A Look Forward and a Recap of the Past
This season, like I do every year, I predicted the entire season for every single team in the Eastern Division. As a spoiler? I did dang well. I have some major “Told Ya So’s” from March 3rd and some bugs to eat. If you want to see every single prediction I did, check out this article where I breakdown every team pre-season.
Predictions vs Reality
Above is what I predicted the final table to look like. There are some main points I want to look at. I felt that the gap between 7 and 8 would be massive. I felt that the gap was sizable pre-season, and that same idea was passed along during the season.
I also felt that teams like Detroit City would have some fun this season, but I thought the gap between their squad and the top 7 was too big to overcome. Teams like Charleston Battery, they had a few players I liked Augie Williams, Joe Kuzminsky, and Matt Sheldon were the core I liked, and I figured that it would be good enough to win some matches. Memphis 901 FC were a team I thought were stabilized and had wonderful League One talent, but I did not know how well the talent would translate to the Championship.
Hello, reality. Teams like Charleston CLEARLY underperformed. It was an awful season. I know my good friend John, aka USL Tactics, had his computer model say that they were a bad team. Even he said that he thought the model was wrong. It was a bizarrely bad season. New head coach, new general manager, all coming to the Lowcountry.
I said that the gap between 7 and 8 would be a grand total of 7 points. It was 12. That gap was a lot bigger than expected, thank you, Charleston. Because of that, teams like Detroit City FC knew they would be safe. That said, they overperformed everybody’s expectations (including most DCFC fans). I will pat myself on the back for this one quote, naturally.
If you’re looking for a fun player to watch this year for Detroit, Nate Steinwascher very well could be the best keeper in the USL. Keepers tend to move up well, and Steinwascher is way too good for NISA. You’ll be surprised…
I tried to tell all of y’all back on March 3rd.
My final prediction? I knew that battle for the 4th and final home playoff match was going to be a DOG FIGHT. I said Legion would win it by one point over The Miami FC. I was wrong. It was one point over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Miami took what I predicted to be Charleston’s spot (stupid, Kaylor…) and missed by two points. Not bad for a Hick with a Microphone.
If you want to fill out this bracket and send it to me, click this link and fill it out!
EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC @ Birmingham Legion FC
Personally, I think Legion gets the win over Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The home fans will be hungry for the win and so will the team. Pittsburgh are notorious for bowing out early and this a Bob Lilley team who are underperforming where most fans believe they should be. If Birmingham can replicate their most previous performance against Riverhonds, then it should be smooth sailing for the 3 Sparks.
Detroit City FC @ Memphis 901 FC
To me, I believe that defense travels. It always travels. Do you know what else travels? Detroit City FC fans. I think the away fans will have an impact and the away team’s defense will stifle a dominant attack in Memphis 901 FC. Nate Steinwascher always seem to step up huge in matches they are suppose to lose. I don’t think this will be any different.
Le Rouge WIN
The Miami FC @ Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Miami FC as a franchise are the definition of streaky. They underperformed my personal expectations. I thought they would be a defensively stout team who would score every goal ever. They have a fun defensive system and talented players, so an upset could absolutely happen, but the Tampa Bay Rowdies are a defensively stout team who do. not. lose. at. home. With this being an in-state rivalry match, the fans will be up for this one, and so will the players.
WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
Oakland Roots SC @ San Diego Loyal
Despite the Oakland Roots completely crapping the bed against Pittsburgh to end the season, there’s something about the end of the season that brings some magic to the 510. San Diego Loyal have felt much shakier than they did earlier this season. Is it taking the foot off the gas knowing they had their home playoff match? Maybe, but there’s something about coming into the playoffs hot and coming in lukewarm at best. Karlson will bag his goal. Will the Loyal?
The Roots WIN
Rio Grande Valley FC @ Colorado Springs Switchbacks
What some people would consider the hottest team in the USL in Rio Grande Valley going against another team who seems to be cooling off in Colorado Springs, we are going to see a very interesting match up. RGVFC playing their 4-2-4 that seems to get the best of almost every team that they play, the Switchbacks do not feel like an exception. Will the altitude play a factor? I don’t think so.
Rio Grande Valley WIN
New Mexico United @ Sacramento Republic FC
A team who have crawled then sprinted their way into the playoffs in New Mexico United and a team in Sacramento who seems “too low” because they prioritized a cup run, it makes for an interesting match up. United have found themselves playing poorly all year long, but in the last 3 matches, they have finally found their shooting boots. Unfortunately for them? I don’t think it’ll matter. Sacramento Republic are one of the best teams in the USL, despite their record, especially at home.
Eastern Conference Semi Finals
Birmingham Legion @ Tampa Bay Rowdies
Two teams that could not be separated all year long, this one felt impossible to pick. Admittedly, I am a homer. I am biased, but I also feel that it is almost impossible to beat the same team 3 times in a row in the playoffs. Birmingham Legion FC have a system that can out-press that Rowdies backline. If the 3 Sparks play their game, then they will be moving on.
Detroit City FC @ Louisville City FC
What did I say about Detroit City FC? Defense travels? Well, what about when defense does not have to travel? Sounds like a recipe for Louisville City FC success. Louisville City loves to possess the ball and boss the pace of play. Meanwhile, Detroit City does not normally have high possession stats, rather relying on the counterattack. Not saying this is impossible for Le Rouge to win, but it’ll be hard.
Louisville City WINS
Western Conference Semi Finals
Oakland Roots SC @ San Antonio FC
While the Roots are a quality team, they are not San Antonio FC. SAFC are the best team in the USL, and should be celebrated as such. With Oakland’s midfield being in shambles, San Antonio will overrun this team easily. The Magic in Oakland runs strong and nobody plays better against a wall, but San Antonio will push them to the very end and then some.
San Antonio WINS
Rio Grande Valley FC @ Sacramento Republic
That 4-2-4 of RGVFC is fun to watch, but Sacramento Republic is indomitable at home. On top of that SRFC‘s 3 man backline is a great counter to the Rio Grande Valley system. I could see RGVFC give the Republic trouble thanks to their willingness to dabble in the dark arts of tactical (and un-tactical) fouls, but the attack of Sacramento is just too strong.
Eastern Conference Finals
Birmingham Legion FC @ Louisville City FC
Two teams that have played each other tight, this is shaping up to being a great Eastern Conference playoffs. That said, you just cannot bet against Louisville City FC at home. Birmingham are a great team, but their pressing system bodes well for the home team. Not saying it is impossible for the 3 Sparks to get a victory, because it’s obviously not, but Louisville will be rocking what is bound to be a sold out crowd. That said? James O’Connor Out and Holly Should be Arrested.
Louisville City WINS
Western Conference Finals
History does not bode well for the Regular Season Champions. The Regular Season Champions have not won it all since the New York Red Bulls II did it back in 2016. What does that mean for San Antonio FC? I think this is the end of the road. They are going up against a team in Sacramento who are battletested in single elimination tournaments this year with their Open Cup match. I also think that Republic’s defense is strong enough to withstand the SAFC onslaught and their attack is good enough to breakdown the USL best backline. That said, in my eyes, the Regular Season Champion is the true champion.
USL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Sacramento Republic @ Louisville City FC
It all comes down to this. The Championship Final. We have seen this match up once this year, resulting in a 3-1 Louisville City win, but it does not really count as Sacramento were playing in the US Open Cup Finals just four day later. Will the Republic be hungry for revenge? Absolutely. Will they get it in front of a rocking Lynn Family Stadium? Football is a cruel sport, and it feels that Louisville City FC will hand Sacramento Republic their second finals loss this season.
Louisville City FC WINS
USL League One Quarterfinals
Charlotte Independence @ South Georgia Tormenta
All year long, I have talked about how Tormenta away would destroy Tormenta at home. Luckily for Bolt the Ibis, they’re playing Charlotte. The Independence are a team that defied everybody’s expectations by not signing a single player until AFTER A WHOLE MONTH after everybody else. And they made the playoffs. It’s a shocking season for idiots like me, but I also believe in defense and South Georgia has two of the best center backs in League One.
La Tormenta WIN
Union Omaha @ Chattanooga Red Wolves
Two teams to start the season that looked like they could run away with the division got brought back down to earth. Hard. Union Omaha went on their magical cup run and the Red Wolves continued to prove how not to run an organization. Call it biased. Call it hateful. Call it whatever. I hope Red Wolves fold and I hope that Union Omaha force them into it. On top of that, Omaha is a team who has performed decently well away from home.
Union Omaha WIN
USL League One Semi Finals
Union Omaha @ Richmond Kickers
I said it pre-season that Richmond would be the best team in the division. They were a team last year that kept all of their pieces and only made upgrades. In a league that was decimated by players getting bought by Championship teams, the Kickers kept their chemistry. Meanwhile Union Omaha lost a lot of that talent that made them the best team in League One. They can absolutely push Richmond, but City Stadium has been a fortress for the ‘Roos, and that is not stopping now.
South Georgia Tormenta @ Greenville Triumph
Oh, Greenville. The City of Love and Football. Or is that Paris? I can’t remember, but either way my ties to Upstate, South Carolina run strong. I don’t hide that at all. You know who also loves the Upstate? Tormenta. South Georgia has had the number of Greenville this year, including a 5-5 thriller this season, including a comeback from 4-0 and 5-2. Tormenta is not afraid of anything, especially not in Greenville. Legacy Park will by rocking, but Bolt the Ibis will be rocking them to sleep.
USL League One Finals
South Georgia Tormenta @ Richmond Kickers
How fitting that in their 30rd Anniversary, Richmond would win it all? This is the team to do it, right? Emiliano Terzaghi has put in another wonderful season bagging 17 goals, Jonathan Bolanos has merely assisted 11 goals, which is video game numbers from this Kickers squad. All year long, the conversation has been about Richmond at home. The other conversation? Tormenta away. Defense travels. Between Jake Dengler and Joshua Phelps (who I actually interviewed this year), South Georgia’s defense is for real. Plus, historically, this series is perfectly knotted up at 2 wins for both sides and 4 draws. Richmond’s defense is just as good, if not better, than Tormenta’s, their offense is insane, and City Stadium will be BONKERS.
Also, Kickers’ Left Back, Stephen Payne, is from Birmingham. I’m biased.
Richmond Kickers WIN
These playoffs will be insane. In about a week, I will probably look like a complete moron because I got every single quarterfinal wrong. If you save this to mock me, this paragraph at the end is for me to say, “It’s my opinion, and opinions cannot be wrong.” Or at least that’s what my teachers would always say.
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