Week 19 Preview: what you need to know
We kick off when?
6 goals, but only 4 points. Not the best week for the Legion really, all things considered. But the long, long road trip is finally coming to an end. Here’s what’s on offer this week in the USL Championship.
The most important part
The Three Sparks make the long hike west to Sacramento for a match with the Republic that its two fairly evenly matched teams. Kick-off on Saturday is at a painfully late 10:00pm, which means you can watch plenty of other games beforehand. Go easy on the alcohol, though, and stock up on the coffee.
SacRep are sitting in 7th place in the Western Conference right now, on 29 points as are the Legion, although from 1 less game. Their biggest achievement this season, though, is making it to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup, the last non-MLS team in the competition, and that game is getting close. They will play Sporting KC on July 27th (the other semi-final is Orlando v. New York Red Bulls).
Also like the Legion, up until last week they were on a 4-game win streak. They lost that with a 0-3 loss to Colorado Springs and then last weekend eked out a 3-3 draw with the Oakland Roots, scoring right at the end of second half stoppage time (a game well worth watching, by the way, if you get the chance). Yet again like the Legion is their scoring, at 22-18 for a +4 differential (the Legion is 21-17). And they have been spreading it around: their top scorer, Maalique Foster, has just 4 goals in 8 appearances. On the defensive side, regular starting goalkeeper Danny Vitiello has 35 saves and 3 clean sheets in 13 games.
All told, a close comparison. However, SacRep tends to play out of a 3-4-3 with an aggressive press. It’s not entirely clear how they would handle a quality counter-attacking team, although they had some trouble handling the Roots who often play that way.
Lastly, the team’s nickname is The Quails, which apparently started as an April Fool’s joke and quickly stuck. The team’s crest has a bear, likje the California state flag, but apparently the state bird is the quail, so it makes some sense.
Prediction: A very hard one to call. It’s a long trip for this game, and kick-off is past the Legion’s bedtime. That being said, the two teams look evenly matched. I’m going for a draw in this one to finish out the road trip with a respectable 8 of 15 points.
Best of the rest
The rest of the league is pretty busy this week, with games Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. First up are two midweek games that could impact the Legion. The™ Miami FC hosts the Charleston Battery (6:00pm Wednesday). The South Floridians are right below the Legion in the standings, although with 5 fewer points from 1 additional game. They can’t catch the good guys with this game, but dropping points adds to the separation (they also play out West on Saturday in Orange County, possibly the longest road trip in the league this season). Also tomorrow is FC Tulsa v. New Mexico United (7:30pm). Tulsa of course will be the Legion’s first home game next week and revenge is in the air.
Friday evening has an unexpectedly good game on the slate: the Switchbacks play LA Galaxy II (8:00pm). Los Dos have put together a string of multi-goal wins, including last weekend’s 5-0 waxing of San Diego Loyal. This one could be very entertaining. And it’s in Colorado, so there will people on the stands.
As last week, all of Saturday’s games are in the evening, the Legion game being the latest kickoff on the schedule. The biggest game earlier in the evening though will be Memphis 901 v. Louisville City (7:30pm). 1 v. 2 in the East is obviously huge and has all sorts of implications for the following group, most of whom, it turns out, are heading west. In addition to that Miami hike, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds play at New Mexico (8:00pm) and Detroit City head to Monterey Bay (9:00pm). They are both on 33 points from 19 games. The Legion can’t catch either of them just yet but can get close with the right results. Not going cross-country are the Tampa Bay Rowdies who are nonetheless racking frequent flyer miles as they head to Loudoun United (6:30pm).
Sunday’s only game is Rio Grande Valley v. Las Vegas Lights (6:30pm), not a big draw for neutrals. So plan to go watch some parkour or sumo or something else equally weird.
Lastly, on Monday the Switchbacks, who are barely over that 3-game week, get shafted by the schedulers yet again. After playing Friday night they play the Loyal (9:00pm) who will doubtless be looking for some redemption.