Week 24 Preview: what you need to know

Back on the winning track?

Well, last week was schizophrenic to say the least. After the embarrassment in Indy the Legion came very close to beating the best team in the league. Haven’t quite figured out yet how to address all of that. It will have to wait, though, as we have a big game coming up tomorrow evening.

The most important part

Well, “evening” may be a bit of a generous description as the gods of the USL saw fit to schedule a game in Birmingham in August at 4:30pm. Nice.

Anyway, that dramatic come-from-behind win at Lynn  Family Stadium seems like ages ago now, and that 2-1 defeat of tomorrow’s opponent Louisville City has been followed by some les than optimal results, last week’s draw with Sacramento notwithstanding. Lou City on the other hand have rather regained their form with 2 wins and 2 draws since that game. The 2 draws have been over the past 2 weeks and were against the Charleston Battery (1-1) and Rio Grande Valley (2-2). Both of those were at home, as was one of the 2 wins. In fact, City have had the luxury of a relatively long stretch at home, so this trip could be a bit of a shock.

Lou City were, if anything, the weaker team against RGV last week, although they led twice. The Toros came pretty close to taking all 3 points. Also good news.

Otherwise, there isn’t a great deal to add about Louisville since the last preview. They remain relatively banged up, although the same could be said for the Legion, given the unknown status of both Tyler Pasher and Anderson Asiedu right now. But they still remain tough to score on: Oliver Semmle is leading the league with an impressive 11 clean sheets in 21 games.

Prediction: This return fixture is likely a little harder to predict than the game in Louisville. The two teams have been on opposite trajectories since that game. They both drew last week, but the Legion’s was easily the more impressive result. That being said, the Legion is now in the position of having to make every point count. Expect the home team to make it a twofer this season.

Best of the rest

Week 24 started off Wednesday evening out in the West with San Antonio predictably beating RGV 2-1 and Orange County continuing its excellent run of form with a 1-0 win over East leaders Pittsburgh Riverhounds. That sets up an interesting game late Saturday evening as Charleston take their turn to play in Irvine (9:00pm, so well after the Legion game is done). If the Battery can end County’s 5-game win streak they could close to 1 point of the Hounds, who are idle this weekend.

Lots of other action to take note of, though, including an important game this evening. FC Tulsa host the Tampa Bay Rowdies (9:00pm). Tulsa lost in Tampa 0-3 three games ago to end their long win streak, matching that score against Lou City and then drawing 1-1 with Colorado Springs. The Rowdies are coming off a 4-1 thumping of Monterey Bay and will want to keep within 2 points or less of Charleston (who have played 2 additional games). Tulsa for their part are a point behind the Legion (but have played 1 more game) and 3 points ahead of The™ Miami FC…

…who play in Hartford Saturday (6:00pm) in the second game of the day. Miami can draw even with Tulsa but would lose out on tiebreakers, so Tulsa would stay above the playoff line by the skin of their teeth if both results go Miami’s way.

Memphis 901 are idle this weekend, which is probably just as well, since with the departure of Bill Hamid today, they are down to just goalkeeper with any pro playing experience. That likely means they will find themselves in the position of rooting for the Three Sparks, as they are tied o points with Lou City, although City will end the day with 2 more games played.

The last Eastern team in playoff position is Indy and they head to El Paso for a latish kickoff (8:30pm). The Locomotive have been dire lately, with just 3 points in the last 9 games and no wins since June 14th, when they beat Las Vegas 2-1. Amazingly, they are clinging to the final playoff spot in the West with a 4-point cushion over RGV. Tomorrow would be a very good day for them to break out of this extended funk with Indy leading the Legion by 1 point.

RGV for their part head to Phoenix (7:00pm). The Rising are coming off El Paso’s latest loss, a 5-0 blowout that actually made the Three Sparks’ loss in Indy not look so bad. Phoenix and El Paso are both 1 point behind Colorado Springs and will be looking to pass them in the standings. The Switchbacks face a tough task in what is probably the best all-West match on the schedule. They head to the Oakland Roots (9:00pm). Oakland are in just as good a form as Orange County, with whom they are tied on points.

The last game of any interest on the slate will be San Diego Loyal v. New Mexico United (8:30pm). New Mexico aren’t great, but the Loyal have also been a tad shaky lately with losses to Orange County and Memphis in the past 3 weeks. The interest here is that the Legion will be heading to San Diego on September 3rd.

The Women’s World Cup

The Cup comes to a close this weekend with just the 3rd place and championship games remaining. The 3rd place game will be tomorrow at 3:00am, featuring Sweden and Australia. The final will be Sunday at the slightly more congenial time of 5:00am, with England facing off against Spain.

Back in the Old Country

Birmingham City continued its solid start to the season with a 1-0 home win over Leeds United last weekend in front of their new owners, Tom Wagner and Tom Brady. The Blues have 4 points in league play now on top of the EFL Cup win over Cheltenham. Tomorrow they travel south to Bristol City (9:00am, no ESPN+). City also have 4 points (as do 6 other teams) and a cup win. They finished last season in 14th place, just a bit better than the Blues in 17th.

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