In the aftermath of the third round U.S. Open Cup disaster, let’s look ahead to the middle of the USL-Pro season so we can feel good again. Oddly enough all three of the top teams in the league lost in their Tuesday night cup matches. As of today, May 30, the current USL-Pro standings see Orlando in first, Rochester in second, and Charleston rounding out the top three.
At this point in the season Orlando and Rochester have each played 9 games and Charleston has played 7. Of their matches, Orlando has only dropped 4 points (2 draws), the Rhinos have dropped 7 (2 draws, 1 loss), and Charleston have dropped 6 points (2 losses). In the USL-Pro season each team plays 24 games, so the third round of the Open Cup comes about a third through the season.
So far this season, the Rhinos have played back to back games twice; first on May 11 and 12 in Charlotte and Charleston, and then on May 25 and 26 in Harrisburg and Dayton. Between Friday May 18 and Tuesday May 29, the Rhinos played 5 matches. The Rhinos also already flew to Los Angeles and don’t have to make the trip down to Antigua. Fortunately Rochester doesn’t have anymore back-to-back games, but does have two occasions of playing a second game after only one full day of rest (Friday 15 June and Sunday 17 June, Thursday 12 July and Saturday 14 July).
Charleston have not yet played back-to-back matches this season, but will on Friday 6 July and Saturday 7 July, and again on Friday 3 August and Saturday 4 August. In addition, the Battery play a second game on Sunday 1 July with on day rest after playing Friday 29 June.
Between May 11 and May 29, Orlando City has played 6 matches. Orlando plays back-to-back games on Friday 29 June and Saturday 30 June. Friday 6 July and Sunday 8 July, and then also Wednesday 1 August and Friday 3 August, Orlando will play a second game after only one day of rest. In this respect, Orlando has the hardest schedule of the three top teams in the league and Rochester has the easiest.
Of their remaining 15 games, the Rhinos play 10 at home at Sahlen’s Stadium (including the final 5 games of the season). They travel to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in one trip, Richmond, and then Wilmington on the way down to face Orlando at the Citrus Bowl. That’s only three road trips left for the entire season.
Orlando has 7 home games and 8 away fixtures left in their schedule. The City Lions have to make a cross country flight to play Los Angeles Blues, a task that will prove more difficult later in the season after head coach Charlie Naimo has blended his squad.
Charleston have 7 remaining home games and 10 away. One of their road trips includes a flight down to the Caribbean to play Antigua twice in one weekend. In this aspect, Charleston have the hardest schedule for the rest of the season and again, Rochester has the easiest.
If things pan out the way they should for the Rhinos (even though they didn’t against the Union), Rochester will easily finish in the top three of the league. The regular season title could come down to the matches played between the top teams. The Rhinos already went down to Charleston and got a 1-0 result at Blackbaud Stadium. Rochester has to travel to Orlando on 14 July before hosting the City Lions 3 August and Charleston the following weeks 11 August.