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USL midseason check-in: What’s going right, wrong for each team in the Championship

From surprise breakout players to disappointing tactical shifts, we’re taking the temperature of every team in the USL Championship.

12 min read

The USL Championship season is barreling towards its halfway point, and the league is packed tight at the top. Eight points separate first and ninth place in the Western Conference and the East feels like a bona fide four-horse race.

As teams are starting to feel settled and trends are starting to calcify, plenty can still change over the next four months. At this point last year, the Eastern playoff field was set in stone. El Paso led the West entering Week 15 in 2023; they barely made the playoffs and fired their manager less than a year later.

For better or worse, what’s defined every Championship club’s 2024 so far?

Birmingham Legion

What's gone right: Since Jonny Dean left for MLS (and arguably even before that point), the Legion have been leaky at the full back spot. Signing AJ Paterson this winter and adding Derek Dodson on loan in May have solved that problem and then some. Both are adept defenders who rarely are beaten in behind, and they’re anchors in the Birmingham 4-3-3.

What's gone wrong: No one has emerged at the striker spot. Birmingham has scored just 12 goals all year, the fourth-least in the league. Mohamed Bura Turay has been missing in action, and Stefano Pinho has been minimally impactful outside of a four-goal outburst in the Open Cup.

Charleston Battery

What's gone right: The defense has been completely unassailable, conceding just nine times in 14 games. Injuries to Juan Palma and Adam Grinwis have sidelined two players expected to contribute, but the structure of Ben Pirmann’s 4-2-3-1 and excellence of new signing Graham Smith (the USL leader in clearances) have more than made up for it.

What's gone wrong: Charleston hasn’t had a multi-goal game in the league since April and they aren’t getting enough from the wide areas. Juan David Torres is full of sizzle on the left without much end product, and full backs Mark Segbers and Nathan DosSantos have combined to complete just 12% of their cross attempts. The finishers are there, but the service is inconsistent.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks

What's gone right: No team in the West has more points than Colorado Springs from Week 6 onwards, and that’s due to the combination of Yosuke Hanya and Maalique Foster. Foster is a terror on the dribble (27 successful take-ons) from the right and can stretch defenses out, while Hanya is a keen passer in tight spaces from the left and a savvy presser (18 takeaways). They complement Ronaldo Damus perfectly and make excellent use of the space his gravity affords.

What's gone wrong: A big chunk of the Switchbacks’ points have come from beating up on bad teams (Oakland and El Paso ahead of coaching changes, one-win Rhode Island, etc.). They rarely look convincing at the back. Matt Mahoney and Koa Santos have stood out as defenders capable of recovering against the counter, but how will they hold up against the USL’s elite?

Detroit City

What's gone right: Taking a lightly supplemented core and turning it into one of the East’s classier attacking units has been a coup on the part of Danny Dichio, and it starts in the midfield. Dichio smartly identified that Maxi Rodriguez is more valuable as a set-up man. Rodriguez has only created six chances this year, but he still presses high and constantly provides the “pass before the assist” balls that every good offense requires.

What's gone wrong: The defense has taken a step back. Le Rouge is on pace to allow seven more goals this season than they did in 2023, and they haven’t nailed down a trustworthy starting foursome. Devon Amoo-Mensah has been an all-USL rock, but it’s all question marks beside him. 

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