The first set of USL teams passed the two-thirds mark in their season this week, so it stands out that 22 of 24 teams are still very much alive in the playoff race. You can argue that this year’s expanded field, which includes eight clubs in each conference, dilutes the competition, but league-wide parity has never been higher.
Who kept their momentum going in the hunt for the postseason, and whose chances took a big hit? Let’s dig into the week that was in the USL Championship.
1.) Sacramento (+3)
Result: W 4-0 v. Phoenix, W 2-1 at Las Vegas
In a matter of about 35 minutes, Sacramento showed the value of Arnold Lopez and Jack Gurr to their side while facing Phoenix on Wednesday. The No. 6 and right back, respectively, have missed a good amount of time lately, coinciding with a dip in form for the Republic. With both in the squad, Sacramento led 4-0 by halftime, and Gurr himself capped off the crushing effort with a goal of his own.
The narrowness of Russell Cicerone, Zeiko Lewis, and Keko in the front line stood out. That trio ate the lunch of Phoenix's double pivot, forcing the guests into spatial issues that completely opened up the game. Sacramento's talent and tactical nous aligned spectacularly, solidified by the defensive presence of Lopez ahead of a stout center back trio.
Saturday wasn't as tremendous, but the Republic still got the job done against a tricky Las Vegas team. Arnold Lopez and Matt Lagrassa noticeably struggled against a high-tempo foe as a midfield pair in the 5-2-3 press, but that unchanged front three was as sharp as ever, punishing the Lights whenever they erred or failed to keep a coherent back line. All in all, it capped off a banner week for a team that needed to find its early season form once more.