By Patrick Brickson
Birmingham Legion has never been this high. The first goal in franchise history was as clever as it was decisive, and somehow it was matched in brilliance not 5 minutes later by none other than Chandler Hoffman.
Kasim Prosper took the ball to the corner of the goalie box after a brilliant feed by Eric Avila, who would have 2 crucial assists on the day. Lined up with the right post Prosper faked like he was going to shoot to the far post with his right foot and with the keeper sprawling to cover, Kasim smashed the ball home at the near post with his left foot.
It’s the kind of move that requires lightning quick thinking and some serious physical agility. Prosper outsmarted Louisville’s keeper.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this strike was that it came within 60 seconds of Louisville’s opening goal. It would have been easy for Birmingham to assume the worst and either pack it in or pack it up, but no, they showed some serious counter-punching ability.
Chandler Hoffman would give his hometown club their first lead in franchise history with a remarkable left-footed volley in the 36th minute. Brian Wright set him up with a lovely looping cross from the right corner of the penalty box as if the two strikers had played together for several years, not just a couple weeks. Hoffman’s shot on the volley was to the far post, a tight angle to the spot where Louisville City keeper had just vacated. This goal was as classy as the first.
The match at Louisville City will be remembered as the first win in club history. But for it to be the start of the first run of success for the club, they will have to go through the undefeated Red Bulls 2. The bad news for Legion fans is RB2 have the most chances created in the league so far with 4.7 per game. They have scored in every game with a total of 6 in their 3 games.
RB2’s hottest player is striker Tom Barlow who has three goals in just three games. He didn’t even start the Nashville game. But, seeing as that was the only game they didn’t win so far, Coach Wolynick may think twice about repeating that decision.
The bad news for Red Bulls 2 supporters and perhaps a ray of hope for the emerging Legion FC is this will be the first road trip for the NY squad. Looking back to last season, RB2 was a force at home but tended to draw or lose on the road. Unbelievably, it took Red Bulls 2 until October 6th, 2018 (you read that right – the 32nd game of the year) – to earn their first away win.
Another knock against this RB2 squad is they have conceded a goal in every match this season. Expect this game to likely be another shootout; both teams are coming off of 3-2 victories.
The formation Coach John Wolynick utilizes can flex between a 4-2-3-1, a classic 5 pointed star formation which Real Madrid repopularized under Jose Mourinho and a 4-3-3, which Real Madrid has utilized under Zinedane Zidane. Louisville City actually switched from a formation similar to the 4-2-3-1 into a 4-3-3 against Legion last Saturday, presumably because they saw a tactical advantage.
Will Coach Wolynick see the two goals Louisville City scored last weekend as an opportunity or the three they conceded in that setup as foreboding.
If you’re trying to predict Legion’s formation – good luck. They started the season with a 4-2-3-1, switched to a 4-5-1 on St. Patrick’s day, and came out last week with a 4-4-2. Presumably Coach Tom Soehn will stick with the 4-4-2. Giving Hoffman a partner up top worked brilliantly. And of yeh, Brian Wright only recorded the go-ahead assist and the game winning goal.
Tomorrow’s matchup is unquestionably the most important game of the year for Legion FC. A win would give Legion FC six points and a two-match win streak.
A loss keeps the Boys in Black at three points and likely keeps the club at the bottom of the table.
A tie would be thoroughly respectable and just scoring at BBVA Compass Field, even in a losing effort, would be enough to sustain the momentum of last week. That will be preferable to a 0-0 draw to the increasingly thirsty home fans.
Kickoff is set for 7 PM on Saturday night. Gates open at 4:45 PM. Arrive early to watch the Auburn Final Four Match on a 13′ x 7′ large screen in the pre-game plaza.
Patrick Brickson is a Journalism student at UAB. He is known publicly to a very select group as “Intern Patrick”, former audio engineer and call screener for JOX Primetime and JOX Gameday in 2018.