Week 5 Preview: all you need to know

A home game at last

We did not post any player ratings or tactical analysis the past two weeks, partly because of moving house, but also because the games were frankly so dismal that the ratings would have been totally depressing and there really wasn’t much in the way of tactics to discuss. Other than dismal defending, that is. Hopefully, things will get back on track this weekend.

The most important part

Despite there being no other events at Protective Stadium, the Legion game will be on Sunday afternoon (4:00pm, ESPN+). That means the Legion will be the last team in the Championship to play at home, as FC Tulsa (who have played just two games to date) have their home opener Friday evening. And of course, the Three Sparks go right back on the road for another two weeks before coming home again.

The opponent this week is Loudoun United. Previoulsy the reserve team for DC United, a majority stake in the team was sold last February and the team is now independent. The timing of the sale did not really help last season and the team finished 11th in the East. They have had the chance to retool this year, though, and are a significantly improved team.

Most notably, this team can score, having put up 6 goals in 3 games. That includes scoring twice against San Antonio in week 1, including a short-handed goal after Cristiano François headbutted Mitchell Taintor in the 29th minute. They managed to finish that game 2-2. After that they beat up on North Carolina 3-1 before losing to Detroit City 1-2. They had a bye last week, which is not good news.

That attack is composed of Zach Ryan and Wesley Leggett up front (they seem to prefer a very traditinal 4-4-2). Both of them joined the team shortly before the sale last year and have combined for 13 goals to date. Behind them is left winger Kalil Elmedkhar, who joined the team at the same time. But the real boost to the Loudoun attack has been this season’s acquisition of right winger Florian Valot from The™ Miami FC. Adding him has resulted in a dangerous front group.

Defensively they’re perhaps a little shaky, and goalkeeper Hugo Fauroux doesn’t really count among the league’s elite. But then…

They are facing an attack that has not managed an earned goal in its three games. It doesn’t help that the Legion has been badly hit by the injury bug, with Mohamed Buya Turay, Dawsom McCartney, Matthew Corcoran and Mikey Lopez all missing time to varying extents. It has resulted in some lineup changes over the past three games . Not optial when you are trying to instill a new formational approach. Even so, that doesn’t excuse the poor output or the poor defending. To say the team has underperformed is putting it mildly.

Wil that change in fromt of a home crowd for the first time? Here’s hoping so. A Sunday game is not optimal for that, but at least the Legion will not be going up against Alabama-UConn.

Prediction: Can the Three Sparks break out of their funk? Possibly, but I don’t see them overwhelming Loudoun. I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

Best of the rest

For the first time this season, all 24 Championship teams are in action. Also, this weekend marks the league’s first ever game on broadcast TV under the new contract with CBS (together with brand new theme music). That game is a doozy, although after last week’s debacle Legion fans may want to stay away. The Legion game is the only one on Sunday, so you can choose from the rest of the schedule at liberty. These are our selections:

Detroit City v. North Carolina (Saturday, 1:00pm, ESPN+)

North Carolina is next up for the Legion, which is perhaps the biggest reason to check this one out. Detroit are 3-0-0 and are looking like a potential contender, although they continue to depend heavily on the goalkeeping heroics of Nate Steinwascher. North Carolina’s return to the Championship has been up and down already, but they have some serious firepower in the shape of Oalex Anderson and Rodrigo da Costa.

Louisville City v. Indy Eleven (Saturday, 3:00pm, CBS)

CBS decided to go with the first instalment of the 2024 edition of the LIPAFC1Louisville–Indianapolis proximity Association Football Contest, in case you didn’t know derby. Lou City are obviously riding high as one of only two perfect teams left in the league and coming off a 5-0 win. Indy are struggling a tad with a record of 1-2-1 but are showing signs of attacking punch. They are always up for this fixture and it should be worth checking out.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds v. Tampa Bay Rowdies (Saturday, 6:00pm, CBS Sports Golazo)

This one looks like a total mismatch and as such is an opportunity for Schadenfreude. No one likes the Hounds, and they are in some trouble right now, having lost all 3 games to date and scored only one goal. The Rowdies have yet to lose, although they have only one win, a 4-1 pasting of Rhode Island last week. Pittsburgh had the week off and have had time to stew over their terrible start; has Bob Lilley fixed the team’s problems?

Las Vegas Lights v. San Antonio (9:30pm, ESPN+)

This one has the potential to be fun as a nightcap. The (very) recently rebuilt Lights roster is quickly coming together and has back-to-back clean sheet wins. San Antonio is highly rated as usual. After a couple of draws to start the season they too have 2 straight wins and have scored at least 2 goals in all 4 games to date. A major shootout is on the cards.

Back in the Old Country

Birmingham City suffered yet another setback on Good Friday, losing 1-2 to QPR. Then they got a bit of a breather by beating Preston North End 1-0 on Easter Monday. That put them in 20th place, two clear of the relegation zone with a 2-point  margin and a 4-goal differentail advantage over Huddersfield in 22nd. However, things will not be easy this weekend as they travel to 3rd-place Leicester City (Saturday, 9:00am). The remaining 5 games on the schedule include away trips to Huddersfield and last-place Rotherham, which are must-win games, along with home games against Cardiff City (11th), Coventry (7th) and Norwich City (6th). Any points from those games will be useful, but it’s going to be a nail-biting end to the season for the Blues.

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