's Connor Tobin and Richmond's Emiliano Terzaghi battle for the ball in last season's Henny Derby matchup at City Stadium / Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks
Warm weather is here, fans are back in stadiums around the country, the League One table is beginning to take shape - and in the month of June, we’ll get an even clearer picture of which clubs are prepared to challenge at the top.
With 30 matches taking place this month, we’re set for plenty of great action on the pitch. Here are five games in particular to keep your eye on (though we certainly recommend watching as many as possible).
The first of four 2021 editions of the Henny Derby is set for the second weekend in June. This rivalry started organically between fans of Madison and Richmond, and is now a celebration of Black culture and soccer. In addition to that context off the pitch, these are two teams aiming to challenge for top honors this season, and a victory in this match would help them out in doing so - as well as providing an early edge in bragging rights on social media.
The first meeting between these two clubs will be a sort of all-Florida encounter, as TFC II spends June at the temporary home venue of Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee. They’ll make the trek south to DRV PNK Stadium to take on a Fort Lauderdale side which has not always won, but has consistently entertained this season.
Since each joined League One, these two teams have both had success in promoting their best players up to their respective senior teams in Major League Soccer, and there’s a good chance that a handful of players on the field in this game will be playing in the top flight in the near future.
In one way, these clubs are very different - Richmond is among the oldest continuously-operating professional soccer clubs in the country, while Omaha is in only its second season. But on the pitch last year, the teams occupied the same area of the table for the vast majority of the campaign, battling to be the league’s second-best side behind runaway leaders Greenville.
While Omaha finished in second place, three points ahead of Richmond last year (and the Kickers slid to fourth), Richmond beat los Búhos 1-0 at Werner Park in the only previous meeting between the teams. This meeting will be Omaha’s first visit to City Stadium, and it will be a big chance for a statement win for both teams.
Both of these teams made the playoffs in 2019, and they swapped top players this past offseason. Jake Keegan and Carlos Gomez headed from South Carolina to Wisconsin, while Don Smart went the other way.
After lifting the League One trophy in 2020, Triumph SC looks as strong as ever this year, opening its season with four wins and a draw in its first five games. Madison has also started unbeaten, winning three and drawing two to open the 2021 campaign - which put the Flamingos in second place behind only Greenville on June 1.
If these two sides are still unbeaten and/or in first and second place in the standings come June 23, it will only add more intrigue to what is already an eye-catching matchup. But the Flamingos have never beaten Greenville, losing or drawing all five of their previous matchups with Triumph SC. That’s a record they’ll be hungry to change this month no matter their respective positions in the table in three weeks’ time.
The clubs in these two scenic southeastern cities reside just under 250 miles from each other, and look like two of the strongest teams in the league this season. After going unbeaten in its opening four games of the season, Chattanooga has placed itself firmly in the conversation as to who is the biggest challenger for Greenville’s title.
The Red Wolves have a massive opportunity to put real weight behind their credentials if they can find a way to deal their visitors a rare loss at the end of the month.