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USL Review: Rowdies make moves; league eyes Baltimore expansion

The Tampa Bay Rowdies traded away a pair of players and got one that its familiar with in return. Also, reports say the USL is “strongly considering bringing a franchise to Baltimore.”

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are tied for the most points of all USL Championship teams this season, and the club made a pair of moves this week that it hopes will solidify its position at the top of the table.

First, the Rowdies sent forward Brandon Allen to Memphis 901 FC. No other terms of the transaction were revealed. Then, the Rowdies followed that up with a trade on Thursday that sent Antoine Hoppenot to Louisville City FC for Lucky Mkosana.

Mkosana, 31, had scored five goals and assisted on another in 16 games with Louisville City this season. Last season, with Penn FC, he tallied 11 goals and one assist. He previously played with the Rowdies in 2013 and 2014, when they were members of NASL, and the Zimbabwe forward notched two goals and three assists in 24 appearances.

Hoppenot had appeared in 11 games with the Rowdies this season, scoring just once. Last season with Reno 1868 FC, he had five goals and 14 assists. The 28-year-old has previously played with Penn FC, FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union in MLS.

Allen, 25, had scored four goals in 10 games with the Rowdies this season, but three of those scores came over two U.S. Open Cup contests. Since 2016, Allen has scored 41 goals in the USL Championship, which is the third most over that stretch. He was the MVP of the 2016 USL Cup.

“Brandon is a player I have known intimately since his high school career,” Memphis coach Tim Mulqueen said in a statement. “He has always been a terrific goal-scorer and a great teammate. It’s an absolute great addition to bring somebody of his goal-scoring prowess to Memphis and our current roster.”

USL targeting Baltimore for expansion?

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that the USL is “strongly considering bringing a franchise to Baltimore.” The city does not currently have a professional outdoor team to call its own, but it does have a professional indoor team in the Baltimore Blast.

USL spokesman Ryan Madden told the newspaper, “From our perspective, the question is not if, but rather when will [Baltimore] join the American professional soccer landscape.”

When the USL Second Division existed, it fielded a team called Crystal Palace Baltimore there from 2006 to 2010. It was affiliated with the EPL club of the same name and played most of its games at local high schools and colleges in and near the city. In 2008, it reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

Baltimore has hosted Gold Cup matches and international friendlies, including a sold-out affair in 2009 between Chelsea and AC Milan at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore ranked second among U.S. markets for English Premier League TV ratings in the 2018-19 season.

An MLS spokesperson told the Sun that it is not considering the city for its expansion.

Things to know

  • According to Ian Ayre, Nashville won’t have a USL Championship team any longer when the club makes its jump to MLS in 2020. The club’s CEO told the Tennessean: “It’s not feasible to have two teams in Nashville. So, that almost certainly won’t happen. As to what the final position is, we’re just not far enough down the track to talk about that.” Ayre did say that the club will have “some form” of affiliation in USL and he’s “in discussions with various people” on that.
  • USL Championship fullbacks Manny Perez and Andrew Gutman are both overseas, training with Celtic FC. The duo signed with Celtic earlier this year and then were loaned to a pair of USL clubs, Perez with North Carolina FC and Gutman with the Charlotte Independence. NCFC says Perez will return to the club on loan on July 4, while the Independence have not said if Gutman will return.
  • Veteran Japanese national team midfielder Keisuke Honda trained with Orange County SC last week. The 33-year-old is currently a free agent after playing with the Melbourne Victory in Australia. Honda is a shareholder of OCSC.
  • A sellout crowd of 8,351 fans attended Memphis 901 FC’s friendly against Liga MX side Pachuca last weekend.

Transactions

  • Orange County SC signed midfielder Edson Alvarado to a contract earlier this week. The 21-year-old came up in the youth academy of Liga MX’s Club Tijuana and also played for OCSC’s U-23 side.
  • The Las Vegas Lights have released 25-year-old forward Cristhian Hernandez. Lights’ coach Eric Wynalda told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Hernandez “wasn’t a good fit and (the team is) moving in a different direction.” Hernandez came up in the LA Galaxy’s academy and had a previous stop with the Philadelphia Union, among other lower level clubs in the U.S. and Mexico.

Watch this

They said it

Loudoun United coach Ryan Martin to SB Nation: “We’re trying to be a bit more proactive in our approach and put the guys in positions to make decisions and help their growth and development. We want to create some good scoring opportunities, be fun to watch, but we also want to win and compete and grow that way.”

Nashville SC forward Daniel Rios on facing his former club, North Carolina FC: “I will be excited this Saturday going back there. The people treated me so well, they showed me a lot of love last year. It was a good season for me scoring a lot of goals, having good moments. It will be special for me. Half of the team stayed for this year, and I still have a few friends over there that I will be happy to see and play against them. It will be a good challenge.”

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