As the race for the playoff places intensifies in the USL, Charlotte Independence are doing their utmost to cling on to their spot among the leading eight teams in the Eastern Conference.

They sit in eighth after Saturday’s 1-1 home tie with Penn FC, in which Andrew Dykstraplayed the 90 minutes for the Rapids’ USL affiliate. Homegrown midfielder Ricardo Perez came on at halftime for Kay Voser.

Just two points separates the Independence from the team placed 13th in the standings, which happens to be last Saturday’s opponents. The picture could appear very different the next time Charlotte take to the field, which is a home game against Bethlehem Steel on August 8. All the teams on their coat-tails are in action this coming weekend.

Fresh from his time in burgundy against Boca Juniors, midfielder Sam Hamilton returned to USL duty with Colorado Springs Switchbacks in their 1-0 loss at Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday, playing the entire game.

The Switchbacks, with their 12th defeat of the season and a third loss in four games, have dropped to 10th in the Western Conference, three points behind San Antonio FC in eighth. They are home to OKC Energy FC on Saturday.

Phoenix Rising FC and Mike da Fontehad a night to forget on Saturday, as they lost 4-1 at Real Monarchs SLC in a top-of-the-table tussle in Utah. Victory would have lifted Phoenix level on points with the Monarchs, but the loss now leaves them six points behind the leaders.

The on-loan Rapids defender handed the home side their second goal of the night when putting beyond his own keeper. Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Gladson Awako was dismissed just beyond the hour mark, when still 2-0 down.

Phoenix are again on the road this coming Sunday when they travel to Portland Timbers 2.