Week 15 Preview: what you need to know
Lots of midweek action
OK, so I got home after midnight Monday night from my Alaskan cruise vacation (admit it, you all missed me) and had to work all day Tuesday, but that doesn’t excuse me not noting that yet another USL Championship week schedule started on Tuesday. Can’t get used to that at all.
If you missed the Tuesday games too, then you lost out on a goal fest. Charleston beat Loudoun. No surprise there, except that the scoreline was 5-3. Later in the evening, the Las Vegas Lights, who are actually developing into a mediocre side (as opposed to dreadful), did give us a shock by beating Orange County 3-1 with 2 goals in the final ten minutes. Also interesting about that game was that brothers Erik and Brian Iloski both scored for their respective teams.
So, 12 goals already this week. The action continues tonight with three good games to check out, and two of them directly affect the Legion.
First up, Atlanta United 2 host FC Tulsa (6:30pm). Although Tulsa is right behind Birmingham in the standings, they trail by 6 points. They are performing somewhat unpredictably – after beating Louisville City, they lost to OKC Energy and Memphis 901. Twonited has been struggling of late, with just 2 points from their last 5 games. Any result here is not much of a threat to the Three Sparks, but a rain delay at the Fraction would be very useful with the Georgians coming to town this weekend.
Next, Sporting Kansas City II plays Lou City (7:00pm). That’s top v. bottom in the division, and a win for the visitors would be the most likely outcome. If SKC II get any points out of the game, the Legion would regain the division lead with a win this weekend.
The Wednesday slate finishes up with a Copa Tejas matchup: El Paso v. San Antonio (7:30pm). San Antonio have struggled this season, although have a two-game win streak going. El Paso is the second-best team in the league, though (on a PPG basis, and behind Phoenix Rising) so extending that streak will be tough.
Just one USL game Thursday: Tacoma Defiance v. San Diego Loyal (9:00pm). Donovan’s boys have been playing after an atrocious start to the season, whereas the Defiance are having a rough year. A win would see the Loyal into second place in the Pacific Division, which is as high as anyone can reasonably expect to go with the Rising running away with it already. More interesting on Thursday will be the USA’s Gold Cup semi-final game (6:30pm) against…Qatar?
Oddly, nothing on Friday, leaving a lengthy schedule for Saturday. Well, I say nothing, but if you want to set your alarm clock early, the US women play the Netherlands at 6:00am in the Olympic quarter-final.
The big game is at BBVA Field, of course (6:30pm, my68, ESPN+). This is not the rescheduled home game against Atlanta but is the originally scheduled game for this date. So Twonited get a second shot at their first ever goal against the Legion since the goal scored in the rained-out game no longer counts. With that in mind, bring your giant donuts. But will it be MVO or Trevor between the sticks? Or is that the fryer basket? The rescheduled game will be this coming Wednesday (7:00pm).
Lou City also have a double-game week as they host OKC Energy (6:30pm). OKC are actually in playoff position; with a win and a Tulsa draw or loss they would climb into 3rd place. Who saw that coming? Still, a 3-pointer at Lynn Family Stadium is a tall order.
The final game in the Central is Sunday (SKC II v. Memphis (4:00pm). Indy Eleven have the week off, which should be a rule for any team playing the Legion.
Lots of games going on elsewhere on Saturday, almost all of which coincide with the Legion game, although of the late Western Conference games Phoenix v. Rio Grande Valley (9:30pm) could be a reason to get home promptly. Phoenix is a powerhouse, of course, and RGV are second in the Mountain Division, but only on the second tiebreaker (goal difference – wins is the first tiebreaker, remember). This could be a good one.
Lastly, if the USA beats Qatar they will play in the Gold Cup final on Sunday (7:30pm) against the winner of Mexico v. Canada. Which is to say, Mexico. However, they can’t expect to cruise past Qatar (who will also play in the 2023 Gold Cup), who have the chance to become the first country to hold two continental titles simultaneously.