USL Rewind: Comebacks shake up conference races

Blown leads and rallies tightened up the race atop the Western Conference, where five teams are bunched within four points.

The craziness started on Wednesday, when leader Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 looked to be in control, holding a 2-0 lead over struggling Arizona United SC at Peoria Sports Complex. But AUSC suddenly awoke, Luke Rooney scored twice to tie the game, and Chris Cortez struck a dramatic winner in stoppage time.

According to Rooney, by addressing a few issues after a 2-1 home loss to last-place Tulsa the week before, head coach Frank Yallop and his staff got the players re-focused. “I think Frank and [assistant coach Marc Bircham] highlighted that even though maybe we think we’ve been struggling a little bit, the performances haven’t been too bad,” said Rooney. “It’s just been individual errors and conceding goals at terrible times that has really let us down.”

Cortez scored again Sunday in a 3-1 defeat of Orange County Blues that pulled AUSC (within one point of the eighth-place Blues. Tyler Blackwood and Long Tan got the other goals as the Blues failed to take advantage of the teams in front of them dropping points.

Galaxy II could have leaped into first place over VWFC2, which tied Seattle Sounders 2, 1-1, on Saturday, and was ideally poised to do so when it ran up a 3-0 halftime lead on Portland Timbers 2. Instead, Los Dos went down to 10 men shortly before the hour mark when Adonis Amaya was red-carded, and completely collapsed.Timbers 2 rattled in four goals to capture an incredible victory.

Villjan Bijev scored twice to tie the game after Blake Bodily’s goal started the rally and top scorer Neco Brett – from a Bijev assist – added the final twist by netting his fifth goal of the season in stoppage time.

Vancouver (10-5-7, 37 points) is just four points ahead of fifth-place OKC Energy. Tucked in between them are Galaxy II, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, and Sacramento Republic FC.

USL Leading Scorers:
15 Jack McBean
, LA Galaxy II
14 Chandler Hoffman, Louisville City
11 Sean Okoli, FC Cincinnati
11 Irvin Herrera, St. Louis FC
10 Kyle Greig, Whitecaps FC 2
10 Sammy Ochoa, Tulsa
9 Brandon Allen, NY Red Bulls II
9 Yudai Imura, Richmond
9 Romario Williams, Charleston

NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS. Louisville City FC regained first place in the Eastern Conference by beating Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 2-1, at Highmark Stadium on Friday.

Mike Green assisted on Corey Herzog’s goal that pushed Pittsburgh in front, but George Davis IV scored 10 minutes after halftime to tie the game. In the 70th minute, Green fouled Chandler Hoffman in the penalty area and was sent off. Mauricio Vargas saved Hoffman’s penalty kick, but LCFC exploited the man advantage in the 82nd minute when Davis netted his second goal.

Louisville City (13-3-6, 45 points) took back first place from New York Red Bulls II (13-3-5, 44 pts.), who had moved on top Tuesday by routing Harrisburg City Islanders, 5-0.

KICKERS’ QUICK REPLY RUNS STREAK TO SIX. Luiz Fernando scored the first goal and set up a late winner a minute after Richmond conceded an equalizer in a 2-1 defeat of FC Montreal that extended the Kickers’ victory run to six games.

Alessandro Riggi tied the game for FC Montreal in the 87th minute by converting a penalty kick whistled when he drew a foul. Just a minute later, Fernando found enough space to center a low ball that Yudai Imura knocked home to stun the crowd at the Claude Robillard sports complex.

Incredibly FC Montreal is still pointless at home (zero wins, nine losses, zero ties). Its record is a league-worst 2-18-1.

Imura also scored with a superb free kick on Wednesday in a 1-0 victory at Rochester. He’s scored six goals in his last six games as Richmond (11-6-5, 38 points) has jumped to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. It is three points behind third-place FC Cincinnati, which it hosts Saturday at City Stadium.

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