Week 28 Preview: what you need to know

Heading down south

For the second straight week, the Legion delves into the lower reaches of the Western Conference, this time heading down to the border.

The most important part

Even though the Legion is not at home, they are still playing Sunday evening this week, with kickoff at 7:00pm in H-E-B Park in Edinburg, TX, home of the Rio Grande Valley Toros. The Toros will be on a 15-day rest, as their game in Hartford last week was postponed due to weather.

The Toros are 11th in the West, but are still within reach of the playoffs at 32 points. Their recent schedule has been a bit weird too, as over the past 5 games they have played San Antonio twice and Phoenix Rising twice. They actually beat Phoenix once, 1-0, their only win since July. On the other hand, they were the last team to beat Orange County. Unpredictable would be a good description of this team.

That being said, they’ve only managed seven wins this year and a home record 4-4-6. They’ve put up just 34 goals and allowed 41. The top scorer is Wilmer Cabrera Jr. Cabrera is on 7 goals, but that is irrelevant now. He has not been in the lineup since August 19th, as he was on loan from Real Cartagena of Colombia, who recalled and then immediately sent him off to Greifswalder, which is in the fourth tier in Germany. The junior tag is necessary, by the way, because the Toros’ coach is…Wilmer Cabrera, who was at one time the head coach the Houston Dynamo, which had an affiliation with the Toros.

So that leaves the Toros current top scorer as Taylor Davila on just 5 goals. Yeah, I haven’t heard of him before either.

In fact, the entire RGV roster is filled with unrecognizable names, the most familiar being probably goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Also coming out of the Dynamo system, Deric has 8 clean sheets this season, which is not bad at all considering the team’s overall record. That may have to do with the team’s extremely defensive approach, frequently playing with a 5-man back line. They could be difficult to break through.

Prediction: RGV are eminently beatable. If the Legion plays like it did last week, count this one in the win column. Personally, I think that’s going to happen. The Toros have a very thin fan base and the stadium is not going to be much of an issue. The long rest may also work against RGV, who made the long trip to Connecticut for just 8 minutes of game time.

Best of the rest

Week 28 started officially on Wednesday, when El Paso Locomotive beat the eliminated Las Vegas Lights 1-0. It continues this evening with two games. Most importantly, New Mexico United hosts Indy Eleven (8:00pm). New Mexico need to get over last week’s loss here and do us a favor by taking points from Indy, who are currently 2 points ahead of the Legion. Also tonight will be Orange County v. Colorado Springs Switchbacks (9:00pm). OC can’t clinch a playoff spot just yet, but will want to get back to winning, although the Switchbacks also need a win, having dropped to 8th, tied on points with Monterey Bay.

With three teams already booked into the playoffs, the Eastern Conference schedule is a bit easier to digest at this point. The first key game on Saturday’s slate is Louisville City v. San Diego Loyal (6:30pm). Both teams sit in the final home playoff position. Both are also on 43 points and just 1 point out of 5th. Neither can afford to drop points here. At 7:00pm Memphis 901 plays Hartford. That looks like a win for Area Code FC, which is annoying, as they are still 3 points better than the Three Sparks. On the other hand, they got bested by Monterey Bay last week, so who knows.

Most of the remaining games on the schedule will not directly impact the Legion, who are 5 points clear of their nearest following competition (Detroit City, who head to Phoenix for the 9:30pm nightcap). However, the biggest game on the entire schedule this week is San Antonio v. Tampa Bay Rowdies (7:30pm). That’s #2 v. #2. Both are 1 point out of 1st, though so will be gunning for the victory. San Antonio has been slipping badly of late, though, so the Rowdies should be smelling blood. That being said, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds play in Miami this week (6:00pm) so could well stay top. Similarly, West leader Sacramento Republic hosts El Paso (9:00pm) and San Antonio are in the same position.

As usual, the Legion are on their own on Sunday.

Back in the Old Country

Birmingham City return to normal league play this Saturday, traveling to Watford (18th). For once this game will be on ESPN+, airing at 8:55am. The Blues are sitting in 4th right now, but are only 2 points off the lead. After 5 games there are only 2 undefeated teams in the EFL Championship; Birmingham is one of them at 3-0-2; the other is league leader Preston North End at 4-0-1. Preston plays Plymouth Argyle (10th place) tomorrow. But on Tuesday (1:45pm) is the big showdown as the Blues head to Preston (no ESPN+).

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