League One sides go 10-1-3 against USL Championship, MLS NEXT Pro and collegiate competition | Image Credit: One Knoxville SC
For the first time this preseason, all 12 League One sides were in action in the same week. Between Feb. 20 and Feb. 26, a strong collective outing saw the league go 10-1-3 against USL Championship, MLS NEXT Pro, NCAA and NAIA competition.
Highlighting the week's action was expansion side One Knoxville SC going toe-to-toe with USL Championship power Louisville City FC, earning a draw with a dramatic equalizer in the 90th minute. In other USL Championship-USL League One action, Central Valley Fuego FC downed Sacramento Republic FC, Union Omaha blanked FC Tulsa and North Carolina FC bested the Charleston Battery.
The entire 2023 League One preseason schedule can be found here.
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Forward Madison FC made their to Bridgeview to take on Chicago Fire FC II in a preseason friendly. This friendly came a week after the Flamingos took on MNUFC2 in Minneapolis the week prior. The match began at 10:00 a.m. CT and was viewed by the coaching staff as an opportunity to continue to build squad cohesion and test trialists’ skill sets.
The match got off to a quick start with FMFC playing through Derek Gebhard and Jayden Onen to challenge the Fire II back line. Within the first 10 minutes, Aiden Mesias played a lofted ball into the box, looking for the head of Mauro Cichero. Fire II were able to get a head to the ball first, stymying the attack for the moment.
In the ninth minute, a cross was sent into the box from the right wing, connecting with Chichero’s foot for the Flamingos' first goal of the match. After going up 1-0, the Flamingo defense was tested with pressure from the Fire II attack. Jacob Crull and Stephen Payne absorbed the pressure well and put FMFC back on the front foot. Fire II took advantage of a testing ball down the right wing to level the score at 1-1 in the 20th minute. In the 23rd minute, a trackback by Eric Conerty prevented a Fire II breakaway. After a back-and-forth opening to the match, both squads settled in and went into the half level at 1-1.
FMFC changed the XI at half to feature a lineup of trialists to complete the match for the Flamingos. FMFC came out on the offensive, scoring from a corner kick in the 58th minute. After taking the lead, Forward were fluid in the attack and defense, keeping the Fire II attack at bay. After defending a corner, FMFC went on a counterattack in the 80th minute that resulted in a looping goal by a trialist over the Chicago Fire II keeper to go up 3-1. A good defensive presence kept the ‘Mingos in the lead until the final whistle sounded, with FMFC getting the win 3-1.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Louisville City FC was held to a 2-2 draw by One Knoxville SC on Saturday afternoon in a preseason contest at Thurman-Hutchins Park which saw the expansion USL League One club rally to earn a result after LouCity had scored twice in the early stages.
“The ideas and executing the game plan were really good in the first half – the first 35 minutes,” said LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz. “But you can’t leave teams open to get an opportunity, and they took it. When they did that, the momentum changed.
“We’ve talked a lot about that – when the momentum changes, making sure we understand that and continue pushing forward at the level we expect.”
LouCity struck twice off set pieces, with the opening goal coming in the seventh minute when Wilson Harris flicked in a Niall McCabe free kick from the right. The hosts doubled their lead in the 20th minute after being awarded an indirect free kick inside the One Knox penalty area. Harris had his blast from an indirect free kick blocked before Enoch Mushagalusa scored on the rebound.
Knoxville pulled a goal back in the 34th minute after LouCity turned over possession in the defensive third, allowing Matthew Vowinkel to smoothly finish the visitors’ only shot of the opening half. Derek Waldeck then claimed a 90th-minute equalizer to earn the visitors a result.
“I certainly wasn’t happy with the response after halftime, and I’m not happy with the second goal,” Cruz said. “We’ll review it, and we got some answers today which is good for us.”
CHARLOTTE N.C. - The Charlotte Independence stayed unbeaten in their 2023 preseason campaign with a 2-0 win over MLS NEXT Pro side Crown Legacy FC. Forward Khori Bennett scored the first goal of the match and midfielder Brad Dunwell scored the second, his first goal in a Jacks uniform.
Both sides forced saves early on, but Bennett was the first to find the back of the net to give the Independence a 1-0 lead. He received the ball on the left side of the box, cut inside and fired a shot into the top corner.
Minutes later, the Independence doubled their lead. Midfielder Gabriel Obertan sprinted down the left side and set Dunwell up for the finish.
The Jacks stayed on the attack with multiple shots on goal, including several that hit off the post, but were unable to add to their lead. The Independence entered halftime up 2-0.
More chances were created in the second half, but neither side could find the back of the net as the match ended 2-0.
STATESBORO, Ga. – Conner Antley scored twice against his former club as the Tampa Bay Rowdies claimed a 3-1 victory against South Georgia Tormenta FC in a preseason contest at Optim Sports Medicine Field on Saturday afternoon. Forrest Lasso also found the net for the visitors as they took victory against the defending USL League One champions.
The Rowdies took the lead in the 32nd minute as Charlie Dennis, another former Tormenta FC player, delivered a cross from the left that came through to Antley for sharp finish. Tormenta FC answered three minutes later when Mukwelle Akale put home a finish after being set up by Kazaiah Sterling, but Tampa Bay regained the lead six minutes before the halftime break when Lewis Hilton’s corner kick was turned home by Lasso.
The visitors added to their lead with 21 minutes to go when the ball fell to Antley in the penalty area after the Tormenta FC defender was unable to clear a cross from Sebastian Dalgaard, closing out the scoring in the Rowdies’ first road contest of the preseason.