Game Day Preview: Indy Eleven v. Birmingham Legion

Indycar v. NASCAR

Before we get into the meat of this evening’s Legion game, we need to note that there are 3 other games on tonight and all of them involve teams in the East. First up, but an hour later than the Legion at 7:00pm, will be Louisville City v. Charleston Battery. The Legion can’t catch Lou City with a win tonight, but a 6-point week for the Legion and 2 losses for Lou City would do it. Tough assignment though. An hour after that at 8:00pm will be Colorado Springs Switchbacks v. FC Tulsa. Tulsa are a point behind the Legion (on 2 more games) and on back-to-back 0-3 losses after a long winning streak. After last weekend the Switchbacks owe us a favor and need to win. Last game tonight is San Diego Loyal v. Loudoun United (9:00pm).  Not a concern.

The game in Indianapolis kicks off at the relatively early hour of 6:00pm. The Legion won the first round of the series 2-1 back on June 17th and leads the all-time series 6-3. This year’s Indy team has a relatively poor record of 6-9-7 and an even worse home record of 1-5-6, the only win being a 1-0 affair May 20 against the Switchbacks of all teams, but they were on a 5-game losing streak at that time. Indy are just below the playoff line; a draw would be enough to get them over it. However, they have not made the playoffs since 2019, the Legion’s first year in the league.

Indy has lost two straight games like the Legion, 1-2 against Memphis 901 this past weekend and 0-2 at Louisville two weeks ago. Before that though they surprisingly beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3-1 (away, obviously). That was their only win in the last 7 games. A loss tonight would equal their worst losing streak of the season. Note however that they also beat the Charleston Battery in enemy territory 4-0 this season. They are, to say the least, somewhat quixotic. That was also easily their best scoring performance of the year; in 22 games they have scored just 24 goals but have also allowed just 26.

Lately the Eleven has playing a 4-2-3-1 pretty consistently, although in the previous game against the Legion they went with a 3-4-3. Given the Legion’s struggles with that formation Friday night I would not be shocked to see it again. Defense, though, is not really Indy’s weak point as the goals allowed indicates. Which makes it all the more interesting that they picked up Ben Reveno who had been entirely invisible at the Legion lately, probably not to the liking of the New England Revolution. He’s on loan with Indy now and there is a good chance we will see him tonight. And that’s fine because the Legion knows exactly how he plays.

Goalkeeper is a bit of a mystery at the moment. German-born Yannik Oettl (also once with the Revs) is the regular starter but over the past few weeks he has been trading starts with backup Tim Trilk. Trilk played against Memphis on Saturday; it’s unclear if he starts tonight.

As for the attack, Indy’s top scorer is Aodhan Quinn, with 8 goals to his name. That ties him with the Legion’s top scorer, Enzo Martinez. He is a constant threat. Moreover, he does it from the double pivot, not as a forward. Something of a disappointment though has been Sebastian Guenzatti, who signed with the Eleven this season after a long career at the Tampa Bay Rowdies (for whom he is the all-time leading scorer). He is their second-best scorer, but he only has 4 goals in 22 appearances. He was the only scorer against the Legion earlier this year. The regular starter at striker over the past few weeks has been Stefano Pinho who has precisely 1 shot to his name this season. It didn’t score. Another poor attacking signing, this one last year, is Solomon Asante, whom they picked up from Phoenix Rising where he had been team captain. He has 1 goal this season. All of these attacking players are over 30; with the exception of Quinn they look to be winding down their careers.

That makes Indy more or less a one-trick pony. Keep Quinn in check and the Eleven will have a very hard time scoring.

Indy is currently managed by Englishman Mark Lowry, who has run the team since last season, with limited success so far. He is also somewhat abrasive and has a fairly poor relationship with the press. And the fans.

Prediction: This is an absolute must-win game for the Legion, especially with Sacramento Republic coming up this weekend. Fortunately, Indy is a very beatable team and I think that’s what the Three Sparks will discover. Look for them to continue their dominance over Indy. That will almost certainly be the case if Tyler Pasher is available to face his old team.

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