Week 2 Preview: what you need to know
Another close game is likely
Well, it wasn’t the greatest start to the season, but the Legion and Protective Stadium have a chance to improve on things with a St. Patrick’s Day outing this Friday. The BJCC as a whole seriously needs to step it up this week as it has NCAA tournament games tonight and Saturday, which is probably why the Legion game is on Friday. There are road closures for the tournament, but those are on 9th Avenue North directly in front of Legacy Arena, and shouldn’t affect access to Protective too badly. However, although there are no basketball games Friday night, the Broadway musical Come From Away is on all week at the BJCC, including Friday night, so that could have an impact.
The most important part
Well, there’s nothing official from the Legion as of yet, but the USL’s own game preview suggests a possibility that Enzo Martinez will be back. He is in training, but his match availability is not known. If he is, that’s very good news indeed, as he was sorely missed, as we made more than clear earlier today. That will open up all sorts of selection opportunities for Tommy Soehn and will significantly strengthen the Three Sparks attack.
As far as the opposition is concerned, FC Tulsa had a somewhat similar game in Miami, which also ended in a 1-1 draw (as did 3 other games last week). Tulsa had to come from behind though, albeit quickly. Miami’s Florian Valot scored a long-range banger early contender for Goal of the Year in the 26th minute, but Tulsa’s Milo Yosef pounced on a ball mishandled by Miami keeper Adrian Zendejas to even the score just 2 minutes later.
After that, though, it was mostly Miami in attack and Tulsa valiantly defending, and depending at one key point on shotstopper Michael Nelson’s toes to keep a late go-ahead goal out. Not much different than MVO’s game-saving double-save.
Tulsa also suffered from the same problem that the Legion had: they have no real central attacking mid. They have no particular plan to correct that deficiency, it seems, and are going to struggle in midfield all year if they don’t fix it. Like the Legion, they played a 4-2-3-1, presumably as the go-to temporary solution.
They are also now missing forward Joaquin Rivas, who in fact was on the other side of the ball last week. They have brought in quite a few new names, Yosef being one, along with several relatively young players. Hmm. Man, a lot of this is sounding familiar, isn’t it?
One positive area is their goalkeeping. As noted, Michael Nelson played last week, but he is not the regular starter; that would be Austin Wormell, whose absence from the lineup was something of a surprise. Another shared strength.
Although he was kept to no shots against Miami, Tulsa still has its talisman Rodrigo da Costa starting at forward, and he also captains the team. He remains a serious threat to score at all times though; expect Alex Crognale and Phanuel Kavita to pin him down.
Prediction: These two teams appear pretty evenly matched and are very alike in many ways. The major difference is that the Legion is a bigger and more physical team, which increases the odds in the home team’s favor. If Enzo is available, the odds get even better. Either way, this will be another low-scoring affair, and so I am going with a 1-0 Legion win again.
Best of the rest
Week 2 has in fact already started, as yesterday evening the Colorado Springs Switchbacks scored less than 2 minutes into the game and with about 2 minutes left in second half stoppage time to earn a 2-1 win in El Paso. That leaves New Mexico United as the only team yet to play. It also puts the Locomotive in the unenviable position of being first to 2 losses.
That aside, the Legion game is the only one Friday, so you will have complete freedom to choose who to watch over the weekend while recovering from your St. Patrick’s Day hangover. On a bye this week are Indy Eleven and Las Vegas Lights, so you can count those two out.
First up on Saturday are Memphis 901 and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (4:00pm). It’s futile to watch a game wanting both teams to lose, of course, so the best we can hope for here is a draw. Area Code FC humiliated themselves last week losing 1-3 at home to Loudoun United and also losing goalscorer Laurent Kissiedou to a hilarious red card (thanks to a Crognale award performance by Loudoun’s Houssou Landry). Who knows what will happen this weekend. At 6:00pm The™ Miami FC faces New Mexico United. We haven’t NMU yet this season, so we have no idea what to expect, but Miami has a chance to go top of the East, at least temporarily and depending on what the Legion did the previous evening. The Switchbacks will be in action again at 7:00pm as they host Hartford Athletic in their second cross-country trip of the year after a 3-5 shootout loss in Monterey.
Also going way west for the second time is Detroit City who play El Paso (8:30pm) with three losses between them already. El Paso are the more likely to right the ship here and can hardly afford to go 0-3-0 to start the year. Monterey Bay’s luck may change at 9:00pm as they will face Louisville City, but any damage they can do to the men in purple will be deeply appreciated by the rest of the East. Two more Eastern teams play Western opponents at that time as well (so far this season, the West has hosted every inter-conference except one each week): Tampa head to Orange County and the Charleston Battery to Sacramento. All three could be good games, so there’s a lot to choose from.
On Sunday Loudoun welcomes San Antonio (3:00pm). That one is pretty predictable despite what Loudoun did last week. At 5:00pm San Diego Loyal plays Phoenix Rising. San Diego edged Detroit 1-0 last week and the Rising drew 1-1 with the Battery. Phoenix will also be the Legion’s next home opponent, so there is local interest in this one. Rounding out the week at 7:00pm is Rio Grande Valley v. Oakland. Go to bed early and don’t worry about missing anything.
Back in the Old Country
The Blues had a successful weekend, beating Rotherham comprehensively 2-0, but followed it up by losing 0-3 to Watford. Still, they held on to 18th and this Saturday (10:00am, no ESPN+) they are at QPR, who are one spot below them. A result here could see the Blues rise up to 2 places depending on results elsewhere. After that they will be off until April 1st, as the international break begins this coming Monday (the US has games Friday and Monday next weekend).