USL Rewind: Sacramento is first Western team to clinch

Backed by a sellout crowd at Bonney Field, Sacramento Republic FC shook off the shock of conceding a goal in first-half stoppage time to beat Orange County Blues FC, 2-1, and nail down a playoff spot.

Sacramento took the field knowing that a 1-1 tie between Real Monarchs SLC and Tulsa Roughnecks earlier in the day had opened the door to clinching a spot. The Blues started the game tied with San Antonio FC for the bottom playoff slot in eighth place, and after two shots by Akwafei Ajeakwa rebounded off the woodwork took a 1-0 lead when their top scorer, Didier Crettenand, curled home a free kick off the inside of the post just before halftime.

Crettenand’s eighth goal of the season didn’t dissuade Republic FC, which responded to the roars of 11,569 fans by equalizing in the 48th minute and bagging a winner five minutes from time. Matt LaGrassa tied the game by sliding in at the back post to tuck away Danny Barrera’s cross (his team-high ninth assist), and Elliot Hord marked his first Republic FC start by serving up a ball that Harry Williams drove into the net.

At 13-6-8 (47 points), Sacramento leads the Western Conference by two points over Rio Grande Valley FC (12-5-9, 45 pts.), which holds a game in hand. Orange County Blues FC (10-13-4, 34 pts.) is still a point behind eighth-place San Antonio.
 
GOAL SPREE PROPELS INDEPENDENCE.
A big week of eight goals and six points lifted Charlotte two spots (sixth to fourth) in the Eastern Conference.

The Independence scored early, late, and in-between Sunday to rout Toronto FC II by a 5-1 score at the Ontario Soccer Centre. Patrick Slogic struck in the fourth minute to trigger Charlotte’s highest goal output of the season. Alex Martinez and David Estrada scored either side of halftime, and Aly Hassan and Norberto Ochoa tallied in the final minutes. A goal by Brian James in the 58th minute reduced the deficit to 3-1 but TFCII could get no closer.

Charlotte’s other Martinez, Enzo, scored twice in a rousing 3-2 defeat of FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, but the Independence needed a late winner from Jorge Herrera to prevail after Andrew Wiedemann and Sean Okoli netted equalizers for FC Cincy.

Cincinnati (13-6-7, 46 pts.) bounced back to beat Saint Louis FC, 2-1, and regain its hold on third place. Charlotte (13-7-6, 45 pts.) is fourth. TFC II’s heavy loss was its fifth in a row and dropped its record to 6-17-5 (27 pts.).
 
RED BULLS ROMP TO SIXTH STRAIGHT.
A 2-0 defeat of Bethlehem Steel FC at Goodman Stadium extended the Red Bulls II winning streak to six games and maintained a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference.

Jordan Allen converted a penalty kick for his 13th goal and fifth in the last seven games to provide a 1-0 lead Red Bulls II held until Derrick Etienne Jr. added a second goal in stoppage time. The victory improved RBII’s remarkable road record to 11-1-1 and overall mark to 18-3-5 (59 pts.).

Sub Konrad Plewa drew applause from players, coaches, and fans when he stepped onto the field. Plewa suffered a stroke after playing against Richmond July 30 and his return lifted the mood of the entire organization.

“It’s amazing, because he’s part of our family,” said Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan during a U.S. training session Monday in Jacksonville. “We’re a tight-knit group from the USL team all the way up to the first team, and Konrad trains with the first team quite often, so he’s been around the guys for the last two years now, and he’s also a Seton Hall boy so we have that connection.”
 
For a game against the Galaxy last month at StubHub Center, Red Bulls players walked onto the field for pregame introductions wearing T-shirts that read, “two teams, one voice” in a tribute to Plewa.
 
EDU STARTS COMEBACK. Union Designated Player Maurice Edu made his first appearance of the season and wore the captain’s armband for Bethlehem Steel against RBII as he works his way back from a stress fracture in his left tibia. He was cautioned in the 30th minute and substituted right after NYRBII took the lead.

USL Leading Scorers:
G PLAYER, TEAM
15 Jack McBean, LA Galaxy II
14 Chandler Hoffman, Louisville City
14 Sean Okoli, FC Cincinnati
13 Brandon Allen, NY Red Bulls II
12 Corey Hertzog, Pittsburgh
11 Irvin Herrera, St. Louis FC
11 Kyle Greig, Whitecaps FC 2
11 Cameron Iwasa, Sac Republic FC
10 Sammy Ochoa, Tulsa
10 Michael Cox, Orlando City B
10 Christian Volesky, Rochester
9 Yudai Imura, Richmond
9 Romario Williams, Charleston
9 Enzo Martinez, Charlotte
9 Long Tan, Arizona United

USL:
Results | Standings | Schedule


         
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