With just four weeks remaining in the USL Championship season, only four teams have booked their tickets for the postseason. On Saturday, Sacramento became the first team in the Western Conference to do so, joining Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Charleston in the East. That leaves 11 open spots that are still up in the air, and this week’s results went a long way in determining who will make the cut and who will earn a valuable home playoff game.
From a back-and-forth battle of the titans in San Antonio to transfer news and a broken win streak in Orange County to a late winner for Pittsburgh, let’s dig in to see what mattered in Week 28.
1.) Pittsburgh (+1)
Result: W 2-1 at Miami
After a brace last week, Albert Dikwa returned to the top of the Golden Boot standings, and he once again anchored Pittsburgh's lineup on the road to Miami this time out. Unlike many a star striker, Dikwa isn't a self-starter and doesn't excel as a solo act - his game shines while running off a partner or while holding up possession to keep a defense honest. In South Beach, Dikwa consistently leaned into that latter skill, especially anchoring Pittsburgh's offense as they focused against Miami's weaker right side.
In truth, the Riverhounds' defense was the real star, per usual. Pittsburgh's usual 5-3-2 press hardly put a foot wrong, with Junior Etou and Kenardo Forbes sitting in low on the left side to combat Miami's off-balance shape. When the time came, Bob Lilley changed up the look subtly, putting Juan Obregon up top as Dikwa's strike partner, but one that could slip into a lower 5-4-1. Obregon would force a turnover and streak into the box to earn the go-ahead penalty.
It was all a very Pittsburgh outing in the end, despite the need for an added time winner; the 'Hounds basically spent 90 minutes going unchallenged. This team is as no-nonsense as they come, and they've maintained a high level all season. Few times are this consistent and less defined by streaky runs of form, a trait that should leave them with a high floor come playoff time.