Future MLS expansion sides Nashville SC and Sacramento Republic FC were in action on Saturday night, but both failed to reach the USL Championship Conference Finals.
The final four in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs is set, featuring the defending champion, an MLS-controlled team, an expansion team and a club that has reached this point in the USL postseason for the first time.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1, Louisville City 2
The two-time defending USL Championship champions are on track for a three-peat, after knocking off the East's top seed, Pittsburgh, 2-1 after 120 minutes on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
The Riverhounds took an early lead, courtesy of defender Thomas Vancaeyezeele, before Luke Spencer tied up the game for Louisville six minutes into the second half. Substitute Pablo DelPiccolo was the big hero, scoring the winner in the 118th minute to avoid a penalty shootout and send Louisville City through to the Eastern Conference Final.
Nashville SC 0, Indy Eleven 1
Nashville SC's project to enter MLS in 2020 will begin in earnest, after they lost 1-0 to Indy Eleven at First Tennessee Park on Wednesday. Indy, entering as the No. 3 seed to Nashville's No. 2, won their second straight playoff game 1-0, this one won by Tyler Pasher just before the hour mark, as he received a ball over the top and hit a nifty finish to beat Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Indy will host Louisville City in the Eastern Conference Final next Saturday.
El Paso Locomotive 3, Sacramento Republic 0
Sacramento Republic won't get a second USL Championship title in 2019, after they were knocked out by El Paso Locomotive by a 2-0 scoreline at Southwest University Park in El Paso on Saturday. Aaron Gomez had the opening goal shortly before halftime, and then Sebastian Contreras tucked away a penalty and Sebastian Velasquez scoring a beauty in the final 10 minutes to seal the result for the USL Championship expansion side, the first-year club that has progressed farthest in the playoffs this year.
El Paso will take on Real Monarchs in Utah next Saturday in the Western Conference Final.
Phoenix Rising 1, Real Monarchs SLC 2
Real Monarchs went down on the road to a Junior Flemmings goal, but they responded and held on for a 2-1 win to knock out No. 1-seeded Phoenix Rising who put together the best USL regular season in history and the longest winning streak in American soccer history (20).
A well-struck drive by Monarchs captain Jack Blake and some nifty footwork in the box by forward Maikel Chang gave the visiting Real Monarchs a 2-1 lead at halftime and despite incessant pressure in the second half, Real Monarchs held on to advance. They will host the Western Conference Final in Herriman, Utah on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3 pm ET.
The final result was not without controversy, however, after referee Jon Freemon opted not to point to the spot on a play in which Phoenix's Flemmings drew contact from behind inside the box. Moments later the hosts also missed a golden opportunity from inside the six-yard box with an empty net at their mercy, but the ball caromed off a Phoenix player and off and over the crossbar.
The remainder of the Conference Semifinal slate follows below. The Conference Finals will be held between Fri., Nov. 8 and Sun., Nov. 10.
All matches in the USL Championship playoffs are streamed on ESPN+, with the final on Nov. 17 airing on ESPN2. International viewers can stream the games on the USL Championship's YouTube channel.
- No. 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1, No. 4 Louisville City FC 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 2 Nashville SC 0, No. 3 Indy Eleven 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 1 Phoenix Rising FC 1, No. 4 Real Monarchs SLC 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 6 El Paso Locomotive FC 3, No. 7 Sacramento Republic FC 0 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 7, No. 10 Birmingham Legion FC 0 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 4 Louisville City FC 2, No. 5 Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 3 Indy Eleven 1, No. 6 New York Red Bulls II 0 | HIGHLIGHTS
- No. 2 Nashville SC 3, No. 9 Charleston Battery 1 | HIGHLIGHTS