The USL Championship came into the week with two remaining teams in the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup, and both advanced with big wins over MLS opponents. How did those two teams fare back in league action, and what other major trends stood out as the league passed the one-third mark in the regular season?
Let’s dig into the performances and decisions that mattered in Week 12.
1. Sacramento (No change)
Result: W 4-1 at Hartford
Facing down a Hartford team that reliably uses three steely central midfielders, Mark Briggs aligned the Republic in a little-chosen 3-5-2 to match up evenly. The system worked to perfection, with Luis Felipe acting as a high-pressing third man in the forward line before slinking deep whenever Hartford showed signs of life.
Further back, Jared Timmer had himself a day as the rightmost member of the Sacramento back three. He regularly carried the ball wide of the opposing press, leading his side into the attacking half and instantly creating overloads down the right. The hosts would over-adjust and close too hard to Timmer's flank, and a lofted switch or deft cutback would lead to instant danger from there.
Going from California to Connecticut and earning a dominant win is no mean feat, but it's the kind of thing that can be taken for granted when you're as dominant as Sacramento.
2. El Paso (No change)
Riding five wins in a row, the Locomotive will rue the fact that they’re on a bye week. Still, giving star defenders Yuma and Marc Navarro extra time to recover from injuries will be useful, and Brian Clarhaut's pragmatic approach seems too well-considered to collapse with a week's inaction. El Paso is probably the surprise of 2023 so far, exceeding all reasonable expectations and doing it in style, and they ought to enjoy the brief respite.