Comparing the Eastern and Western Conferences in the USL Championship is always an interesting exercise. The West is typically considered more skillful and faster-paced than the tactical, bruising East, but the latter has more parity from top to bottom.
Take or leave the stereotypes, but there’s a real argument that the best three teams in the league all reside in the West. A great battle between El Paso and Tampa Bay provided a chance to ponder as much, and the result was a new team at the top of these Power Rankings.
Elsewhere, New Mexico named a coach as the Eastern bubble continued to clarify itself. Let’s dig into the week that was in the USL.
1.) El Paso (+4)
Result: W 2-1 v. Las Vegas, D 1-1 v. Tampa Bay
The patterns are familiar, but the results are the same: the Locomotive can flat-out score. Aaron Gomez plays very high on the left wing, constantly swapping spots with second striker Ricardo Zacarias. Their movement always draws opponents toward the sideline.
Meanwhile, Denys Kostshyn sits deeper on the right side of the 4-4-2 to accommodate overlaps and assist in build-up. However, the moment the opposition over-commits leftward, the Ukrainian turns on his impressive acceleration, bursting to the far post. He leads the Locomotive in shot attempts despite that baseline role as a deep-creator. Question the penchant for low-percentage strikes from range, but Kostyshyn opens up a game.
Despite some early missteps against Las Vegas, the patterns worked. The Lights put a premium on aggressive pressure on the flanks, but El Paso successfully worked past them to play their typical game. Brilliant defending at the back from the breakout Erik McCue-Bence Pavkovics duo saw things out in a parked 4-4-2.
Though shakier to start against Tampa Bay, the Locomotive picked up their game across that match and were unlucky to only earn a draw. An initial inability to leverage Luis Solignac's hold-up play versus three center backs turned into numerous breaks down the right channel, and later subs like Emmanuel Sonupe changed the game. Now first in the West and unbeaten in 12, this team deserves the nod as the USL's best club.