Week 24 Preview: what you need to know
A key double-game week - indirectly, that is
There are two teams with double-game weeks that of interest to Legion fans this week. First off, and kicking off very soon, Birmingham City visits Queens Park Rangers. That’s at 1:45pm today, but PPV is the only way to watch. Then on Saturday they return home to play Nottingham Forest (9:00am). Again, that one is only available on PPV. The Blues and QPR are tied on points, and Notts Forest is languishing in the relegation zone, so this is a big chance for City to recover from a poor week in which they lost twice without scoring once.
Much nearer to home, the USL Championship action starts tomorrow with a game of major significance to the Three Sparks. Atlanta United 2 hosts Louisville City (6:30pm). As of right now, Lou City leads the Legion by just 1 point, but has a game in hand. Since the Legion is idle in midweek (for once), that game is about to be used up. Twonited have had a rough stretch of games, losing 0-2 to Tampa Bay before getting shellacked by our boys 0-4, then trying to recover against Rio Grande Valley but losing 2-3 to a stoppage time goal. RGV were the weakest opponent in that stretch, but still no pushovers. Atlanta needs a rebound if they are to have any chance of postseason play – they are 5 points out of the playoff zone and have played more games than anyone else in the Central Division. More importantly, we need our neighbors to take points off the Barneys to keep the division title chase tight.
For their part, Lou City has just 2 wins in their last 7 games, but are getting some key players back from injury. Those two wins were against Hartford Athletic and Indy Eleven, so not exactly spectacular. This is going to be important. One key component: Atlanta United (the MLS squad, that is) also play tomorrow night, so don’t expect too may first team players in the Twonited lineup.
Also tomorrow in the Central is OKC Energy v. Indy (7:30pm). OKC grabbed the final playoff back from Memphis 901 on Sunday with a 2-0 win over…Indy. That was also at home. Indy has won just 1 of its last 6 games, all against divisional opponents, the only win coming against SKC II. They are, like Atlanta, still in the playoff hunt, but just barely. OKC leads Memphis by 2 points, but has played 2 more games, so cannot afford to drop points here.
An interesting point about the Central: all four teams in playoff position have records of 2-1-2 over the last 5 games. Memphis, currently in 5th, has the best form in the division at 3-1-1. However, they are off this midweek, so will have to play 8 games in the final month of the season.
Nothing else of interest in midweek, so Friday night’s tilt at SKC II (7:00pm, ESPN+, my68) is the next game to watch. The Legion has 2 games remaining against the Central cellar-dwellers, which should be good for 6 points. Then the Three Sparks get to sit back and watch the rest of the division fight it out over the weekend. First up on Saturday is Indy v. Atlanta (6:00pm). Of more direct impact to the Legion is FC Tulsa v. Memphis (7:00pm). Again, we find ourselves in the difficult position of rooting for Memphis: the further behind Tulsa falls, the better. They are currently 8 points back with a game in hand.
Then on to Sunday, as Lou City faces New Mexico United (2:00pm). New Mexico is 6th in the Mountain, but is only 2 points out of 4th, and themselves have a game in hand. They are also 3-2-0 over the last 5, including wins over Colorado Springs and San Antonio. They will be hungry to continue their own good string of results. Lastly, OKC Energy plays San Antonio (5:00pm).
As for the rest of the league, easily the best game to watch will be Orange County v. Phoenix Rising (Saturday, 9:00pm). OC are 3rd in the Pacific and vying for a home playoff spot, and look to be a good contender to break Phoenix’ current win streak, standing at 6 games.