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USL Championship Power Rankings – Week 4

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 05/19/21, 12:00PM EDT

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Four teams remain perfect, which one has the best chance of equaling a league record?

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Championship’s Power Rankings.

After the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ victory on Saturday night against Phoenix Rising FC, we’re now down to four teams with perfect records this season. The Rowdies, FC Tulsa and Rio Grande Valley FC have all made 3-0-0 starts to the season, while Sacramento Republic FC is at 2-0-0.

Those first three teams are now at the halfway point to one of the Championship’s earliest established records of most consecutives wins to start a season. The Richmond Kickers set the standard in the Championship’s first year, winning six in a row to start the 2011 campaign, and the Rochester Rhinos matched them a year later.

The league has certainly changed a lot in the nine years since then – for one, it’s now got two-and-a-half times more teams, and the quality and depth across the league continues to accelerate rapidly. But if you had to make a pick, which of the four would have best chance to come match either Richmond or Rochester’s feat?

The smart money would probably be on Tampa Bay. The Rowdies are no strangers to fast starts – under Head Coach Neill Collins they’ve posted 13- and nine-game undefeated streaks to start the past two seasons. They’re also favored according to fivethirtyeight.com’s match predictor, sitting at 60 percent to defeat Miami FC this Saturday, 65% to defeat the New York Red Bulls II on June 2, and then 42 percent to defeat the Charlotte Independence on June 5.

Tulsa could also have a chance, favored in its next two games starting on Wednesday night against Atlanta United 2 (46%) and on June 2 against Sporting Kansas City II (50%) before becoming an underdog against Birmingham Legion FC (28%) on June 5.

The Toros and Republic FC, meanwhile, will go into their next outings as underdogs, with RGVFC visiting El Paso Locomotive and Sacramento heading to Orange County SC on Saturday. Both of those games should be must-sees regardless, but the potential for history should be one of the storylines going in for both visitors.

Here’s how the big picture looks today. As always, feel free to come and yell at me on Twitter (@NJEMurray).

Atlanta United 2 Austin Bold FC Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC El Paso Locomotive FC
Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven LA Galaxy II Las Vegas Lights FC Loudoun United FC Louisville City FC Memphis 901 FC
The Miami FC New Mexico United New York Red Bulls II Oakland Roots SC OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Real Monarchs SLC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC San Antonio FC San Diego Loyal SC Sporting KC II
Tacoma Defiance Tampa Bay Rowdies FC Tulsa

Biggest Movers

Rank

 

Team

Change

Summary

1 Tampa Bay Rowdies
(3-0-0)
Week 5: v. MIA

Last Week:
1
In their first three games of each season since joining the Championship in 2017, the Rowdies are now 12-1-2 after their victory against Phoenix. Fast starters, consistently.
2 FC Tulsa
(3-0-0)
Week 5: @ ATL
1
Last Week:
3
Tulsa gets a chance to stretch its perfect run to start 2021 on the road against Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night in the first meeting between the two clubs, but should be wary of a team that’s notched upsets before at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
3 El Paso Locomotive FC
(0-0-1)
Week 5: v. RGV
1
Last Week:
4
Locomotive FC’s clash this Saturday with Rio Grande Valley FC is going to be a must-see, but the hosts could miss goalkeeper Logan Ketterer, who shone in his MLS debut after joining the Portland Timbers on loan last week.
4 Rio Grande Valley FC
(3-0-0)
Week 5: @ ELP
4
Last Week:
8
The Toros will put their perfect record on the line in El Paso after another performance that has left the old era in the dust. The midfield with Rodrigo Lopez, James Murphy and and Wan Kuzain is ticking over nicely.
5 Phoenix Rising FC
(2-1-0)
Week 5: v. LV
3
Last Week:
2
Phoenix was frozen out in attack by the Rowdies’ defense and will be looking to get back on track against a Las Vegas Lights FC side that has conceded eight goals in its first two games.
6 Louisville City FC
(1-0-1)
Week 5: v. SD
1
Last Week:
5
Louisville returns to action with a visit from San Diego Loyal SC on Saturday night and will be eager to get back in the win column even with the absence of Brian Ownby due to suspension.
7 Sacramento Republic FC
(2-0-0)
Week 5: @ OC

Last Week:
7
Steady as she goes in Sacramento after last Wednesday’s win against Las Vegas. Dariusz Formella continues to come into his own, and maybe should be gaining more attention for the way he’s leading Republic FC’s attack.
8 New Mexico United
(1-1-1)
Week 5: @ COS
2
Last Week:
10
United looked very much like their old selves back at Isotopes Park for the first time since 2019. Now they’ll try to spoil the party for the Switchbacks on Friday night at Weidner Field’s first official league game.
9 Indy Eleven
(1-1-0)
Week 5: v. SKC

Last Week:
9
The Boys in Blue are back in action against Sporting Kansas City II on Saturday and could be looking for a little payback after the last meeting between the teams in 2020 ended up costing Indy a playoff position.
10 San Antonio FC
(1-1-1)
Week 5: v. BHM
4
Last Week:
6
Suffering a first loss of the season to a rival is always tough, but at least there was the silver lining of Jose Gallegos making his first appearance down in the Rio Grande Valley last Sunday.
11 Hartford Athletic
(2-0-1)
Week 5: ---
1
Last Week:
12
Hartford maintained its undefeated record thanks to Luka Prpa’s late equalizer against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to continue its steady progression under Head Coach Harry Watling.
12 Birmingham Legion FC
(1-1-1)
Week 5: @ SA
2
Last Week:
14
Legion at Legion proved a roaring success with Birmingham coming away with victory before a record crowd. The overall performance that put 10 shots on goal should have fans excited, too.
13 The Miami FC
(2-1-0)
Week 5: @ TBR
2
Last Week:
15
There are still questions about the finishing for Miami, but at least on Friday night they were able to eke out a victory against the New York Red Bulls II to position themselves nicely going to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
14 LA Galaxy II
(2-1-1)
Week 5: v. SKC, v. OAK
2
Last Week:
16
Los Dos jumped into first place in the Pacific Division with Friday’s win on the road against the Monarchs, now in a two-game week they get a chance to push forward against SKC II and Oakland Roots SC.
15 Tacoma Defiance
(2-0-1)
Week 5: --
14
Last Week:
29
Back-to-back victories against San Diego Loyal SC and Orange County SC will get you a sizeable bump up the rankings. The Defiance’s youngsters look like they’ve turned a corner after absorbing prior lessons.
16 Orange County SC
(0-1-0)
Week 5: v. SAC
5
Last Week:
11
That wasn’t the start Orange County was looking for in Tacoma, and all of us hope Adam Jahn gets better soon after that first half substitution. Sacramento’s going to be another test on Saturday.
17 Charlotte Independence
(1-1-0)
Week 5: @ PIT
3
Last Week:
20
The Independence go from a victory against a team they’d never beaten on the road previously in Charleston to defending an undefeated series record against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night.
18 Charleston Battery
(0-1-1)
Week 5: v. NY
5
Last Week:
13
The Battery weren’t flat in their home opener, but the Independence made them pay while the hosts couldn’t get their chances to go. We expect a bounce-back display on Sunday against the Red Bulls II.
19 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
(1-1-0)
Week 5: v. NM
3
Last Week:
22
Hadji Barry reached 40 regular-season goals in the Championship with his brace last Friday night, while Michee Ngalina lit up the night as well. There could be on-field fireworks at Weidner Field’s opening, as well as the real deal as part of the night’s festivities.
20 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
(0-1-1)
Week 5: v. CLT
3
Last Week:
17
The Hounds looked in control at halftime against Hartford, and then took their foot off the gas and allowed a late equalizer to the Athletic. Losing Kenardo Forbes to suspension for Saturday hurts as well.
21 Austin Bold FC
(0-1-0)
Week 5: @ SLC
3
Last Week:
18
It was always going to be a big ask to take on New Mexico in its return to Isotopes Park, but there were signs that good things are coming for Austin this season. Let’s see how they fare on Friday night against the Monarchs.
22 New York Red Bulls II
(1-2-1)
Week 5: @ LDN (W), @ CHS
3
Last Week:
25
New York might have found its goalkeeper in AJ Marcucci, who’s been sharp in his two performances over the past week, including in Tuesday night’s first win of the season against Loudoun United FC.
23 Memphis 901 FC
(0-1-0)
Week 5: @ ATL

Last Week:
23
Memphis got a brilliant display from John Berner in goal, but it wasn’t enough to keep Birmingham from victory. Still, for a pretty new-look side, there’s something to build on here.
24 Oakland Roots SC
(0-1-0)
Week 5: @ LA

Last Week:
24
Oakland gets back in action on Sunday evening against the LA Galaxy II, which should give us another idea of how this side is starting to come together.
25 Atlanta United 2
(1-1-1)
Week 5: v. MEM
1
Last Week:
26
Tyler Wolff’s late equalizer showed the persistence Atlanta can bring to the table, but it’s going to need to be sharper against FC Tulsa to get a result on Wednesday night.
26 San Diego Loyal SC
(0-3-0)
Week 5: @ LOU
7
Last Week:
19
Three losses out of three is very far from where this team looked like it was heading in preseason. SD Loyal needs to stop the bleeding, fast.
27 Real Monarchs SLC
(0-1-1)
Week 5: v. ATX
6
Last Week:
21
The Monarchs couldn’t find a way past Los Dos last Friday night and now get another test from Austin Bold FC looking for their first win of 2021.
28 Loudoun United FC
(0-2-0)
Week 5: v. NY (L)

Last Week:
28
Loudoun could count itself a little unlucky not to take something from Tuesday night’s defeat to the Red Bulls II after hitting the woodwork twice. The breaks will start to go their way at some point, surely?
29 OKC Energy FC
(0-2-2)
Week 5: --
1
Last Week:
30
Energy FC once again let a lead slip late, this time to Atlanta United 2. Next week’s trip to face Birmingham Legion FC is going to be a difficult one, too.
30 Sporting Kansas City II
(0-2-1)
Week 5: @ IND
3
Last Week:
27
SKC II got run off the park by the Switchbacks, but they’ve had a good history against the LA Galaxy II and will look to lean on that as they head West for Wednesday’s game.
31 Las Vegas Lights FC
(0-2-0)
Week 5: @ PHX

Last Week:
31
Once again, Las Vegas showed glimpses of what it could be, but the defensive issues came back to bite them again. Going to Phoenix on Saturday isn’t the remedy for that, either.

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