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USL Power Rankings: Rhode Island surge, a title rematch in the desert & more from Week 16

After 16 weeks of USL Championship action, we're ranking every team in the league.

26 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

Week 16 in the USL felt like a coda for the opening stages of the 2024 season.

Indy and Colorado Springs’ months-long unbeaten streaks came to an end. Louisville, previously impenetrable within the confines of Lynn Family Stadium, took their lumps in a major way. Oh, and the hot stove continued to sizzle as clubs hone in on their needs for the stretch run.

Who’s up, who’s down, and what stood out across a week packed with 14 matches? Let’s dig in.

1. Tampa Bay (+1)

Result: 1-0 win at Hartford

Playing against a team that's down a man can be a revealing challenge, and Tampa Bay faced that task on Friday night. The Rowdies held 60% of possession even before Hartford's red card just before halftime, and that share leapt to 70% for the final 45 minutes. Robbie Neilson's changes to get three points illustrated why Tampa Bay is a force to be reckoned with at the top of the USL.

In the early going, it was the usual formula for the Rowdies.

Though Charlie Dennis earned a somewhat surprising start over Manuel Arteaga up top, the usual 3-5-2 with two higher-placed No. 8s in the midfield wasn't much changed. That shape gave Hartford fits, especially when the wing backs pushed up to press; Pacifique Nyongabire and Eddie Munjoma put in six successful tackles from the wide spots. Turnovers forced in the opposing half were Tampa Bay's most effective route to chances, in fact.

When Hartford went down to 10 men, they sunk into a 5-4-0 shape that was even harder to break down.

Neilson trusted the process for 60 minutes, but he smartly opted to adopt more of a 3-4-3 (or 3-2-5 in attack, really) featuring Damian Rivera in the left wing role. Rivera brought an added bit of one-on-one verve on the dribble, and he allowed Tampa Bay to break down the parked bus on the other side with more regularity. A game-winning penalty came just before added time, and it was a deserved reward for a controlled game and for Neilson's measured management.

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