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USL Power Rankings: Louisville City stay top, elite teams clash & more from Week 13

After 13 weeks of USL Championship action, we're ranking every team in the league.

24 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

Saturday was the busiest day in the history of the USL, featuring 72 games across the organization’s four highest-level leagues. 10 of those games came in the USL Championship. There was a statement win by Tampa Bay in a matchup of top contenders, a near upset in South Beach, and a surprise shootout in Orange County to headline a packed round of matches.

Who stood out amidst the jam-packed week, and which teams got a bump in the power rankings? Let’s dig in.

1. Louisville (No change)

Result: 5-1 win v. Detroit, 2-1 win at Miami

There are a million things that make LouCity great, but their ruthless efficiency in attack may be the most important factor of all. The club entered the week second in the USL with a 17% conversion rate, and they hung five goals on Detroit on Wednesday to live up to that reputation. Meanwhile, a slim win in South Beach on Saturday illustrated how Louisville can earn points even when they aren’t firing on all cylinders.

In that midweek game, Danny Cruz opted for a more aggressive 3-4-3, a shape that ate their Michigander guests alive between the lines. Adrian Perez, Ray Serrano, and Jorge Gonzalez split time in the wing positions and took more than 80 touches. Their engagement liberated Wilson Harris further ahead, maximizing his ability to curl over the top and challenge a defense from all angles. It took a half for LouCity to really get going, but they didn't let up once things came together.

Late-game subs Sam Gleadle and Niall McCabe both stayed on as weekend starters in Miami, but the intensity they brought against Detroit was nowhere to be found. Louisville was outshot by the worst team in the USL and gave up 1.7 xG; they sat their full backs extremely deep and lollygagged in possession. It seemed to be an issue of underestimating a sneaky opponent more than anything else, and it took until the 84th minute to take a permanent lead.

If there’s a lesson, it’s that the best teams in the USL can’t take any games for granted. As good as the Detroit win was, it’s clear that one game of laxity and mediocre finishing can easily turn into a loss. Louisville has the quality to avoid those worst-case scenarios, but they still can’t rest on their laurels.

2. Charleston (No change)

Result: 0-0 draw at Monterey

Make it three winless games in a row for Charleston across all competitions, a streak extended away at Monterey on Wednesday night. Ben Pirmann used a fairly typical lineup, with the big change coming at the No. 10 spot with Arturo Rodriguez returning to the starting lineup.

Rodriguez was solid if unspectacular, and his ability to make space for the inverted Juan David Torres on the left was key. Torres took a game-high seven shots from his wing position. Less successful was Nick Markanich on the right. It's becoming a "feast or famine" situation for the USL leader in goals; Markanich is either scoring for fun or struggling to get involved with little in between. At Monterey, he completed just 20 passes, equal to Daniel Kuzemka in the Battery net.

Charleston looked slow in the passing game, and they were regularly burned by a fast-paced opponent going the other way. The hosts attacked in a 4-3-3 that made hay with direct breaks into their wingers in the channels, and the Battery were uncharacteristically laggy in their recoveries. It took an excellent first half in particular from Kuzemka to stay level and preserve a draw.

Still, there's likely nothing to worry about for Charleston at a macro level. Even with the dip in form, they're sitting on just one league loss, and they can build up a gap atop the table with Pittsburgh and Detroit on the menu in the next two weeks.

3. Tampa Bay (+4)

Result: 1-0 win at Sacramento

Outside of an anomalous stretch of back-to-back losses at the start of May, the Rowdies have been neigh untouchable all season long. This weekend’s victory over a previously indomitable Sacramento team is the icing on the cake. Tampa Bay played their game, limiting chances in a well-constructed 5-3-2 and generating the better looks in front of net even with Manuel Arteaga out of the squad.

The press was unique this week because of Robbie Neilson’s personnel choices.

Cal Jennings operated as a right winger of sorts, working off the side of Charlie Dennis in a more classical No. 9 position. If Sacramento worked in the opposite direction, Josh Perez was the man to step up to make a stop. Dennis’ deployment was the fascinating thing. Usually used as a No. 8 or free-roaming No. 10, he totaled two interceptions and six ball recoveries amidst that elevated defensive deployment.

Further back, Neilson’s ability to cleanly replace Forrest Lasso has been hugely impressive. Starting Freddy Kleemann, a hulking defender in the Lasso mold, would’ve been the obvious thing. Instead, Neilson moved Jordan Doherty from the right to the center of the back three and deployed Eddie Munjoma to fill out the open spot. Neither is a bruiser, but both are athletic enough to cover space, cut out passes, and battle for the ball when called upon.

The result of the smart lineup choices was a 14-shot edge over the Republic in which the hosts never got going. Tampa Bay is setting the tone week in and week out right now, and they’re doing it against the best teams in the USL.

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