Week 16 Preview: what you need to know
Can the Legion tighten the gap with Louisville?
Independence Day came a month late this year. Tonight at BBVA Field it’s $1 hot dogs, $2 beers and post-game fireworks as the Legion takes on Atlanta United 2 again (kick-off 7:00pm). Twonited finally broke their duck (look that up if you don’t know what it means; I’m deliberately mixing my sports metaphors) against the Three Sparks on Saturday, with Aiden McFadden snatching back the goal he had taken away in the rain-out. So did Neco Brett, though. Neco remains 2nd in the league in goals scored with 9, equal with Tampa Bay’s Sebastian Guenzatti, although they are both trailing league leader Hadji Barry of Colorado Springs by a whopping 5 goals. Like the Legion, the Switchbacks play twice this week, so Neco has his work cut out for him if he’s going to catch up.
Speaking of catching up, Birmingham currently trails Louisville City by 7 points, with 2 games in hand. So at best this week the Legion will be behind by 1 point. That will require wins tonight and on Saturday at FC Tulsa (7:00pm, ESPN+, my68), and a Lou City home loss versus Sporting KC II (also Saturday, 6:30pm). That last seems unlikely, with SKC II dwelling in the Central Division cellar. The Central remains the tightest of the four divisions, but even so winning at Lynn Family Stadium is always a tall order. Tulsa away is also not easy; the Flycatchers (that’s way sillier than Roughnecks, but hey, they put one in their logo) are third in the division, albeit only on tiebreakers. Let’s hope the kit confusion hits the home team worse (both teams have gold on black and gold on white kits. Twonited also has a gold on white kit. Someone made a bundle off a single kit design).
Tulsa also plays tonight (7:00pm v. Indy Eleven). A win for Indy would put them back in playoff contention, putting them even on points with Tulsa and Memphis. Come to that, if Atlanta takes another point from the Legion, they would also be in that position. It’s all to play for right now.
No one else in the Central has a midweek game, and that leaves two more games in the division this weekend: OKC Energy v. Memphis 901 (Saturday 7:30pm) and Atlanta v. Indy (Sunday 6:30pm). It’s entirely possible that the 3rd and 4th places in the division will have changed hands come Monday morning.
There’s not too much in the way of potential entertainment elsewhere in the league this week, on paper at least. One big exception to that is tonight, 3rd and 4th place in the Atlantic could flip as Hartford Athletic host The Miami FC (6:00pm). Both teams have been a very pleasant surprise this year: in the past five games, Miami and Hartford took 9 points from…Tampa Bay (Miami took 6). Moreover, if Miami wins tonight, they will jump to 2nd and Tampa Bay – who have lost 4 of their last 5 – will drop to 3rd.
Yes, the Rowdies have suddenly fallen on hard times. Their only win in the recent stretch was over the execrable Loudoun United, so it pretty much doesn’t count. No one is weeping though. They play the New York Red Bulls II on Friday (6:00pm), so will probably get to retain their current position over the weekend.
Most of the other games in the league don’t look very competitive, as most of the matchups are higher placed teams playing lower placed teams. If you like rooting for underdogs, there’s a ton of choices. As for me, I will be MLSing it in LA this weekend, watching the Galaxy take on Vancouver. Then again, that’s 3rd v. 12th, so much the same I guess.