Mother Nature ensured there would only be three contests in the slate for USL League One as the clash between South Georgia Tormenta FC and Chattanooga Red Wolves SC fell foul of the weather, but there was still plenty to take away from the action we saw. Here are five key talking points coming out of the past weekend.
CODE RED: We’ve been waiting a few weeks for someone other than North Texas SC and South Georgia Tormenta FC to make their move away from the middle of the pack, and with its return home the club that has put its foot on the accelerator is maybe surprisingly Toronto FC II. The Reds took their third win out of three on home turf on Saturday evening with a comprehensive 3-0 victory against Lansing Ignite FC, which continued to underline the attacking prowess Head Coach Michael Rabasca’s side has at its disposal. TFC II now leads the league in chances created per 90 minutes on home turf this season at 13 with Griffin Dorsey and Jacob Shaffelburg tied for the team-high with six key passes at the friendly confines of the BMO Training Center. With North Texas the next visitor north of the border on Wednesday, the Reds now have a chance to strengthen their hand further and make it a three-horse race for the league-lead with a win.
BRIDGE TOO FAR: As well as Lansing Ignite FC had done to take four points from the opening two games of its road trip, the side simply didn’t have enough to threaten Toronto FC II as it fell to the Reds for the second time this season. A penalty-kick save by Stefan Cleveland offered the potential for a spark for Ignite FC, but the visitors didn’t register a shot on goal until the 89th minute when Alex Bruce’s effort from the left side of the penalty area was comfortably saved. The good news for Lansing is the results elsewhere fell somewhat in its favor, keeping the side in fourth place for now in the standings, but with a stack of five clubs now a point behind, next week’s visit to a rested Greenville Triumph SC has the look of one of the biggest games of the week.
ALL THE WAY BACK: The League One standings didn’t make for happy reading for Orlando City B about a month ago when the side sat five points adrift at the bottom with only two draws from its opening seven games of the regular season. Fast forward to late on Friday night, however, and it’s a very different story. OCB is now part of a five-team logjam on 12 points sitting between fifth and ninth place in the League One standings and is in the best form of any team not named Toronto FC II in the league. The side made it three wins and nine goals in the past four games as it handed Forward Madison FC its fourth consecutive defeat on Friday night at Montverde Academy as the trio of Rafael Santos, Thiago Souza and Serginho continued their positive play in attack, and while the Lions had to withstand plenty of late pressure from the Flamingos the fact they were able to preserve all three points shows how far they’ve come in a short time.
FIND THE SILVER LINING: It’s not a good feeling, a four-game losing streak, but among the disappointment of its loss in Florida there could still be some positive feeling found for where Forward Madison FC finds itself as we near the halfway point of the season. Madison had the better of the game statistically, out-possessing, out-shooting and out-dueling its hosts over the 90 minutes but were unable to make those advantages tell until Brian Bement’s 89th-minute goal that served as a consolation. If there’s one big thing Madison should try and take from its game against OCB, though, is that not so long ago it was the Lions facing a sizeable gap to the rest of the teams in the league. The path ahead doesn’t look easy now – all of FMFC’s next five outings are against sides that currently sit in the top five of the standings – but if the Flamingos can flick a switch starting next week against FC Tucson, they could quickly make a move of their own.
FITZ LIKE A GLOVE: Neither goalkeeper was made overly busy in FC Tucson’s 0-0 draw with the Richmond Kickers on Saturday night, a result that saw both teams join the gang of five in the middle of the standings. What it again illustrated, however, was the importance of Akira Fitzgerald to Richmond’s season as he again came up with the key save when it was needed to break his side’s three-game losing streak. The Kickers sit tied for second in the league with 50 shots on target faced and third in total shots allowed with 129, numbers that have ensured Fitzgerald has been among the busier goalkeepers in the league this season. Despite that, he now sits second to South Georgia Tormenta FC’s Pablo Jara – whose side by contrast has allowed half as many shots on target this season – with five shutouts this season. The Kickers still have plenty to work on in attack, but at the back Fitzgerald has them in safe hands.