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Gameday Report: August 8, Week 22

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 08/08/18, 9:36PM EDT

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Monarchs hold off Reno, remain undefeated at home; Steel FC pulls away from Independence


Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. With Real Monarchs SLC undefeated at home and Reno 1868 FC undefeated on the road going into Wednesday night’s marquee contest, the level of expectation was high. With a thrilling contest that saw the Monarchs emerge with a 2-1 victory as Reno hit the woodwork twice in the second half and had numerous chances to get at least back on level terms the game more than lived up to the hype. Real’s victory allowed it to push its nose in front of FC Cincinnati in the race for the 2018 USL Regular Season Championship, too, but neutrals will certainly be hoping we get another meeting in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs between the Monarchs and 1868 FC after the sides split their regular season series with one win apiece.

2. Bethlehem Steel FC raised the pressure on the rest of its Eastern Conference competition for a place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs with a 3-0 victory on the road against the Charlotte Independence that continued the side’s recent positive momentum. Bethlehem has now won three consecutive games to move into sixth place in the standings, and while the chasing pack has games in hand while Steel FC have 10 games remaining, Bethlehem is making the teams around it match its three-point performances in recent weeks.

3. OKC Energy FC still has a steep climb to get into the playoff picture in the Western Conference with 10 games to go, but the side at least made sure it reclaimed the Victory Wrench in the final Black Gold Derby of the season with a 3-0 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC for their second win of the series this year. One of last year’s heroes for Tulsa in goalkeeper Fabian Cerda ended up the goat on the night as his misadventure led to OKC’s opening goal for Adam Jahn, but the other big story of the night was the return to action for Energy FC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi, who recorded a shutout in his first action since suffering a serious knee injury last September with a pair of saves, which will be well received not only in the OKC locker room but elsewhere around the league. 

GAME REPORTS

REAL MONARCHS SLC (2), RENO 1868 FC (1)

HERRIMAN, Utah – Real Monarchs scored twice in the first half and then held on in the second to take a 2-1 victory against Reno 1868 FC at Zions Bank Stadium to remain undefeated on home turf this season. Reno struck first in the ninth minute as Brian Brown seized on a long clearance and fired an outstanding curling finish from 30 yards into the top right corner, but the Monarchs hit back a minute later as a well-worked move saw Maikel Chang find Chandler Hoffman in the penalty area for a layoff back to Charlie Adams, who put home a first-time finish into the right corner. The Monarchs then took the lead four minutes before halftime as Adams played Adam Henley into the right side of the penalty area, and his cutback to Chang just inside the top of the box was fired home first time into the left corner to put Real up at the break. Brown almost answered for 1868 FC early in the second half as he fired just wide of the left post, and the Jamaican hit the crossbar in the 67th minute on a close-range finish from Antoine Hoppenot’s low cross from the right. Reno’s Brent Richards also had a good shot deflected just wide of the left post by Monarchs defender Kalen Ryden with 10 minutes to go as the visitors continued to press, and Ryden also produced a crucial clearance off the line from Thomas Janjigian’s finish after the ball fell loose in the penalty area following a free kick from the right with five minutes to go. 1868 FC found the woodwork again in the final minute as Duke Lacroix’s curling finish from the left found the right post, but when Janjigian’s header from a stoppage-time corner went high it proved the final good chance for an equalizer as the Monarchs held on for their ninth consecutive home victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Maikel Chang, Real Monarchs SLC
– Chang scored what proved to be the game-winner and did his far share of defensive work with two tackles and four clearances as the hosts held on for victory.

TULSA ROUGHNECKS FC (0), OKC ENERGY FC (3)

TULSA, Okla. – OKC Energy FC claimed a 3-0 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field to earn the Victory Wrench in the Black Gold Derby this season between the Sooner State rivals. Both sides had chances early as Eti Tavares found the side-netting for the Roughnecks and Energy FC’s Philip Rasmussen fired a low shot from 20 yards that was saved by Tulsa goalkeeper Fabian Cerda. OKC had a chance to take the lead in the 28th minute as Jose Barril played in Alex Dixon only for the finish to go wide of the left post, but in the final minute of the first half a major misjudgment by Cerda as he tried to outfox Adam Jahn before clearing backfired as the forward stole possession and finished into the open net to put the visitors ahead. Energy FC struck again three minutes into the second half as Christian Volesky scored on a counterattack as he outmuscled his marker and finished on a breakaway, and OKC capped off its victory from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to go when Alex Dixon converted after being brought down despite a good effort to save by Roughnecks goalkeeper Chase Gentry.  

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Jose Barril, OKC Energy FC
– Barril put in a strong two-way performance for the visitors, finishing with three key passes and two tackles while winning the majority of his duels on the night.

CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE (0), BETHLEHEM STEEL FC (3)

MATTHEWS, N.C. – Bethlehem Steel FC moved back into the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 victory against the Charlotte Independence at the Sportsplex at Matthews. Bethlehem almost took the lead in the fifth minute when Faris was denied in a one-on-one chance by Independence goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, but two minutes later the visitors had the lead as James Chambers struck at the second opportunity as Steel FC’s early pressure paid off. The Independence almost hit back in the 14th minute as Kevan George’s header from a corner kick was tipped over by Steel FC goalkeeper Jake McGuire, while Alex Martinez flashed a shot just wide of the left post on the half-hour mark from 25 yards. Bethlehem’s Omar Holness clipped the right post with a strike from 25 yards early in the second half, while Dykstra had to turn a free kick by Chambers that skipped onto the right post moments later as the visitors pushed for a second, but Holness found the insurance goal for the visitors in the 74th minute on a good cutback from Olivier Mbaizo from the right. Steel FC then wrapped up all three points with a minute to go as Drew Skundrich worked a perfect give and go inside the penalty area with Santi Moar to cap a big road victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
James Chambers, Bethlehem Steel FC
– Chambers scored the opening goal of the night and was a workhorse in winning possession and distributing for the visitors as he recorded two key passes.

TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (0), CHARLESTON BATTERY (0)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Charleston Battery played to a 0-0 draw before a crowd of 5,028 at Al Lang Stadium as the Battery ran their undefeated streak to 10 games. Charleston almost grabbed the lead eight minutes before halftime when a quick throw-in released Ataulla Guerra into the right side of the penalty area, only for his finish to go wide of the left post. The Rowdies then went close early in the second half, but Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky did well to keep out Junior Flemmings’ shot to the left corner after the Jamaican had been played into the right side of the penalty area by Joe Cole to open up the chance. The Battery threatened moments after as Vincent Candela’s shot from 12 yards was stopped by Rowdies goalkeeper Cody Mizell, while the Rowdies put the ball in the net through Flemmings only for the flag to be raised for offside in the 65th minute. Tampa Bay’s Leon Taylor went close for the hosts as he beat Kuzminsky to an angled cross but sent his header looping over the crossbar, but the game ended scoreless as the Rowdies couldn’t find a late breakthrough.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Taylor Mueller, Charleston Battery
– Mueller put in a strong defensive shift in the middle of the Battery’s back line with nine clearances, three tackles and one interception as Charleston recorded a fourth consecutive shutout.

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