Week 5 Preview: what you need to know

Back to normality

OK, this is rather late, but hey, it’s been a crazy week already in the soccerverse and I have a real job too, so no apologies really. Anyway, with the World Cup qualifiers done and dusted and the second round of the US Open Cup also complete, we are back to a round of regular play in the USL Championship as well as the rest of the world being back to league play.

It’s already been a successful week for the Three Sparks,. of course, with the 3-1 win over Southern States SC Stars to advance in the Open Cup to host the Birmingham Hammers’ old foes from Georgia, Tormenta FC. That game will be played at home some time between April 19-21 at a location to be announced. For now, though, here’s what’s happening this weekend.

The most important part

At 4:00pm Sunday the Legion plays a Hartford Athletic team it has not seen since the inaugural season of 2019. The two games back then ended in a 2-2 draw at home and a 4-0 loss in Connecticut. Both teams are much changed since then of course.

So far this season the Athletic have played only 3 games, having been the bye team in Week 1. They have just 1 point from those games, having lost 1-2 to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Atlanta United 2, and drawing 1-1 with the Rowdies. They won their Open Cup match against Oyster Bay 3-1.

Statistically then, there isn’t much to distinguish the two teams. The Legion has looked much more solid in its losses though and on paper is the stronger team. Of the Athletic’s 3 league goals, only one was scored by an attacking player, and one was scored by a Twonited defender. The forward who did score is Juan Carlos Obregon, who has been their leading threat since last season. Holding him at bay will essentially neutralize the entire Hartford attack. 

Prediction: This one should be a comfortable Legion win. The confidence earned Thursday evening should translate to this game. If Juan Agudelo gets some meaningful time for his first league match it could end up very one-sided.

Best of the rest

Well, you’ve got day to watch games today. The slate opens with FC Tulsa and Pittsburgh (1:00pm) which sees two quality teams going at it. That’s a must see. Next up is one that is likely going to be more interesting than anyone would have expected before the season started: Las Vegas Lights hosting the Colorado Springs Switchbacks (4:00pm). The Lights are much better than anyone anticipated and the Switchbacks are of course top of the league with a perfect record to protect. However, both teams lost this week in the Open Cup, the Switchbacks in an epic 120-minute 0-1 loss to the Northern Colorado Hailstorm who were playing down a man in their first ever official match. This could be fun.

At 6:30pm there’s the Tampa Bay Rowdies against The Miami FC in the Florida derby. At 8:30pm El Paso Locomotive face the Monterey Bay Union in what could be their best chance to get some points in a so far dismal 0-4-0 start. Monterey do have a win (against the Oakland Roots) but still have 3 road games left before they can inhabit their own home.

The late game to check out would be Orange County v. San Antonio (9:00pm). Neither the defending champions nor the Texans have had a stellar opening few games, although they are definitely competitive and this one will be key for both sides.

ON Sunday there’s only one other game: Loudoun United v. Louisville City (3:00pm). Loudoun’s strong start has tailed off a bit already with a draw at Miami and a 2-0 loss at Pittsburgh. They did however have the midweek off as they are not eligible for the Open Cup. any points they take from Lou City will be extremely helpful

The Old Country

I’m already too late for this one. Birmingham City were beaten by Nottingham Forest 2-0 this morning.

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