Week 26 Preview: what you need to know

Time to get back on track

Well, last weekend didn’t exactly go as planned for the Legion, who seem unable at this point to string together more than a couple of good results. This week they face a stronger opponent, which by recent form looks to be a better chance for points.

The most important part

Another Sunday evening game this week (5:00pm). Get used to it: of the 8 remaining games, 5 are on Sundays. One is on a Wednesday, so that leaves just two Saturday games on the slate. We live in college football country.

This one is going to be interesting. The San Diego Loyal are nearing the end of their existence, having announced last week that they will be folding at the end of this season. A major reason appears to be the club’s inability to secure a stadium deal going forward and some financial issues as well. The incoming MLS San Diego team set to start play in 2025 is likely a big factor in all of this. The team also looked to potentially relocate to Santa Barbara but that didn’t work out either. The league is now looking to transfer the franchise rights, a standard step in similar situations.

In the first game after the announcement the Loyal beat the Rio Grande Valley Toros 3-2 in Edinburg in a game in which neither team appeared to have much of a defense. In fact, San Diego has been less than stellar of late, its only other win in the last five games being a 2-1 affair over Loudoun United. Generally they don’t have much trouble scoring, having put up 44 goals in 25 games though. The top scorer is Evan Conway on 10 goals, but he hasn’t scored in the past three games. But also dangerous are Ronaldo Damus, Adrien Perez and Tumi Moshobane on 7,6 and 6 goals respectively. Perez is a wingback but the others are all forwards, which explains why the Loyal frequently plays with a 3-4-3 or 30502 formation. They have a lot of attacking threats.

The back line isn’t bad most of the time but has not looked all that great lately. They have allowed 34 goals, although 9 of those have been in the past 5 games. The back line is anchored by Grant Stoneman, who can be quite a force, but the remaining 2 slots are something of a revolving group with no real consistency. That’s a potential risk to exploit. In goal is Koke Vegas (whose real name is Jorge Ruiz Ojeda). He can make some excellent saves but is middle of the pack stats wise in the league. Last year in Protective Stadium Juan Agudelo put one past him for the game’s only goal.

All that being said the team’s best player is probably English midfielder Charlie Adams, through whom pretty much all plays run. He is also the team captain and is likely to get snapped up quickly once the season is done.

Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Obviously, the Loyal have something to prove right now and will not go gentle into that good night. They are 5th in the West on tiebreakers but have a game in hand over Oakland in 4th and will be wanting a home playoff game. But they are about as erratic as the Legion and are vulnerable. Home turf will be an advantage, of course, bit not much of one. Non-conference points will be very useful for the Legion though. I’m calling this one a draw.

Best of the rest

All games on Wednesday involved only Western Conference teams, so there was no impact to the East race. However, that will not be the case this weekend.

The Saturday games: first up is Indy Eleven v. The™ Miami FC (6:00pm). Indy is 2 points above the Legion on one additional game. The Eleven won the opposite fixture 1-0 three games back and is on a strong run of form. Miami? Not so much, but they desperately need points to stay in the playoff chase. Right now they are just a point below the line, but have to get past Detroit City and FC Tulsa.

Speaking of Detroit, they host Memphis 901 (6:30pm). Detroit have to be feeling good about last week’s win, gifted to them or not, but remain 6 points behind the Legion and could help the Three Sparks out enormously with a win. Area Code FC are even on points with the Legion, but have 2 games in hand (still having to play the Legion twice though). At the same time will be Tampa Bay Rowdies v. Hartford Athletic. Hartford have been hit with COVID-19 and will be travelling with a badly depleted squad, including an emergency goalkeeper. The Rowdies will be expecting the 3 points and getting to within a point of the idle Pittsburgh Riverhounds (who have played 3 more games right now).

At 8:00pm Louisville City heads west to play the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. Both teams have been rather iffy of late so this one could go either way. The last major Eastern team to play will be the Charleston Battery, who head to New Mexico (8:00pm). United are not performing well at all this season and are coming off an exhausting midweek 3-3 draw with the Las Vegas Lights. Look for the Battery to keep pace in the Eastern race.

Of the games out west, the most interesting will likely be Oakland Roots v. Sacramento Republic (9:00pm). The Roots are coming off a tough 1-2 loss in Louisville last week, and SacRep are on a 2-game skid for the first time this season, so something has to break. Both teams are competitive though and should be good entertainment. Otherwise, Las Vegas hosts Orange County (9:30pm). Orange County are already on a club-record 7-game win streak and will be looking to extend that.

On Sunday there’s one other game: Tulsa v. San Antonio (7:30pm). San Antonio played midweek and Tulsa will be eager to get back above the playoff line in the East. San Antonio is clinging to top spot in the West by a point but is on a bizarre streak of three straight 0-0 draws.

Back in the Old Country

Birmingham City continued its strong opening to the 23-24 season last weekend with a 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle. The Blues are now an unaccustomed 3rd in the Championship and just 2 points off the lead. However, they followed that up with a midweek 1-3 loss to Cardiff City in the Carabao Cup, the 2 go-ahead goals coming after Lukas Jutkiewicz was sent off for a rather stupid retaliatory foul. Tomorrow they host Millwall (6:30am, no ESPN+). Millwall are 10th on a 2-2-0 record with the wins not being too impressive.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.