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USL Championship Power Rankings – Week 8

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com', 06/16/21, 1:30PM EDT

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El Paso retains top spot, while Birmingham maintains upward momentum

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

While the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ winning streak to start the season came to an end recently, there’s been another one building in the Eastern Conference courtesy of Birmingham Legion FC.

And with four wins on the bounce, Head Coach Tom Soehn’s team feels like it’s in exactly the right position to make a big impact as this season goes on as it heads to face Louisville City FC for the second time this season on Wednesday night.

Birmingham’s main numbers are solid – 16 points through eight games has it equal with Mountain and Pacific Division leaders Rio Grande Valley and Phoenix Rising FC for second-most in the league behind Tampa Bay – and so are the club’s underlying numbers as well. According to American Soccer Analysis, Legion FC has the fifth-best Expected Goal Differential in the league at +2.57.

Yet, there is a belief within the camp that there’s room for improvement. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it but tonight wasn’t a great performance for us,” said Soehn after his side took a 2-1 win against OKC Energy FC last Saturday. “It was a hard game to play on a really small field and we didn’t have enough of the ball, but you’ve got to find a way to gut those kind of results out. Credit to the guys they found a way to win it today. Later on when you look back, these are the important points.”

If finding a way to win is the hallmark of a contender, you can put Birmingham in that category right now.

Here’s how the rest of 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 El Paso Locomotive FC
(3-0-3)
Week 9: @ SLC

Last Week:
1
El Paso’s shutout streak ended at 466 minutes – 13th-longest in the Championship’s history – but it stayed undefeated with a four-point week that kept the Toros within view in the Mountain Division.
2 Tampa Bay Rowdies
(6-1-0)
Week 9: v. PIT

Last Week:
2
The Rowdies probably should have put their game with Loudoun United away sooner than the closing minutes, but they got the job done in the end. Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh should be a good one.
3 Phoenix Rising FC
(5-1-1)
Week 9: @ SD

Last Week:
3
Solomon Asante’s magic lifted Rising FC against Tacoma, but the laxness at times in defense should have been punished by better finishing. Can be good to get a wake-up call without dropping points.
4 Rio Grande Valley FC
(5-1-1)
Week 9: v. ATX, @ SA

Last Week:
4
The Toros made it four wins out of four at home on Saturday night, but they’re going to have to find more cutting edge more consistently to keep that going with some tough games ahead, starting with Austin on Wednesday night.
5 Birmingham Legion FC
(5-2-1)
Week 9: @ LOU, v. ATX
2
Last Week:
7
Legion FC needed a late goal from JJ Williams in OKC, but that’s four consecutive wins the side has reeled off to move four points clear in the Central Division. Things are ticking over nicely right now.
6 New Mexico United
(3-2-2)
Week 9: v. SA

Last Week:
6
New Mexico huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a shot on target for the first time in its USL Championship history on Saturday night against Austin Bold FC. That puts added pressure on Wednesday’s playoff rematch with San Antonio.
7 Louisville City FC
(3-2-1)
Week 9: v. BHM, @ TUL
3
Last Week:
10
Louisville’s attack finally got the breakthrough the numbers said it deserved against Memphis. They’ll be looking to continue that form against a strong Birmingham Legion FC side on Wednesday night.
8 Charlotte Independence
(4-2-0)
Week 9: @ NY
4
Last Week:
12
The Independence became the first side to knock off Hartford Athletic this season, and have won four out of five now themselves. With Dane Kelly notching his first goal of the season, the signs are looking positive.
9 San Antonio FC
(2-1-4)
Week 9: @ NM, v. RGV
1
Last Week:
8
San Antonio is undefeated in four games, but it’s only taken a point from each of its last three after Friday’s 1-1 draw with Las Vegas. That’s not going to get it done when it comes to the pursuit of top spot in the Mountain.
10 Hartford Athletic
(3-1-1)
Week 9: v. LDN
5
Last Week:
5
The Athletic twice held the lead in Charlotte, but couldn’t hold on in their first loss of the season. Three of the next four games are against Loudoun United and the Red Bulls II, though, which offers a big opportunity to rebound.
11 Orange County SC
(3-2-1)
Week 9: @ LV

Last Week:
11
A four-point week got Orange County within sight of second place in the Pacific. The side is converting chances nicely when it earns them at a 21% clip – tied for fourth in the league – but really needs to start creating more with only 52 shots in six games.
12 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
(3-3-2)
Week 9: @ IND(W), @ TBR
8
Last Week:
20
The Hounds had to dig in on Tuesday night, but I liked what Bob Lilley did with his lineup and substitutions to not only get three points for the first time in Indy, but keep some key players fresh for Saturday’s visit to the Rowdies.
13 Atlanta United 2
(3-2-3)
Week 9: @ MEM

Last Week:
13
Atlanta keeps looking solid in the middle of the Central Division’s playoff race after rallying twice against Sporting Kansas City II last Wednesday. It’ll try to spoil Memphis’ home opener on Wednesday night next.
14 San Diego Loyal SC
(2-4-2)
Week 9: v. PHX
12
Last Week:
26
Don’t look now, but San Diego is starting to get it together. They’re above the playoff line and on a four-game undefeated run after Saturday’s comeback victory against the LA Galaxy II.
15 FC Tulsa
(3-3-0)
Week 9: v. SKC, v. LOU

Last Week:
15
This week’s two home contests against Sporting Kansas City II and Louisville City FC could be looked at as a moment of truth for Tulsa, which has to get off its three-game losing streak or risk falling further back in the Central.
16 The Miami FC
(3-3-1)
Week 9: @ CHS

Last Week:
16
Miami did well enough to earn a point on the road against Pittsburgh on Saturday, and the return of Speedy Williams from international duty should provide a boost against Charleston on Friday night.
17 Austin Bold FC
(2-2-2)
Week 9: @ RGV, @ BHM
2
Last Week:
19
Consecutive shutouts have earned Bold FC four points and a move in the right direction. They’re still going to need to start finding more from their attacking pieces, though.
18 Indy Eleven
(3-4-1)
Week 9: v. PIT(L), @ SKC
9
Last Week:
9
Three consecutive defeats brought the curtain down on Martin Rennie’s tenure on Wednesday morning. The talent seems to be there, but the side’s struggles to create chances have left it underperforming.
19 LA Galaxy II
(3-3-2)
Week 9: v. LV
5
Last Week:
14
Los Dos could have created a nice cushion between themselves and the teams below them in the Pacific Division if they held on to their lead in San Diego, but instead they now need to rebound against an improving Las Vegas side on Wednesday.
20 Oakland Roots SC
(1-2-1)
Week 9: v. SAC
3
Last Week:
17
Oakland couldn’t squeeze out a goal in Orange County in its last outing, but with this Saturday’s home opener already sold out as it hosts Sacramento it should be a night to remember at Laney Stadium.
21 Tacoma Defiance
(2-2-1)
Week 9: @ COS
3
Last Week:
18
Tacoma probably can’t believe it failed to find the net against Phoenix on Saturday night, but it paid the price. Wednesday night’s game in Colorado Springs is a chance to get things back on track.
22 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
(1-2-2)
Week 9: v. TAC
2
Last Week:
24
The Switchbacks not only earned a point on the road in El Paso but put up a 2.11xG mark for the game against one of the league’s best defenses. Hadji Barry and Michee Ngalina are dynamic.
23 Charleston Battery
(1-1-2)
Week 9: v. MIA
1
Last Week:
22
The Battery have had two consecutive home contests rained out. Their next game against Miami FC? Yep, at home this Friday night. Please, rain, stay away.
24 Sporting Kansas City II
(1-3-4)
Week 9: @ TUL, v. IND
1
Last Week:
23
SKC II is undefeated in its last three games, and put up four goals when it last saw Tulsa at the start of the month. Another win on Wednesday would pull the side up to playoff contendership.
25 Las Vegas Lights FC
(1-4-1)
Week 9: @ LA, v. OC
3
Last Week:
28
Four points from two home games has shown Lights FC has started to figure things out. Now it gets a chance to avenge its defeat to the LA Galaxy II on Wednesday night and continue its upward ascent.
26 Real Monarchs SLC
(1-4-2)
Week 9: v. ELP
5
Last Week:
31
The Monarchs looked strong in midweek, defeating Sacramento Republic FC for its first win of the season, but then didn’t come up with much against the Toros. More of the former, please.
27 Sacramento Republic FC
(2-4-1)
Week 9: @ OAK
6
Last Week:
21
Sacramento’s slide has reached five games, including four defeats after last Wednesday’s loss to the Monarchs. As high as expectations were at the start of the season, it’s got to get better, fast.
28 Memphis 901 FC
(1-2-2)
Week 9: v. ATL, v. OKC
3
Last Week:
25
Memphis looked in decent shape against Louisville before Skylar Thomas’ unfortunate red card, but the side needed to show more resilience in the face of that setback. Wednesday’s home opener offers a fresh start.
29 Loudoun United FC
(1-5-0)
Week 9: @ HFD
2
Last Week:
27
Loudoun scored the earliest goal the Tampa Bay Rowdies have conceded since 2018 last Friday night, but they couldn’t make it stick to slip to a third consecutive defeat.
30 OKC Energy FC
(0-4-4)
Week 9: @ MEM
1
Last Week:
29
Energy FC continued to show promise against Birmingham, but you can’t let your guard down against one of the league’s top teams and not expect to get punished for it.
31 New York Red Bulls II
(1-5-2)
Week 9: v. CLT
1
Last Week:
30
The Red Bulls II got washed out in Charleston on Friday, but at 2 percent the club’s currently got the longest playoff odds of any team in the league according to fivethirtyeight.com.

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