Week 14 Preview: what you need to know
It's time for you know who
So, yet another Wednesday evening game for the Legion. and after that, they are off for a long 17 days. They are probably going to need that break, because there’s a tough stretch of games ahead. As I am sure you already know. Here’s what is coming up this week though.
The most important part
The biggest rivalry in all of soccer is upon us once again. The Southern Harm Derby (which title I guess is now official) is back for its 11th iteration (Wednesday, 7:00pm). And this one has all the makings of a classic. Memphis 901 has gotten good. As in, very good. Right now they are the only team in the league on 28 points, although the Colorado Springs Switchbacks with 27 are slightly better on a PPG basis. Louisville City are just 1 point behind them in the Eastern standings, but have played 2 more games. Area Code FC are on a 5-game win streak, best in the league, outscoring their opponents 17-3. For the season to date they are 27-12. That’s scary good.
Admittedly, they beat up on some weaker opposition: 5-0 against LA Galaxy II, 5-2 against Atlanta United 2 and 3-0 against Loudoun United. Even so, they seem able to score more or less at will. currently they have 4 players with four or more goals: Phillip Goodrum (7, tied for 4th overall), Laurent Kissiedou (5), Aaron Molloy and Jeremy Kelly (both on 4). They not only score but they spread it around as well. For the Legion only Prosper Kasim is on 4 goals.
Taking it a step further, Memphis has had the 4th easiest schedule to date based on opponent PPG, with only Indy Eleven, Detroit City and Louisville City having had it easier. Given the positions of those four teams in the Eastern Conference, it suggests there could be a lot of shuffling in the standings before the season is out.
All of which is to say, Memphis is not unbeatable. They have lost twice (in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and 6 games ago against The™ Miami FC), but haven’t lost on the road anywhere. Which is to say, they are due for a comeuppance.
Defensively, they are perhaps not quite as strong as they are in attack. They have allowed 12 goals, the same as the Legion, but against poorer teams. Their XGA for the season is 16.65, so they are doing fractionally better on defense than expected, but that really puts them on a par with the Legion whose xGA is currently just slightly less at 15.39. Their primary goalkeeper, Trey Muse, has just 20 saves and 2 clean sheets to his account this season; Matt van Oekel has 35 and 4 respectively. So they can be broken down at the back.
Interestingly, their xG for the season is 17.68, which implies that they have scored at least 9 goals they shouldn’t have. That goes with the weaker opposition as well – against underdogs you can take chances you might not otherwise attempt and get away with them.
Thus, if the Legion can stay strong at the back – and they most certainly can do that – and can build on the revamped attack we saw at the weekend, this could be a much closer game than the standings suggest.
Prediction: A week ago I would have put this one immediately in the L column for the Legion. After the performance in Phoenix that changes. Now I am going with a draw, and probably a low-scoring one at that.
Best of the rest
There is one early game tomorrow that will have a direct impact on the Legion. At 6:00pm Miami hosts Indy Eleven. Both teams are on 20 points, 1 more than the Legion and occupy the last two playoff spots. Which means a draw is the best possible outcome for the Legion (mathematically, it always is when teams ahead of you play each other – it means both teams drop 2 points rather than one dropping 3). With a win the Legion could therefore leapfrog both of them. With a draw the Legion can only get past Indy who would have to lose. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.
No other midweek games of note, which gets us to Saturday. With the Legion off you have you choice of games to watch, but to be honest there’s not a great deal to pique your interest. However, if Miami wins tomorrow they will be even on points with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, whom they just happen to be welcoming south in the Florida derby (6:00pm). That has potential to be a good game. Also, Detroit City v. Sacramento Republic (6:30pm) could be entertaining, and if you want to stay up late again, Phoenix host El Paso Locomotive (9:30pm) with both teams on 21 points (El Paso have played 2 more games though).
That’s about it, and there are no Sunday games again.