Player Ratings: Birmingham Legion 2-1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds
They needed a win, they got one
A critical win is in the books, and the Legion sees itself in the home playoff spots again. Generally a well-played game in all phases, but there is one caveat. If it comes down to tiebreakers between Birmingham and Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh gets the nod. It will go down to the third tiebreaker, as the head-to-head results are even as is the head-to-head goal differential. The third tiebreaker is PPG against conference opponents. Pitt has already completed all its conference games with a record of 14-6-6. The Legion is on 12-7-5 and so can get to 14-7-5 and so would end up with a worse record by one draw. That called-off goal is still huge, as that would have given the Legion the edge on goal differential. Such is life.
Anyway, here are the player ratings for the game.
GK: MATT VAN OEKEL – 8. Albert Dikwa’s goal was virtually unstoppable, but MVO got his hands on all 3 of the remaining shots on target, and covered a number of other dangerous balls and took a knock in the process. All told a good performance.
LB: MIKEY LOPEZ – 8. The Riverhounds didn’t really trouble Mikey much. He had just 2 duels, winning 1, and made 1 clearance and 1 interception. His passing was solid at 82.7% accurate on 52 passes. He also had 1shot on target
CB: PHANUEL KAVITA – 9. Impassable as usual. Just 1 duel, which he won, combined with 1 tackle, 3 clearances and 3 interceptions. He also covered man mountain Jelani Peters on corners. His accuracy rate on 41 passes was an impressive 90.2%.
CB: ALEX CROGNALE – 8. Alex was in the difficult position of covering 2 men on the Pitt goal, making the unfortunate wrong choice. Still, he won 2 of 6 duels, was unmatchable on aerial balls, and went 53 of 62 in passing. Add 3 clearances to that.
RB: JONNY DEAN – 8. Jonny was moving up and down the field at a ridiculous pace all night. That being said, he managed to lose all 9 of his duels (which seems utterly wrong to me). He did make 2 clearances though His attack was of greater importance: he sent in 4 crosses, finding targets with 2 of them and generating 1 scoring chance.
LM: ANDERSON ASIEDU – 7.5. Ando worked the left mid position again, although he had a tendency to drift centrally where he is probably most comfortable. Even so, he turned on the jets over and over and made the Hounds chase him down. 90.6% completion rate on 53 passes, 2 shots (1 off target and 1 blocked), but offset that against a block of his own. Silly yellow card spoils it a bit.
CM: ZACH HERIVAUX – 9. Zach’s contribution to this team cannot be overstated. He acts as a third centerback a lot of the time, and makes life easy for Phanny and Alex. He won a whopping 10 of 12 duels, had 1 tackle and 1 clearance. He made a massive 77 passes and was good 88.3% of the time. He even managed to create a scoring chance.
RM: PROSPER KASIM – 9. With Marlon out on yellow card suspension, Prosper found himself stuck on the right wing and unable to do the switching we have seen so often. He struggled with that somewhat, but in 55 minutes he did send in 4 crosses (only 1 finding his man), had 1 shot off frame and created 1 chance.
CAM: ENZO MARTINEZ – 9. Yet another Man of the Match performance, for which he was happily surrounded by adoring kids after the game. He’s a man of the little people. An unassisted goal and the assist on Sadik Balarabe’s goal were the difference in this game. He is the heart of the Legion.
FWD: SADIK BALARABE – 8. In the 72 minutes of his first Legion start Sadik didn’t waste the opportunity. He should have had an assist on Juan’s called-off score and calmly finished his own goal. Add 2 more shots to that, 1 on and off target. He’s fast, he has a rocket shot and is a very physical presence. A big find out of Cyprus.
FWD: JUAN AGUDELO – 8. To say Juan was cheated is the understatement of the year. Other than that one he took 3 more shots but couldn’t get on target, although he came pretty close. He also went the full 90 for once, and you could see his knee was beginning to trouble him. Still, he kept working all the way to the end.
SUB: BRUNO LAPA – 8. Bruno came on for Prosper and immediately energized the attack. He managed not to attempt any shots himself, but he allowed Enzo to get just that little bit higher to cause even more problems.
SUB: JAKE RUFE – 8. Jake was brought on for 18 official minutes and played mostly out of position as an additional right fullback. He spent most of that time helping Jonny Dean bury the ball in Pitt’s left corner. Sneaky move.
HC: TOMMY SOEHN – 8. A good initial game plan, good adjustments and smart substitutions. What else do you want from a head coach?