Week 7 Preview: what you need to know
Back to normal, whatever that is
After the…er…disappointing exit from the Open Cup, the Legion now finds itself focused on the USL Championship season again. Here’s what’s coming this weekend.
The most important part
The Three Sparks make a trip to Virginia tp play Loudoun United. It’s only the second trip to the DC area for the Legion, and will also be the last, at least in league play, as Loudoun, as DC United’s second team, will be joining MLS Next Pro in 2023. Back in 2019 the two teams played twice, the Legion winning 1-0 at home a drawing 1-1 away.
Obviously, neither team is anything like what it was four years ago. Loudoun, especially, is this season not what it has long been, which is to say, a near-guaranteed 3 points for the opponents. Or, at least, they started the season looking potentially much stronger than in years past. They started off with two wins against Indy Eleven and the Baby Bulls – not especially tough games, granted – then drew Miami, but since have lost three straight, against Pittsburgh, Louisville and Oakland. Losing to the Riverhounds and Lou City is hardly a shock, but Oakland Roots have been struggling somewhat in their sophomore season but shellacked Loudoun 4-1 last week. IN the last four games they scored just once. Is the shone off the apple for Loudoun? It may well be.
The problem with Loudoun, as with most of the MLS reserve squads, is that their starting lineup is a revolving door. They have not started the same XI twice so far this season, and have been testing a lot of youth. That includes academy player Adellatif Aboukoura, who is the lone scorer in the recent stretch of games. The team’s top scorer, with a lofty 2 goals, is loanee Tyler Freeman. At 19 he is already a USL veteran with 41 games under his belt, 35 of which were with Sporting Kansas City II, where he went through the academy system. Loudoun’s best known name though is probably Sami Guediri, who played 10 games with MLS’ Inter Miami last season and had an extensive USL League One career prior to that.
At the back of the lineup, the team has used two goalkeepers, primarily Luis Zamudio, a 23-year-old product of the Club America system in Mexico with relatively limited experience. The other is Jon Kempin, who is on loan from DC United and has played just 1 game so far.
All told, Loudoun is something of a mystery and difficult to predict. As for the Legion, getting back on trac is clearly of paramount importance right now, and a potentially weak opponent could be the tonic they need. However, the Three Sparks’ own lineup is also a question mark. Most importantly, who will start up front? Juan Agudelo was not in the Open Cup lineup on Tuesday as a result of having a PRP shot in his knee and his availability is unknown. Edi Horvat remains a bizarre absentee, and Macky Diop is clearly not the player we need at striker.
Prediction: I’m going with a Legion win. If not, then this season is going to be a very long and painful one. This game is the reset the team desperately needs and with an opponent that is struggling to score even more than the Three Sparks, now is the time.
Best of the rest
The Legion can’t get into a playoff spot with a win, but they can get right up to the playoff line. To do that, they needs Atlanta United 2 to drop points, a pretty strong likelihood, since they are visiting Pittsburgh (Saturday, 6:00pm). They also need Indy Eleven to lose and to erase the 3-goal differential advantage Indy has. The Indy game overlaps the Legion’s. They host Orange County (Sunday, 4:30pm) and will have new signee Solomon Asante available in what could be a very good game.
The rest of the weekend slate is all on Saturday, and mostly in the evening, so You will have to pick and choose. One game of interest will be FC Tulsa v. the Colorado Springs Switchbacks (7:30pm). The Switchbacks are coming off their first loss of the season (1-2 against Memphis 901) and Tulsa is sitting right above the playoff line in the East. The best game of the day is probably New Mexico United v. San Antonio (8:00pm), two good teams going to head-to-head there.
Other than that, not much to shout about this week.
The Old Country
With 3 games left in the EFL Championship season, Birmingham City find themselves out of relegation danger but hardly through any effort of their own, having endured embarrassing defeats last week, 2-4 to Coventry and 1-6 to Blackpool. The Blues have one game this weekend against Millwall (Saturday, 9:00am, no US TV). They sit in a lowly 20th position. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County (thanks to a 21-point deduction and transfer restrictions) already relegated. The other two relegation spots are between Reading (who have the strongest chance of survival, Peterborough and Barnsley. There are also rumors flying around that Blues manager Lee Bowyer will be gone after the season is over.