By FRANCO PANIZO
The final weekend of almost every regular season has its share of drama, and the USL Pro's season finale was no different as two teams snuck into the playoffs while another saw its postseason hopes vanish.
The Harrisburg City Islanders and the Wilmington Hammerheads booked the final two spots in the postseason and the Charlotte Eagles fell out of sixth place and the playoff picture by losing on Sunday. The City Islanders punched their way through thanks to a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Blues, while the Eagles suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Hammerheads that eliminated Charlotte and saw Wilmington advance.
What made the defeat to the Hammerheads even more crushing for the Eagles was that they had beaten them a day earlier. Charlotte blanked Wilmington, 1-0, on Saturday but were unable to enjoy the same type of success with everything on the line on the final match day.
Harrisburg failed to come out victorious in its penultimate match of the season, but it eliminated Los Angeles from playoff contention with a 2-2 draw in the teams' first of two weekend matches on Friday.
Here's a look back at all the Week 20 action in USL Pro:
DAYTON DUTCH LIONS 1, ORLANDO CITY 1
Orlando City went ahead late due to an own goal and thought they were ready to close out the regular season with another win, but the Dutch Lions had other plans. The Dutch Lions grabbed a late 1-1 draw with Orlando on Friday, erasing a Mettin Copier own goal in the 84th minute with a Daniel Holowaty tally in stoppage time. The goal silenced the 8,932 fans in attendance at the Florida Citrus Bowl and it did not allow Orlando City to add three points to their record year.
RICHMOND KICKERS 1, ANTIGUA BARRACUDA FC 0
The Kickers won their penultimate game of the season and clinched a spot in the playoffs on Friday, and they can thank David Bulow for that. Bulow inspired the Kickers to a 1-0 triumph against Antigua Barracuda FC, scoring the winner in the second half of the first of two weekend matches between the clubs.
DAYTON DUTCH LIONS 0, CHARLESTON BATTERY 0
If the Battery were hoping of giving themselves a shot at grabbing one of the two first-round byes in the postseason, they failed to do so in a frustrating way. The Battery were held to a scoreless draw on Saturday by the Dutch Lions, who had played a day earlier. Charleston outshot Dayton 23-4, but were wasteful and unable to find the back of the net.
ROCHESTER RHINOS 1, PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS 0
The Rochester Rhinos needed a win this weekend to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs, and they got just that though by the narrowest of margins. The Rhinos defeated the Riverhounds, 1-0, on Saturday courtesy of an 87th-minute strike by Andrew Hoxie.
ANTIGUA BARRACUDA FC 2, RICHMOND KICKERS 1
Antigua Barracuda FC gained some confidence going into next season, as they closed out the year with a 2-1 upset win against the Kickers on Sunday. Quinton Griffith scored less than a minute into the match to set the tone, and Antigua doubled the lead before halftime through Randolph Burton. The Kickers pulled one back in the waning moments, but it was too late for them to rescue a result and a chance to try and grab a first-round bye in the postseason.
FINAL USL PRO STANDINGS (Playoff teams in bold)
1. Orlando City SC (17-1-6, 57 points, +32 GD)
2. Rochester Rhinos (12-7-5, 41 points, +4 GD)
3. Charleston Battery (12-10-2, 38 points, +10 GD)
4. Richmond Kickers (11-8-5, 38 points, +4 GD)
5. Wilmington Hammerheads (10-7-7, 37 points, +2 GD)
6. Harrisburg City Islanders (10-7-7, 37 points, +5 GD)
7. Charlotte Eagles (11-10-3, 36 points, +8 GD)
8. Los Angeles Blues (9-12-3, 30 points, -3 GD)
9. Dayton Dutch Lions (4-10-10, 22 points, -9 GD)
10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (4-15-5, 17 points, -19 GD)
11. Antigua Barracuda FC (5-18-1, 16 points, -34 GD)
The quarterfinals will be held on Saturday, with Richmond hosting Wilmington and Charleston hosting Harrisburg. Orlando City and Rochester have byes to the semifinals, with Orlando City awaiting the lowest-remaining seed.
What do you think of these results? Happy for Wilmington and Harrisburg, or crushed for Charlotte? Who do you see winning it all this postseason?
Share your thoughts below.