Week 9 Preview: all you need to know

Time to get back on track

Well, last week didn’t exactly go according to plan, did it? The Legion outpossessed and outshot Memphis and had a nearly identical xG, but came up very short in an ugly 0-3 loss. Tomorrow (6:30pm) FC Tulsa comes to the real Magic City; will the team turn it around?

The most important part

FC Tulsa has been more or less equally as erratic as the Legion this season. They have a very even record of 2-2-2. The two wins were in the season opener, 3-1 over the Las Vegas Lights and last week 1-0 over El Paso Locomotive. Neither of those are exactly impressive. The two losses were just as predictable: 0-1 to Orange County and a 1-4 shellacking by the Charleston Battery two weeks ago. The two draws though: 3-3 against Phoenix Rising and 1-1 against Sacramento Republic (who happen to be playing each other this week; see below). If anything, those are the two strongest results they have had. In the SacRep game they were down a man after just 16 minutes to boot. Still, somewhat vexing.

The team plays consistently in a 4-2-3-1, having used that formation in every game except against Phoenix, where it was tweaked into a 4-2-2-2, not a great deal different. They do try to operate a high press, but have been largely stymied in that so far. They did play it clearly against Charleston, but they were chasing the game and the battery basically drew them in.

But they can clearly score when they want to; 9 goals in 6 games isn’t bad at all. Those 9 goals are spread among 8 players, with only forward Stefan Stojanovic having two goals. The team’s biggest name player, Phillip Goodrum, has not produced much to date. He scored in the first game but that’s it to date. In fact Goodrum has started only 2 games and gone the full 90 just once. He has one substitute appearance, 30 minutes last week against El Paso. He wasn’t even on the bench for two games. His absences have not been in any obvious order, so it’s not clear if he has had injury issues, especially given the league’s poor record on publishing those.

Otherwise Tulsa is somewhat lacking in experienced attacking talent. Midfielder/left winger Boubacar Diallo joined the team this season from Philadelphia Union II and already has a goal (he’s also the son of long-time MLS player Mamadou Diallo). They’ve also picked up a few other attacking players from lower divisions this season, such as Blaine Ferri and Alex Dalou. They are all relatively young (but then the Legion is getting younger too).

Defensively they are better stocked. They picked up left back Patrick Seagrist late last year from Colorado Springs; he’s strong and dangerous in attack as well. Bradley Bourgeois is a solid centerback and has been with the team five years now in his second stint in Tulsa. He is paired with Alexis Souahy who has  extensive experience in the Championship and League One. They picked him up this season from League One expansion team Spokane Velocity without him ever going to Spokane.

Starting goalkeeper is a toss-up. Joey Roggeveen and Michael Creek have each played 3 league games; Creek played the only Open Cup game. Both are 26 but neither is particularly experienced. Roggeveen is a Dutch Surinamese and came from Den Bosch in the Netherlands. Den Bosch is in the Eerste Divisie (second tier); Roggeveen played 10 games over two seasons. Creek was with St. Louis City last year having played 22 games with St. Louis City 2 in 2022; he didn’t play a single game all last year.

Head coach is Mario Sanchez, who is in his first season leading a men’s professional team. He has a long history of college soccer and most recently spent time in Louisville running the academy for both Louisville City and Racing Louisville of the NWSL as well as being briefly interim head coach of Racing back in 2021.

Prediction: I’m going with a draw for this one. A bit of a copout, but these two teams are pretty evenly matched all told. Additionally, neither seems to have quite found its style yet this season. Both teams do need a good result; the Legion needs to rebound from last week and Tulsa needs to catch up on the teams above it in the West. Thius they will likely cancel each other out.

Best of the rest

Louisville City and Orange Countyare off this week, but everyone else plays Saturday. Here’s the best of the bunch:

Memphis 901 v. Tampa Bay Rowdies (3:00pm, ESPN+)

Yeah, you probably don’t want to see Memphis again any time soon, but the Legion has two games in Tampa next week, the Open Cup in midweek and a league game at the weekend. the Rowdies are beginning to flex some muscle, with 13 goals scored in the last 5 games, including a 3-0 pasting of New Mexico United last week. This could be an interesting setup for the upcoming double-header.

Charleston Battery v. Hartford Athletic (5:30pm, CBS)

Both these teams had 6-0 scorelines last week. They were on opposite sides of those scores, though. The Battery are hitting the net pretty much at will right now and the Athletic have hit some real bumps in the road. The Battery are on the Legion schedule for later this month as well. This one could get very, very scary.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks v. El Paso Locomotive (8:00pm, ESPN+)

OK, so these are the two weakest teams in the league, but the Switchbacks did get their first win in seven attempts this season and are on a two-game unbeaten streak. With that they leapfrogged the Locomotive who have just two points all season. One of those was two weeks ago against the Rowdies, but they lost to Tulsa last week. They are also less than a month from the meeting the Legion.

Phoenix Rising v. Sacramento Republic (9:30pm, ESPN+)

The reigning champions versus the top team in the West. This is likely the best game of the week. Phoenix after stumbling early have more or less found their feet and are slowly climbing up the standings. SacRep are one of only two unbeaten teams remaining (the other being Charleston). Definitely worth some late viewing.

Back in the Old Country

Yet another disappointing result for the Blues last week, drawing 1-1 with Huddersfield. Not all that surprising really, considering that both teams are fighting for their Championship lives. It leaves a very messy situation at the bottom of the EFL Championship table, with 5 teams vying to avoid the two open relegation spots. Here’s what it looks like:

Position Team Points GD Opponent Opponent Objective
19 Blackburn Rovers 50 -16 @ Leicester City (#1) Champions already, but going for 100 points
20 Sheffield Wednesday 50 -26 @ Sunderland (#15) No chance of promotion or relegation
21 Plymouth Argyle 48 -12 v. Hull City (#7) Needs a win and results elsewhere to earn a promotion playoff spot
22 Birmingham City 47 -16 v. Norwich City (#5) Needs 1 point to secure existing promotion playoff spot
23 Huddersfield Town 45 -27 @ Ipswich Town (#2) Needs 1 point to secure second straight automatic promotion
24 Rotherham United 24 -55 Relegated; N/A N/A

What it boils down to for the Blues is that they need to get ahead of either Blackburn or Plymouth. Sheffield Wednesday, given their massive goal difference advantage, is effectively out of reach.  Wednesday are also the team with the easiest final game anyway. Not officially safe, but effectively so. Huddersfield, even if they manage to beat Ipswich, need a 16-goal swing in their favor versus Plymouth, so are essentially doomed to the drop and their result is irrelevant to Birmingham. There are four scenarios in which the Blues stay up:

  1. They beat Norwich and Leicester beat Blackburn. Leicester have only one thing to play for: a possible 100-point season. They are on 97 right now and Jamie Vardy has let it be known that they have every intention of hitting that target. This is probably the Blues’ best chance.
  2. Birmingham beats Norwich and Plymouth loses to Hull. Since Hull are chasing a playoff spot (they are one place below that right now), this too is a fairly reasonable possibility.
  3. If Plymouth draws and Blackburn draws or wins, Birmingham would need to beat Norwich by 5 goals or more. Hardly likely, but technically an option.
  4. Birmingham draws, Plymouth loses by 5 goals or more and Huddersfield fails to win by at least 12 goals. The last part of that is a safe bet, but Plymouth probably won’t crash that badly. A very slim chance.

Basically, the Blues absolutely have to win and get some help elsewhere. All games are being played Saturday at the same time (a very early 6:30am Central). Fans will thus be glued to their phones tracking scores throughout the game.

And if none of that happens, well, at least Birmingham City will get to play Wrexham twice next season.

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