Louisville City FC had plenty of reasons to celebrate. (Photo courtesy of the USL Championship)
TAMPA, Fla. – All four home teams advanced on Saturday night in the conference semifinals of the USL Championship Playoffs.
Those results set up a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC. The Western Conference finalists Orange County SC and San Antonio FC will face each other for the first time in the postseason and vie for their first trip to the USL Championship final.
The Rowdies continued the defense of their Eastern Conference title with a 1-0 win over Birmingham Legion FC at Al Lang Stadium as Yann Ekra’s second-half goal proved the difference in a game that saw the hosts record their 15th shutout of the season.
Louisville City FC earned a 1-0 win over the Charlotte Independence as Cameron Lancaster scored on a penalty kick in the 89th minute at Lynn Family Stadium.
The sides will meet for a second consecutive postseason in the Eastern Conference final, where the scene will shift to Tampa Bay’s Al Lang Stadium. In their prior encounter a year ago, the Rowdies claimed a 2-1 win against LouCity at Lynn Family Stadium to even the overall playoff series between the clubs at one win apiece.
Orange County advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time after defeating Oakland Roots SC, 6-5, in a penalty shootout at Championship Soccer Stadium, with Ronaldo Damus scoring the decisive penalty kick. OCSC goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky made a save to open the sixth round of the shootout, and Damus converted the next kick, giving the club-record crowd of 5,218 cause for celebrations.
The Southern California club will host San Antonio, which rode a pair of goals from Santiago Patino to a 3-1 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC at Toyota Field in the first postseason edition of the South Texas Derby. Nathan Fogaca also found the net for San Antonio, while Elvis Amoh converted a penalty kick midway through the second half for the Toros. SAFC advanced to its first Western Conference Final.
The spotlight now turns to Saturday, which will feature a doubleheader of conference final action on ESPN+.