Week 7 Preview: all you need to know

Heading to the beach

The Legion’s first double-game week of the season is on us and it wraps up with a trip to south Florida. Here’s what to expect.

The most important part

The Three Sparks will be spending a lot of time in Florida over the next few weeks (see Tampa Bay below), and it starts off all the way down south against The™ Miami FC tomorrow at 6:00pm.

Miami started off the season with a 2-0 win over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. That turned out to be nothing to really shout about. In the five games since they have earned just one point, a 2-2 draw with Orange County, possibly their best result to date. Every other game has been a loss, including a 2-5 waxing by Tampa Bay last week. On top of that they just lost in the Open Cup 2-4 to South Georgia Tormenta of League One.

That being said, they have had a fairly tough schedule, the other games being Hartford Athletic, the Charleston Battery and Sacramento Republic. SacRep were also the only team to shut them out. So the record may be a little deceptive.

In league play they used a 4-2-3-1 in four games and a 4-4-2 against Charleston and Colorado Springs. Against Tormenta they came out in a 3-5-2, but they also started only three players who started the Tampa game the previous week. It doesn’t really count for much other than that the Miami starters will be much fresher than the Legion who had quite a few regulars go a full 120 minutes in midweek.

The major scoring threat is winger Allen Gavilanes, who has scored 4 goals to date in league play; no one else has more than one goal. He is new to the Championship this season, having moved up from the Greenville Triumph for whom he scored 9 times in 85 appearances over 3 years. He has evidently stepped up his game.

At the other end of the lineup is Daniel Gagliardi. Previously with Syracuse Pulse of NISA, Gagliardi didn’t play at all last season while on trial with Miami. He’s allowed 13 goals this season, second worst in the league after Indy Eleven’s Yannik Oettl.

Miami has few other name players of any consequence except perhaps forward Frank Lopez, a long-time Championship veteran last with Rio Grande Valley. Beyond him, they don’t have any meaningful threats at either end.

Prediction: Despite a long night in the Open Cup, short rest and travel, the Legion should be the favorites in this one. This could be a high-scoring game, but the Three Sparks will come out on top.

Best of the rest

For once every Championship team is in action this week, and all games are on Saturday. So there will be a ton of overlap, but here are our selections for additional viewing around the Legion game (or in replay!):

Detroit City FC v. Oakland Roots (3:00pm, ESPN+)

Detroit is the only perfect team left in the league, although they are a game behind most of the league. They also won their first Open Cup game 1-0 over local rival Michigan Stars of NISA so are also perfect in all competitions. Oakland has been struggling this season, so this game looks lopsided. However, Roots keeper Paul Blanchette is one of the better shotstoppers in the Championship and Detroit despite their success are not prolific in attack. This one could be entertaining.

FC Tulsa v. Charleston Battery (5:00pm, ESPN+)

Tulsa may be below the playoff line, but they have played only 4 games to date against mostly strong opponents and have looked pretty good in them. They are also coming up on the Legion schedule in two weeks. The Battery are leading the East again and look every bit as powerful as last season. A close and well-played game is on the cards here.

Tampa Bay Rowdies v. El Paso Locomotive (6:30pm, ESPN+)

Ok, so the Rowdies are good and the Locomotive are bad. So why watch this one? Well, thanks to the US Open Cup draw, the Legion will be playing in Tampa (or St. Petersburg more accurately) on May 8th and again on May 11th. That sucks, but at least it cuts down on travel. Anyway, check out the upcoming opposition.

Memphis 901 v. Monterey Bay Union (7:00pm, ESPN+)

Also on the upcoming opposition front, the Southern Charm Derby is next week, the only game in the rivalry this season. Area Code FC (who I may be about to give a new name to; wait on that) are on a four-game losing streak and the Union are flying high this season, behind the co-leaders in the West by just a point. This should be an easy one to call but it will be worth it for recon and hopefully Schadenfreude.

Orange County v. Sacramento Republic (9:00pm, ESPN+)

Easily the biggest game of the week. Tied on 12 points, with identical 3-0-3 records. Top two in the West. Neither team is big on scoring but as head-to-head matchups go they don’t come much bigger for so early in the season. Excellent late-night entertainment.

Back in the Old Country

Birmingham City got a huge and completely unexpected boost last week as they upended Coventry City 3-0. That took the Blues back out of the relegation zone, albeit only by a point. However, they have a 7-goal differential advantage over Huddersfield and a 15-goal advantage over Sheffield Wednesday, both of whom are a point behind. This Saturday’s game (9:00am) is at Rotherham United. Rotherham is bottom of the table by a massive 21 points, long since relegated, and fired their head coach two days ago. A win is essential here.

That game will be followed up next week with a critical clash at Huddersfield and then finishing the season against Norwich City (currently 6th). Huddersfield got a useful point at Bristol City last week; they play Swansea City (14th) tomorrow. They finish the season at Ipswich Town who are right now top of the table and could well be needing points in that final game to secure automatic promotion. Sheffield Wednesday also drew last week with Stoke City (20th). They play at Blackburn Rovers (17th) this week, then have West Bromwich Albion (5th) at home and Sunderland (13th) away. Still not an easy path, but looking a lot better than it did a week ago.

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