Player Ratings: Phoenix Rising 0-2 Birmingham Legion

A solid start to the new season

Going to Phoenix and eking out a 1-0 win against the defending champions can only be described as a good start. There were of course a few wrinkles to work out, but the team has two weeks to work on that before heading up to the thoroughly revitalized Hartford Athletic March 23rd.

GK: MATT VAN OEKEL – 9. As the Phoenix commentary crew told us multiple times, Matt is the oldest keeper in the league, which also makes him the oldest currently active player at any position. That didn’t stop him from putting up a monumental 8 saves against a team that managed an xG of 2.25. Man of the Match performance by a wide margin.

LB: A.J. PATERSON –8. Surprisingly, AJ made no tackles, blocks or interceptions in this game even though the Phoenix attack came down his side just as much as on Phanny’s. He did make 3 clearances and was 83.7% accurate on 49 passes. 1 of 3 in duels, all aerial.

CB: ALEX CROGNALE – 7.5. Alex also made no tackles and incredibly no blocks despite being the man in the middle against a whopping 18 shots. 5 clearances and 2 interceptions. 3 of 7 in duels and just a 77.3% completion rate on a low 22 passes. He did get a shot in on goal though. But Alex is also a well-known card collector.

RB: PHANUEL KAVITA – 9. Also credited with no blocks, but he made a crucial stop just off the goal line that may have been recorded as a clearance. It was a big time save, though. 2 tackles, 2 clearances, 2 of 3 in duels. 79.1% accurate on 43 passes. A very big performance.

LWB: DIBA NWEGBO – 7.5. As if Phanny’s stats weren’t dubious enough, Diba is credited with no shots on or off target and just one blocked shot in the 46th minute. So what exactly was it that John Scearce deflected into the net? Possibly a cross but it wasn’t recorded as that either. Anyway, he created the goal. He was involved in a massive 13 duels, winning 6, and was good on 88.9% of his 18 passes. Spoiled the displayed a tad with a yellow card.

LDM: KOBE HERNANDEZ-FOSTER – 7.5. Officially signed just 2 days before the game, Kobe showed why the team snatched him up. He proved difficult to get past, winning 2 of 4 duels and making 1 tackle and 1 clearance. He also put up 77 passes and connected on 71 of them. That includes 1 good crossing attempt. He also provided 2 scoring chances. Picked up a yellow card though.

RDM: ENZO MARTINEZ – 7.5. Enzo spent forever yapping at poor Elvis Osmanovic and that likely contributed to his yellow card. But he was the anchor of the team, of course. He made an incredible 87 passes and managed an 89.7% accuracy rate on them. No shots, but he did create one scoring chance. He won 8 of 13 duels and logged 3 tackles, 1 clearance and 1 interception.

RWB: PRESTON TABORT ETAKA – 8. Not entirely sure that wingback is the best position for Preston, but he and Prosper should be thought as more or less interchangeable. He ended making just 16 passes, only 11 of which were good. 4 of them were crosses, which affects the total, and just one of those found a target. Of his 3 shots, 1 was on goal and 2 were blocked. A team-high 19 duels, winning 7. Also 1 tackle, 1 clearance, 2 blocks and 1 interception.

LW: TYLER PASHER – 8. Tyler was far more involved in the game than his stats might suggest. Mostly because he drew a ton of attention from the Phoenix defense. Even so, he was 80.5% accurate on 41 passes, including 1 successful cross. He had 1 shot blocked and was credited with 2 scoring chances.

RW: PROSPER KASIM – 7. Not the greatest of games for Prosper. A relatively low 72.4% accurate on 29 passes, and just 1 shot off target. He needs to up that going forward.

FWD: MOHAMED BUYA TURAY – 8. Seeing your striker leave the field with an apparent leg injury in the first 63 minutes of the season is not good. He has to weeks to recover though. He also needs to make more of his chances. On at least one occasion he failed to pull the trigger when he should have. Still managed 3 shots, one on target.

SUB: MUJEEB MURANA – 7. Mujeeb was already getting ready to come on when Mo got hurt, so it’s not entirely clear who he was going to replace. The Legion went to a back 4 and in 27 official minutes Mujeeb made 1 clearance and won 1 of 2 duels. Good on 11 of 12 passes.

SUB: STEFANO PINHO – 7. Replaced Preston in the 74th minute and didn’t do a great deal. Good on all 6 of his passes and won 3 of 9 duels. No attacking or defensive actions.

SUB: MOSES MENSAH – 8. Came on with 8 minutes left and the Legion increased its back line to a very cynical 5. Moses did what he was asked to do, winning his only duel and making 2 clearances.

SUB: MIGUEL PEREZ – 7. Came on with Moses and should have been an extra defensive mid. He lost his head a bit with a very long-range shot, although with a bit more thought it could have been on target. Connected on 2 of 4 passes and lost both his duels. Needs to focus better.

HC: TOMMY SOEHN – 8. The 3-man back line worked perfectly. The attack needs some tuning up, and the team needs to get its head in the game rather quicker than it did against both Phoenix and Chattanooga last week. But this new counter-attacking philosophy looks like the way to go.

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