2018 USL Western Conference Playoff Preview

The 2018 USL Cup Playoffs have arrived. We break down the Western Conference side of the bracket.

We have officially arrived at the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs. There were spots that had to be fought for over the final weekend, but we finally have the 16 teams that will make up the field. For this article, we focus on the Western Conference and these eight teams: Orange County SC, Sacramento Republic FC, Phoenix Rising FC, Real Monarchs SLC, Reno 1868 FC, Portland Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, and Saint Louis FC.

#1 Orange County SC vs. #8 Saint Louis FC

Saturday, Oct. 20, 7 PM Pacific Time, Championship Soccer Stadium

2018 season series:

5/12 OC 1, STL 1

7/21 OC 2, STL 2

Orange County 

2018 recap: It was a record-breaking season for the Southern California side. After missing the playoffs in 2017, they set new franchise records in wins and points.

Players to watch

Thomas Enevoldsen: The Danish striker scored the second-most goals in the USL this season (20) and added nine assists.

Aodhan Quinn: One of the elite distributors in the league, Quinn finishes #1 in chances created and passes, and #2 in assists and crosses.

Michael Seaton: Whether he’s starting or playing as a super sub, Seaton can impact the match with his speed and scoring. The Jamaican scored 12 goals this season.

Saint Louis FC

After flip-flopping conferences in the past few seasons, Saint Louis FC will play in their first ever USL Playoff match this weekend.

Players to watch

Kyle Greig: The club’s leading scorer with 13 goals on the season. He’s a proven veteran of the USL, playing in the league since 2013.

Wal Fall: An influential two-way player for Saint Louis, Fall had five goals, two assists, and 41 tackles. He brings major quality on set pieces.

Tomas Gomez: He’s won the USL’s Golden Gloves twice and tallied seven clean sheets in only 19 appearances. As the playoffs arrive to shine a light on defense and goalkeeping, Saint Louis has one of the league’s best in goal.

#2 Sacramento Republic FC vs. #7 Swope Park Rangers

Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 PM Pacific Time, Papa Murphy’s Park

2018 season series:

7/10 SAC 3, SPR 1

10/3 SAC 3, SPR 1

Republic FC

They overtook Phoenix on the season’s final day for the #2 seed. Republic FC won the USL Cup in 2014 during their inaugural season and they have made the playoffs every year, including a first-round upset of #1 Real Monarchs SLC on penalties.

Players to watch

Cameron Iwasa: The forward scored 17 goals this season for his hometown team. He will be playing his former side, a Swope Park player in 2017.

Josh Cohen: Republic FC’s goalkeeper was second in the USL on saves and tied for third in clean sheets.

Villyan Bijev: He leads the club in chances created with 55. The former Timbers 2 man had five assists on the campaign.

Swope Park

It took until the final day of the season for the Sporting KC affiliate to punch their ticket to the USL Cup playoffs. Despite finishing fourth in their only two seasons, they went on to represent the Western Conference in the 2016 & 2017 USL Cup. They lost both matches.

Players to watch

Hadji Barry: The former Orlando City B standout scored 17 goals this season to go along with five assists.

Kharlton Belmar: Early in the season, Belmar was actually outscoring a few USL teams by himself. In 20 matches, he scored ten goals and had five assists.

Gianluca Busio: He only played in 10 matches for the USL side, but the young Sporting KC phenom is a gamechanger if he’s in the squad. Busio had two assists in his limited action.

#3 Phoenix Rising FC vs. #6 Portland Timbers 2

Friday, Oct. 19, 7:30 PM Pacific Time, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex

2018 season series:

8/5 PHX 4, POR 1,

10/13 POR 1, PHX 0

Rising FC

2018 recap: One of the USL’s most explosive offenses, Rising FC saw Solomon Asante become a megastar in 2018. They also dealt with a midseason coaching change for a second straight year, now led by interim head coach Rick Schantz. Also, Drogba…

Players to watch

Solomon Asante: Must. See. TV. He is a talented, ball of energy for Phoenix. Standing only 5’2”, Asante racked up 13 goals, eight assists, and 98 chances created in an MVP-worthy season.

Chris Cortez: Surprisingly on a team with Drogba, Jason Johnson, and Solomon Asante, it was Cortez that led Rising FC in goals with 17. He did pick up a small injury against Las Vegas last week.

Didier Drogba: The legend didn’t play much in his final season, but he managed four goals in eight matches. Due to his pedigree, he is someone that a defense must pay attention to if he is on the pitch, no matter how old he is.

Timbers 2

2018 recap: T2 are one of the best stories of 2018. After finishing 2017 with 15 total points, the lowest in the USL, the club has made the playoffs.

Players to watch

Foster Langsdorf: He led T2 with 14 goals on the season. He is a Timbers Homegrown player and is enjoying a breakout rookie year.

Renzo Zambrano/Andre Lewis: The midfield duo of Zambrano and Lewis are elite in distribution, each with over 1,500 passes and 87% completion. Their strong play allows the club to control the rhythm and possession in the match.

Marvin Loria: On loan from Saprissa, he has six goals and seven assists on the year.

#4 Real Monarchs SLC vs. #5 Reno 1868 FC

Saturday, Oct. 20, 2 PM Pacific Time, Zions Bank Stadium

2018 season series:

7/3 RNO 3, SLC 0

8/8 SLC 2, RNO 1

Monarchs SLC

2018 recap: The Real Salt Lake affiliates led the Western Conference for most of the season before a seven-match winless run in August and September.

Players to watch

Sebastian Velasquez: He is considered one of the most talented players in the league and it’s no surprise that the club struggled when he was out with an injury. In 21 matches, he scored seven goals and added four assists.

Chandler Hoffman: A proven goalscorer in the USL, he scored 12 goals this season. The striker added five assists.

Maikel Chang/Justin Portillo: The former Charleston Battery midfielders have been huge in their first season in Utah. You can count on quality deliveries from them, during the run of play or on set pieces, from Chang’s left foot and Portillo’s right. They combined for 16 assists and 122 chances created.

Reno 1868 FC

The northern Nevada side has now made the playoffs in both of their first two seasons. They climbed the Western Conference table with an unbeaten run of seven matches to end the season, including five wins.

Players to watch

Antoine Hoppenot: A key member of the 2017 Reno side, Hoppenot has also been integral for the club’s 2018 success. He racked up 13 assists and five goals.

Brian Brown: The Jamaican speedster is the club’s leading scorer with 16 goals on the campaign.

Matt Bersano: After JT Marcinkowski starred for most of the season, he is now getting starts with San Jose Earthquakes. In his place, Bersano has recorded six clean sheets in only nine USL appearances.




Main photo courtesy of Michael Rincon/Rising FC


Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.