We’re inching closer and closer to the halfway point of the USL Championship season. Which teams are leading the pack this year? Let’s run through my top five teams in the league as things stand today.
1. SAN ANTONIO FC
San Antonio is tied for the lead in the USL’s Western Conference on points, getting there on the back of a counter attacking approach that limits quality shots and generates chances in transition.
With just three losses and a top five defense in terms of goals allowed per 90, San Antonio’s success starts at the back. Goalkeeper Jordan Farr leads the league in goals saved above average, central defender Mitchell Taintor anchors the defense (and has also added four goals at the other end), and a stable of box-to-box midfielders forms a solid spine. Pair that solidity with Justin Dhillon’s five goals and the addition of forward Samuel Adeniran on loan, and you can see why San Antonio has been so successful.
2. COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS
In 2021, Colorado Springs boasted a top-three goalscoring attack in the USL – and more than 40% of those strikes came from Golden Boot winner Hadji Barry. Barry already has five goals this season, but that’s only a quarter of the production from the league’s best offense.
Tied with San Antonio on points, everything starts with the press for the Switchbacks. Fast wingers and free-roaming central midfielders push high to force turnovers and keep possession in the final third. The Switchbacks also limit foes by dominating the ball; it’s a virtuous cycle that’s led to a league-best points per game sum for Brendan Burke’s team.
3. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES
After losing all-leaguers Evan Louro, a goalkeeper, and Forrest Lasso, a center back, in the offseason, the Rowdies started slowly this year. They’re back in form now, though, with recent wins over Phoenix Rising and Louisville City, in which Louisville didn’t register a single shot on target. Jake LaCava, who signed on loan from the New York Red Bulls, has been excellent, contributing six goals and pairing with wingback-turned-forward Leo Fernandes to provide plenty of attacking danger.
Behind them, Yann Ekra and Lewis Hilton in the midfield and Aaron Guillen, Connor Antley, and Jordan Scarlett in the back have rebuilt their chemistry to get Tampa back up near the top of the East.
4. SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC
Another team that started 2022 a bit slowly, Sacramento found their stride when they adopted a back-three shape in April. Since then, the Republic have allowed just two goals in nine matches, a stretch that includes a 1-0 win over San Antonio and an Open Cup upset win against the San Jose Earthquakes. Veteran midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, who ranks in the 92nd percentile for expected assists per 90, scored the game-sealing goal against the Earthquakes and dictates matches in the middle.
Still, the defense is the key. Aggressive wingback play, a quality double pivot, and the center back trio of Dan Casey, Conor Donovan, and Lee Desmond have carried the red-hot Republic up the Western Conference standings.
5. MEMPHIS 901 FC
Memphis rank first in the East on both total points and points per game. They’ve moved up the Eastern Conference’s ladder by becoming a possession-based, fluid attacking side in 2022.
Laurent Kissiedou and Aaron Molloy drive the buildup and thread killer passes into the middle, always moving to drag defenders out as soon as the ball leaves their feet. Meanwhile, winger Jeremy Kelly has been immense as a creator on the left: he has a strong penchant for cutting inside and beating opponents. 901 FC have the second-best goalscoring offense in the USL and a top-ten defense, too. They look like the real deal even after a loss to rival Birmingham Legion.