The boys in Old Glory Red kickoff the 2021 USL Championship regular season on the road this Friday night against LA Galaxy II.
Both California clubs will be competing in the Pacific Division this season, along with Phoenix Rising FC, San Diego Loyal SC, Oakland Roots, SC, Orange County SC, Tacoma Defiance and Las Vegas Lights FC.
For some teams, this weekend marks the start of the new season but a pair of matches officially opened the Championship season last Saturday when Louisville City FC downed Atlanta United 2, 2-0, before FC Tulsa triumphed 3-1 over OKC Energy FC.
Aside from tuning into the Indomitable Club on April 30 against Los Dos, it’s time to take a quick look at who the rest of the Pac Division is playing over the next week and a few of the league’s three biggest bouts this weekend.
While Republic FC is competing against LA Galaxy II on Friday, San Diego Loyal SC will be paying a visit to the 2020 Western Conference champions – Phoenix Rising FC. The match is the ESPN Game of the Week and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Heading into the 2021 campaign, Rising FC was recently ranked second in the USL Championship Week 1 Power Rankings and Phoenix will open the new season against a Loyal SC also ranked in the Top Ten. The boys in Old Glory Red claimed the No. 8 spot on the league-wide rankings.
Both clashes are the lone Pacific Division fixtures this coming weekend but come Wednesday, May 5, Los Dos is back in action when LAG II host Las Vegas Lights FC. The match will be former USMNT player Steve Cherundolo’s first game in charge of Lights FC during a league fixture as Head Coach.
Tampa Bay is the defending Eastern Conference title-winners and Rowdies will open the season against a strong Charlotte Independence side that earned a spot in the quarterfinals of the 2020 playoffs after taking the top spot in Group G last year.
Charlotte – Republic FC defender Duke Lacroix’s former club – also experienced the departure of the league’s all-time leading goalscorer, Dane Kelly, but Independence added a handful of promising players to add to the offensive attack. Midfielder Marcelo Palomino joined the club on-loan from Houston Dynamo FC and proven point producer Irvin Parra who has 27 goals and 17 assists in USL play.
These two Central Division clubs are primed to compete for the top spot in the standings so what better way to kick off the 2021 season than going head-to-head?
Legion secured a spot in the 2020 postseason after finishing second in Group G but bowed out to the eventual conference champs – Tampa Bay. Birmingham is eyeing a swift return to the postseason and strengthened the squad by adding fellow defenders Phanuel Kavita and Ryan James and the league’s leading goalscorer from last season – Junior Flemmings.
Indy narrowly missed out the playoffs last season and will be fully focused on making a positive first impression this campaign. Eleven added a number of new faces including a pair of players with USL experience – forward Jordan Hamilton who also previously played in Major League Soccer and defender AJ Cochran who joins Indy from Rising FC.
San Antonio was one of the top teams defensively in the West in 2020, tied with San Diego Loyal SC with the fewest goals surrendered – just 15. But the club from the Lone Star State will need to replace starting centerback Mitchell Taintor who returns to Sacramento after a season with SAFC. Hoping to fill his boots are defenders Sam Gleadle who joins from MLS-side Minnesota United FC and another defender with MLS experience, Axel Sjoberg.
Colorado Springs may be starting the season on the road but there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the 2021 season as the club will be moving into a new 8,000 seat-stadium. Not to mention, there’s also plenty of excitement surrounding the club’s offseason signings including former SRFC defender Matt Mahoney, Guinean forward Hadji Berry, former all-league defender Jimmy Ockford and former USMNT player Jose Francisco Torres.
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