Week 20 Preview: what you need to know
Will this count as a homecoming game?
45 days. That’s how long it will have been since the last Legion home game.
104 days. That’s how long it will have been since the last Legion weekend home game.
Entirely too long in both cases. But the wait is finally over.
The most important part
Since the teams previously met back in Week 2, the Legion and FC Tulsa have been going in opposite directions. Tulsa has 22 from 21 games now, 6 points behind The™ Miami FC in 7th place on the same number of games and rapidly falling out of the playoff picture. The Legion, in contrast, is poised to get into the prized home playoff spots, sitting 2 points behind the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Detroit City with a game in hand (in the East, only Loudoun United has played fewer games). It is thus time for revenge for that 3-1 loss at ONEOK Field back in March.
The really good news is that Tulsa is the league’s worst road team at this point. And in a league that include the New York Red Bulls II, that’s quite an achievement. So far, Tulsa is 0-8-2 away from home while going a fairly average 6-3-2 at home. Even being very ordinary in Oklahoma, they still have the biggest differential between home and away PPG at 1.62. Since June 1st their record is a mere 2-3-4, the wins being over the Charleston Battery and Atlanta United 2. And right at the end of May they managed to lose 1-5 to Orange County.
A big part of that record is their home field, one of far too many converted baseball fields in the USL. It’s both short and narrow, and covered in temporary sod. Not the best of playing surfaces. Even they can’t seem to quite get the hang of it at home. And away from home…well, their ability to adjust is lacking, to say the least.
Which is to say, Protective Stadium (6:30pm Saturday) should be a huge home field advantage for the Legion this week. And that’s especially true if we can get a large number of fans through the gates. Yes, I’m talking to you, people.
The game will also be a return home for JJ Williams, who is currently Tulsa’s leading scorer with 8 goals, just ahead of Rodrigo da Costa on 7. Both are major threats to put the ball in the net, although the team has trouble scoring on the road (just 8 goals in 10 games). They will need to be contained.
At the other end, the team is pretty leaky. Tulsa has just 2 clean sheets this season, both by Sean Lewis, who was traded earlier this month to Indy Eleven. On the road they have conceded 24 times. The first choice goalkeeper is currently Austin Wormell, who has allowed 11 goals in 9 games as a starter. In exchange for Lewis the team picked up defender Noah Powder. He has scored a goal but does not seem to have shored up the backline much as of yet. They could need him to do just that; center back Johnny Fenwick will be out for this game after receiving a double yellow against New Mexico United last week.
Prediction: Revenge will be nice, but it’s the points that are the most important. As the season progresses each game becomes that much more important and in a tight race all the more so. With Tulsa being weak on the road and the Legion finally home again, I see all 3 points staying here in hopefully a decisive fashion.
Best of the rest
The week starts off with a must-watch game Wednesday evening as Louisville City take on Phoenix Rising (6:00pm). This one is on ESPN2, and back at the beginning of the season probably seemed like a much bigger matchup than it currently does. City are of course flying high on a 5-game winning streak, but the Rising are having a really poor season by their own high standards and are coming off a 1-3 loss in Memphis. Even so, it should still be a good one.
That’s the only midweek game, and there’s only one game Friday (8:00pm). That one could also be a completely different than you would normally expect. The Colorado Springs Switchbacks have hit a major road block in the form of injuries and other ineligibilities. It was so bad that Monday they were only able to list 12 players on the game day roster, including several borrowed academy players. And then it got worse with 2 red cards in the 0-3 loss in San Diego. Which is to say, the Charleston Battery, who just beat Hartford, have a chance.
The remainder of the week’s games are all on Saturday evening, so it’s replay choice time. Key games for the Legion include Hartford Athletic v. Pittsburgh (6:00pm), Indy v. Memphis (6:00pm), Detroit v. New Mexico United (6:30pm) and Loudoun v. Miami (6:30pm). Form favors all the wrong teams with the possible exception of Detroit. Additionally, the Tampa Bay Rowdies play Twonited (6:30pm), which will likely keep them well clear of the Three Sparks, and Louisville are off after the midweek clash.
Of the Western Conference games, the best would be El Paso Locomotive v. San Antonio (8:30pm), which will slightly overlap the Legion game, but there is also Oakland Roots v. Las Vegas Lights (9:00pm). The two are tied on 28 points right below the playoff line with Sacramento just 1 point ahead and LA Galaxy II 2 points ahead.
That’s what up this week, and see you Saturday!