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USL's Week Ahead – Preseason Opens with Historic Contests

By USLSoccer.com Staff, 02/09/18, 11:19PM EST

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Nashville, Las Vegas make notable debuts, FCC and Rowdies clash at IMG Academy


Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League, one of the most prominent Division II leagues in the world, begins preseason in earnest this week as numerous exhibition contests will bring some notable firsts for the league’s new clubs and some interesting matchups featuring games between league rivals and against opponents from Major League Soccer. At the top of the list is Nashville SC’s opening game at First Tennessee Park which will see a sellout crowd witness the visit of Atlanta United on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET to provide a strong test for Head Coach Gary Smith’s new charges. Another notable debut arrives out west as Las Vegas Lights FC kicks off for the first time, as it hosts the Montreal Impact at Cashman Field. Other games to watch on Saturday include a rematch from the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs, as FC Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Rowdies meet at IMG Academy, while Phoenix Rising FC opens its preseason by hosting the New York Red Bulls and Reno 1868 FC makes its first visit to Avaya Stadium to play the San Jose Earthquakes.

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Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Saturday, Feb. 10
FC Cincinnati vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida | 3:30 p.m. ET
Two teams with strong USL Cup aspirations will get an early look at each other, as FC Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Rowdies meet at IMG Academy in a rematch from the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. Both teams have interesting new additions to their squads, with FCC undergoing a major overhaul that brought 2017 USL All-League First Team selection Forrest Lasso, former North Carolina FC standout Nazmi Albadawi and former Sacramento Republic FC Evan Newton into Head Coach Alan Koch’s squad. Tampa Bay has also made some notable additions, including former New York Red Bulls II forward Junior Flemmings and former Charlotte Independence goalkeeper Cody Mizell, who will be in competition to take the starting spot between the sticks after the departure of Matt Pickens to Nashville.

Nashville SC vs. Atlanta United
First Tennessee Park, Nashville, Tennessee | 4 p.m. ET
The first game in Nashville SC’s professional era sees the club welcome Atlanta United and a sellout crowd to First Tennessee Park to kick off preseason. Nashville has numerous notable names on its roster after a busy offseason of work, with goalkeeper Matt Pickens and attacking midfielder Lebo Moloto among the players set to feature prominently for the hosts. After Tuesday morning’s announcement by NSC that the game had sold out, and the buzz surrounding Nashville as it enters the professional ranks, there will be plenty keeping an eye on how the newcomers shape up in their first outing.

Reno 1868 FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Avaya Stadium, San Jose, California | 5 p.m. ET
Reno 1868 FC’s second preseason begins with its first visit to Avaya Stadium and MLS partners the San Jose Earthquakes, who will have some familiar faces waiting for it after the partnership between the two clubs paid its first dividends on the personnel side this offseason. Chris Wehan, 2017 USL Rookie of the Year, All-League Second Team selection Jimmy Ockford and Luis Felipe Fernandes could all square off with their former 1868 FC teammates after signing with the Quakes this offseason, but Reno will have some familiar faces suiting up, including forward Antoine Hoppenot and defenders Jordan Murrell and Brenton Griffiths. Newcomers to watch for 1868 FC include 2016 USL All-League defender Zach Carroll and former Swope Park Rangers striker Mark Anthony Gonzalez.

Phoenix Rising FC vs. New York Red Bulls
Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Phoenix, Arizona | 9 p.m. ET
After a busy offseason, one of the teams tipped to be a strong contender in the USL’s Western Conference in Phoenix Rising FC gets a big test to kick off its preseason slate with the visit of a New York Red Bulls side in full preparation for its CONCACAF Champions League clash with Olimpia of Honduras in two weeks. Rising FC has had a busy offseason in adding to a squad that posted an impressive second half of the regular season before falling to eventual Western Conference champions the Swope Park Rangers in the USL Cup Playoffs in a penalty shootout, with new recruits Billy Forbes (San Antonio FC), Joe Farrell (Rochester Rhinos) and Collin Fernandez (Chicago Fire) joining a returning group that includes 2017 leading scorer Jason Johnson and Didier Drogba.

Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Montreal Impact
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada | 11 p.m. ET
Las Vegas Lights FC makes its preseason debut in the first of three games against MLS opposition with the Montreal Impact’s visit to Cashman Field and has some intriguing names included in the preseason roster put together by Jose Luis Sanchez Sola – El Chelis – as it builds toward its inaugural season. The most notable of those are former Mexico internationals Joe Huiqui and Gerardo Lugo, both of whom bring extensive experience from Liga MX to the entertainment capital of the world, but other players to watch will include former Seattle Sounders FC 2 midfielder Pablo Rossi and former Philadelphia Union signing Alex Mendoza.

USL PRESEASON EXHIBITIONS (Feb. 6-11)

Tuesday, Feb. 6

  • FC Cincinnati vs. New England Revolution

Saturday, Feb. 10

  • Bethlehem Steel FC vs. FC Motown

  • FC Cincinnati vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

  • Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Montreal Impact

  • Nashville SC vs. Atlanta United

  • Ottawa Fury FC vs. Gloucester Celtic

  • Phoenix Rising FC vs. New York Red Bulls

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Spring Arbor University

  • Reno 1868 FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes

  • Swope Park Rangers vs. Rockhurst University

Sunday, Feb. 11

  • Charleston Battery vs. College of Charleston

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Cleveland State University

  • San Antonio FC vs. FC Dallas

  • Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. University of Tulsa

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