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USL Power Rankings: The West stays wild, transfer moves & more from Week 14

After 14 weeks of USL Championship action, we're ranking every team in the league.

27 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

Roughly three months into the USL season, it’s the time of year where teams are crystal clear on their needs and are making moves to address them. This week, San Antonio and Sacramento both made waves by adding Jake LaCava and Justin Portillo, respectively, to patch the holes in their squads. The moves are only going to increase in regularity as the playoff race calcifies and contenders and bubble teams alike decide to strengthen their rosters.

With both LaCava and Portillo debuting and 23 out of 24 clubs in the USL Championship in action, what stood out? And whose stock is up? Let’s dig in.

1. Louisville (No change)

Result: 2-1 win v. North Carolina

Wilson Harris, one of two double-digit scorers in the USL entering the weekend, has been LouCity's talisman all season long. His combination of timely finishing and highly intelligent movement in and out of possession drives Danny Cruz's system, but Cruz and his side had to adapt with Harris out this weekend. In his stead, an all-winger front line of Jorge Gonzalez, Adrien Perez, and Ray Serrano got the nod.

In typical style, Serrano pressed in a classic 3-4-3 before dropping deeper for offensive touches to approximate a three-man central midfield. That read was crucial, allowing Elijah Wynder all the more freedom to rove towards the right to find gaps in the opposing shape. The Wynder-Aiden McFadden two-man game was an engine for LouCity, who looked to attack the flanks and own the half spaces against a guest in an identical defensive formation to their own.

McFadden eventually found substitute Sam Gleadle for the opening goal, but the fact that Gleadle and fellow bench piece Dylan Mares had an impact is meaningful for this side. To date, Cruz has run a fairly limited and tight rotation up top, with even some proven stars rarely seeing time. On Saturday, both came into the forward line and made a two-way impact as offensive facilitators and effortful pressers.

Though the guests got a consolation goal, this was as dominant as usual for LouCity, even though the team looked somewhat different. That ability to win even with a suboptimal lineup is the sign of an undeniable contender.

2. Indy (+3)

Result: 1-0 win at Birmingham

Indy’s rise into legitimate title contention has come because of their excellent offensive play. League assist leader Aedan Stanley has been good for a jaw-dropping cross every half hour or so, and what’s more fun than a 6’3” center back waltzing into the final third on the overlap? Behind those principles, however, is a defense that deserves equal amounts of credit.

Against Birmingham this weekend, Indy made the right shifts to make sure they could stay whole against a mobile attack. The Legion have tended to use an unbalanced shape in build with a deeper-seated left back. Rather than throw bodies forward against the proxy back three, Sean McAuley elected to drop forward Douglas Martinez into a flatter, stingier 5-4-1. There were moments of pressure with Martinez and midfielder-forward hybrid Sebastian Guenzatti flying high, but closing runs were arced in a manner that drove the hosts right into the central morass.

Of course, the usual suspects were influential in the attack. Jack Blake converted a first-half penalty. Stanley was a constant weapon down the left. All three central defenders were allowed to dribble upfield and make clever runs, and they did so without a second thought. That support from deep was especially crucial, whether it took the form of Callum Chapman-Page carrying up the center of the pitch or Adrian Diz Pe overlapping on the left sideline.

The Eleven are winning in routs (see the 4-1 win against Hartford), nabbing points against the run of play (last week’s 2-1 win in Pittsburgh), and identifying when they can settle in and see games out defensively (Sunday against Birmingham). You don’t get to a nine-game winning streak in all competitions without a deep arsenal, and Indy has proven to be a team that can beat anybody in any context.

3. New Mexico (+1)

Result: 1-0 win v. Hartford

Eric Quill's strength as a manager is the ability to create a high-energy system, implement it, and trust each and every member of his squad to execute within it. That ability pushed New Mexico to the top of the table – albeit with a flat goal difference along the way – and makes this team incredibly hard to game plan against. Against Hartford on Saturday, that was most apparent through the usage of Marco Micaletto and Daniel Bruce.

Micaletto was one of the breakout stars of the early season, but he hadn't started since a two assist effort against NYCFC II in the Open Cup a few weeks back. Restored to the left side of a pivot partnership, Micaletto found himself in acres of space and dominated from the midfield, weaponizing Mukwelle Akale's speed and the smart right-sided overlaps of Abdi Mohamed with aplomb.

Bruce, meanwhile, essentially operated as the primary striker while New Mexico was out of possession, pushing the team's leading scorer, Greg Hurst, into the No. 10 spot. The twosome traded roles in attack or both bombed into the box while their team had the ball. The change was a wise one, maximizing Bruce's unending energy as a presser and weaponizing the heftier Hurst in a spot where he could make a defensive impact (or at least idly fill space) without sacrificing offensive joy.

Their combined efforts kept New Mexico firmly in control in the final third, where a strong counterpress eventually set up a Micaletto winner from range. Late deflected goal? A reliance on substitute players and slightly tweaked tactics? A win in spite of the shabby circumstances on the surface? That’s New Mexico United in 2024. 

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