Week 22 Preview: what you need to know

A big clash coming. Color clash, that is.

The action kicks off a little early this week, as the Blues over in England have a double-game week in the EFL Championship. They play Fulham at home tomorrow (1:45pm) before visiting Peterborough United on Saturday (9:00am). City are currently in 9th place after games played on Tuesday. Fulham for their part have dropped from 1st to second to 3rd on the back of a loss to lowly Blackpool and games played elsewhere. A win could see the Blues as high as 3rd going into the weekend game against Peterborough, who are languishing in 234rd place. Neither game is on ESPN+, so the home game at least can be watched on BluesTV. The away game may not be available on that platform, but might be available on the general EFL service iFollow (which City has opted not to join).

Back in the real world, the midweek schedule is unusually thin, with just 6 games on Wednesday evening. Directly affecting the Legion is Atlanta United 2 v. Charleston Battery (6:30pm). Both teams are below the playoff line in their respective divisions, but Atlanta could see themselves hoisted above it at least temporarily with a win. The juiciest game of the night though will be Colorado Springs Switchbacks v. El Paso Locomotive (8:00pm). That’s 1 v. 2 in the Mountain Division, although with El Paso holding a sizeable 9 point lead, that won’t change. Even so, it looks to be an entertaining matchup.

If scoring is what gets you excited, there is also Phoenix Rising v. Las Vegas Lights (9:30pm). Phoenix of course are a massive 13 points clear at the top of the Pacific (with a game in hand). Las Vegas are almost – but not quite – as dire as Loudoun United and are on an impressive 8-game losing streak. The last time the Lights earned points was back on August 21st when they tied…Phoenix.  The Rising are unlikely to have forgotten that.

On to Saturday: first and foremost, the Legion look to keep within striking distance of Louisville City with OKC Energy coming to town (6:30pm, ESPN+, my68). The team with absolutely no fashion sense makes its second trip of the year to the Magic City, but has lost both contests so far. They have however improved over the course of the season and have snuck into 4th place in the Central Division. Indy Eleven and Atlanta are breathing down their necks though, and both those teams will be rooting for a Birmingham win. Moreover, the Three Sparks are back close to full strength with the return of Junior Flemmings from international duty and Bruno Lapa from injury. We only get Junior back for a while though: he will likely be back on World Cup Qualifying in early October when the Reggae Boyz face the USA, Canada and Honduras (October 7th, 10th and 13th). And then he’ll probably be out again in mid-November. That’s the playoffs!

Indy themselves have a tough task: they host Louisville (6:00pm). Lou City have shown some cracks lately with significant injury problems and the Eleven desperately need the points. Not to mention the huge favor they will be doing the Three Sparks if they take any points from this one. Twonited also have a difficult game: they host the Tampa Bay Rowdies (6:30pm). The Rowdies have had some off days this year, but even so are top of the entire league on 49 points. The last game of the day in the Central is FC Tulsa v. Austin Bold (7:00pm). Austin are 4th in the Mountain, which besides El Paso at the top and Real Monarchs at the bottom is very tightly clustered with just 8 points separating the other 5 teams. Points dropped here by Tulsa could be very helpful.

Outside the Central, Saturday’s schedule may be cut by one game, as Loudoun United, in addition to their other woes now have a COVID outbreak on their hands and will likely need to reschedule the game against Hartford Athletic. That game is pretty much a non-event anyway, so does it become a non-non-event? No wait…that would make an event. It must be a non-non-non-event. Other than that, likely the best nightcap game after you get home from the Legion game will be Phoenix v. Orange County (9:30pm). The OC are in 3rd in the Pacific, but only on tiebreakers and will be eyeing that home playoff position.

That leaves Memphis 901 in the Central to play on Sunday as they head to New York Red Bulls II (12:00pm), which should be a win. Sporting Kansas City II are off this week, which for then is as good as a win. Sunday’s only other game in the Championship is San Diego Loyal v. Tacoma Defiance (5:00pm). That should be a fairly good one – 2nd v. 4th in the Pacific. Tacoma trails San Diego by 4 points, but has 3 games in hand over the Loyal and Orange County, who will obviously be looking for a Tacoma win.

As usual, lots to watch – and see you at the Bank!

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