Reno 1868 FC restarts its season Sunday after four months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will do so with three points in hand.
The club opened the season with a 3-1 road win over the Tacoma Defiance before the pandemic hit. While most USL teams returned to action last weekend, Reno's second "season opener" comes Sunday against rival Sacramento in a 6 p.m. match that will air on ESPN2.
Reno is looking to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season (in its fourth year in the league). 1868 FC has been stellar during the regular season while struggling the playoffs since being created for the 2017 season. The margin for error in the regular season this year has been shrunk due to the shortened 16-game season.
Teams were realigned into eight four-team groups with the top two teams from each pod advancing to a 16-team, single-elimination tournament. Reno's pod includes Sacramento, Portland and Tacoma. We caught up with Reno 1868 FC coach Ian Russell in advance of the team's restart. Russell has been happy with his team's discipline during the time off, which included zero positive cases for COVID-19.
"I was super excited," Russell said of getting the OK to restart the season. "It wasn't looking good to be honest. There was a time in May, even in June, where I didn't know if it was going to happen. As we got closer to getting everything finalized and we finally agreed we were going to have a season, it was great. We brought all the players back to town, we've been training for the last three weeks and we feel really prepared.
"The good thing about our ownership group with 1868 is they wanted to play the whole time. Some of the other clubs in the USL when we had a vote to play, some voted not to play. That just shows the seriousness of our club and our ownership group because let's face it all of the clubs are going to lose a lot of money this year. The fact that they're willing to take a big loss and still have a season is great."
Here is the full interview with Russell.
When the season restarts, there will be a couple of tweaks with the rules, the most notable being teams having five substitutions per game (over three substitution periods).
With the exception of Reno 1868 FC's game Sunday against Sacramento, the remainder of the club's matches will air on Nevada Sports Net (road and home). All of the games also will be on ESPN Radio. Here is a look at the team's schedule for the remainder of the season.
Reno 1868 FC schedule
July 19: at Sacramento
July 26: at Portland
Aug. 1: at Las Vegas
Aug. 8: vs. Tacoma
Aug. 12: vs. Sacramento
Aug. 15: vs. Portland
Aug. 19: at Tacoma
Aug. 22: at San Diego
Aug. 29: vs. Phoenix
Sept. 5: vs. Portland
Sept. 12: at Sacramento
Sept. 20: at Portland
Sept. 26: vs. Sacramento
Sept. 30: vs. Las Vegas
Oct. 3: vs. Tacoma