In addition to our former players in MLS and the USL Championship, USL League One returned to action this past week and things started off with a bang, as former head coach John Galas and defender AJ Valenzuela faced striker Ricky Lopez-Espin in a thriller.
JOHN GALAS, AJ VALENZUELA – FC TUCSON, & RICKY LOPEZ-ESPIN – FORT LAUDERDALE CF (USL LEAGUE ONE)
It was a HUGE day for Lane United FC alumni, as former head coach John Galas was making his professional managerial debut with AJ Valenzuela on his bench; facing them was former LUFC striker Ricky Lopez-Espin. These three did not disappoint in what turned out to be a thrilling 2-1 win for FC Tucson.
Lopez-Espin made his presence felt early on, opening the scoring in the 8th minute with a wonderful first-time finish. It was not only his first goal for Fort Lauderdale CF, but the club’s first-ever goal in their nascent history. Fort Lauderdale would be reduced to nine men by halftime after two double-yellow cards, but Tucson left it late to launch their comeback after Valenzuela made his professional debut as a substitute in the 81st minute. First, Azaad Liadi levelled in the 87th minute on a header, then just three minutes later Valenzuela pounced on a bouncing ball in the area to fire home the winner. The hometown hero was subsequently voted Man of the Match by FC Tucson fans.
Click here for Lopez-Espin’s reaction to scoring the first goal in his club’s history, while you can read some of Galas’ comments here. Fort Lauderdale will continue to look for their first win this Saturday away to Richmond Kickers, while FC Tucson will attempt to string together a winning streak at Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, also on Saturday.
KHIRY SHELTON - SPORTING KANSAS CITY (MLS)
In the MLS is Back Round of 16, Khiry Shelton and Sporting Kansas City eliminated Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a penalty kick shootout after the match ended in a nil-nil draw. Shelton started up top and played 79 minutes, taking one shot off target, and of course was not able to participate in the shootout. Shelton and Sporting KC will take on Philadelphia in the quarterfinals this evening (July 30th) at 5 PM PST on ESPN.
HASSANI DOTSON - MINNESOTA UNITED FC (MLS)
Minnesota United FC booked its place in the MLS is Back Quarterfinals with a penalty shootout win over the Columbus Crew on Tuesday after the match ended 1-1 in regular time. Dotson started and played 64 minutes, so didn’t get a chance to take a spot kick, but did leave with his team up 1-0 on the scoreboard. Dotson and his MNUFC teammates will face the San Jose Earthquakes in a quarterfinal match-up this Saturday at 5 PM PST on ESPN2.
NICK MOON – INDY ELEVEN (USL CHAMPIONSHIP)
Indy Eleven suffered its first loss of the season last Sunday, 1-0 to Saint Louis FC. Moon started, as has become the norm, and played 69 minutes, tallying one shot on goal while creating one other chance.
Moon and his Indy Eleven teammates got back to their winning ways on Wednesday with a convincing 4-1 victory over Hartford Athletic. The striker notched his first goal for the club in the 3rd minute, powering a header past Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda. Moon played 71 minutes, won 8 of his 13 duels, and connected on 86% of his passes as he was a constant nuisance for the Hartford defense. Indy Eleven next plays this Saturday against fellow LUFC alum Jaret Townsend and Sporting Kansas City II for the second time in two weeks.
JARET TOWNSEND – SPORTING KANSAS CITY II (USL CHAMPIONSHIP)
Townsend again came off the bench in his second professional match, a 1-0 loss on the road to Louisville City FC, last weekend. The forward came on in the 56th minute and had a chance to equalize minutes later. He was sent through on goal by teammate Wilson Harris, but his shot was saved by home goalkeeper Benjamin Lundt. Townsend also had one cross and one chance created, while winning three duels.
Townsend earned his first professional start on Wednesday in a rematch against the same Louisville City FC squad, this time at home, and had an immediate impact, providing the assist on his team’s opening goal in the 8th minute with a nice layoff. The striker played 62 minutes in his side’s 2-1 victory, rewarding his coach’s faith in giving him his first career start. He’ll hope to get another in the rematch against Nick Moon and Indy Eleven on Saturday.
BEN WILLIS – RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (USL CHAMPIONSHIP)
As it turns out, Willis had the misfortune of simultaneously injuring both shoulders while making a flying save during the team’s second training session back from quarantine a few weeks ago. He has labrum tears in both shoulders and requires surgery on both. The first one took place today (Thursday, July 30th), with the second coming in around a month. Let’s wish him the best in successful procedures and a speedy recovery! (UPDATE: From the looks of things, it would seem the first operation was a success!
Goalkeeper Luis Barraza, as has become habitual, was on the bench backing up starter Sean Johnson for NYCFC’s 3-1 win over Toronto FC on Sunday, while fellow netminder Matt Bersano was again the reserve ‘keeper for the San Jose Earthquakes in their 5-2 Round of 16 victory over Real Salt Lake on Monday evening.