Week 18 Preview: all you need to know

Lots of fireworks this week

A weekend of four straight days of USL Championship soccer begins tonight; what better way to celebrate independence (from the vile closed system known as MLS, of course)?

The most important part

The Three Sparks will be making an appearance on ESPN2 this Friday (6:00pm) as they travel to South Carolina to play the Charleston Battery. This will be the third game in a pretty tough stretch. Detroit City and Louisville City are already past, but after this will be the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Rhode Island FC (both at home) and then New Mexico United away. Orange County away to finish out July probably won’t be a picnic either.

But they will have to deal with these one at a time, of course, and the Battery is going to be a tough one. They already beat the Legion 1-0 here back in May as they tore through the league early. They have stumbled a bit lately and in fact were winless in the five games after beating the Three Sparks before getting back on track last week, winning big, 5-2 against North Carolina. They’ll be riding the coattails of that win into Friday night’s game.

They are at least a known quantity though. Nick Markanich remains the team’s top scorer on 13 goals in 17 games, although Matt Myers is closing in on that mark with 9 in 16 games. A true striker, Myers was picked up by the Battery this past offseason from NYCFC II of MLS Next Pro.

The Legion for their part are going to have to shake off another bad loss to Louisville City, although they held the game very close for a full half after playing Detroit excellently in midweek. And Charleston have a slight advantage here too, as they will have had a full 7 days rest as compared to just 6 for the Legion.

That first game though was before adding Derek Dodson and also before moving to a regular 4-3-3. Even so, the Legion outshot the Battery 13-7 and 5-4 on target. This will be a slightly different-looking Legion team, then, and hopefully with a better end result.

The other most important part

Legion 2 finished up its season Monday, losing 1-3 at home to Tennessee SC. They ultimately finished 6th out of 7 in the South Central division, with a record of 1-6-5. The only win was 1-0 over Dothan United, with whom they also drew 1-1. Dothan can probably claim state superiority though as they finished 5th.

The other other most important part

Legion WFC’s last game was Saturday, a comprehensive 3-0 win over the dismal Athens United. Still, they posted a 4-7-1 record and matched the Twos in finishing 6th out of 7. After a decentish start, the ladies were stuck with playing 8 games in June, going 2-6-0 for the month. On to 2025.

Best of the rest

Plenty of action to choose from this week:

Sacramento Republic v. Las Vegas Lights (Wednesday, 9:30pm, CBS Sports Network)

This is #2 v. #8 in the West, but bear in mind that the top 9 over there are separated by just 10 points. Also, this year’s Lights team is a much stronger squad than has been mostly the case to date. SacRep are going to be a tough nut to crack, especially with potential Goalkeeper of the Year Danny Vitiello between the posts. Still, Las Vegas is unbeaten in 6 games.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks v. FC Tulsa (Thursday, 8:00pm, CBS Sports Network)

Yes, I know you probably have other plans tomorrow, but this one should definitely be watched in replay if not live. The Switchbacks are the Legion’s next opponent and currently have an identical record. Tulsa are struggling, however, in a very competitive West and desperately need points. This could actually be a good game other than for scouting purposes.

Rhode Island v. Indy Eleven (Friday, 6:30pm, ESPN+)

Khano’s boys just got their first-ever home win (3-0 over El Paso Locomotive) and have the unenviable task of trying to continue the trend against the formidable Indy Eleven. Indy lost their last game (0-1 to Orange County) but have had the week off to prepare. Hmm. And don’t forget that Rhody are coming here after the Switchbacks.

Detroit City v. Tampa Bay Rowdies (Saturday, 6:00pm, CBS Sports Golazo Network)

This will be #4 v. #5 in the East and probably the tightest matchup of the weekend. Tampa just got handled 0-2 by a surging Loudon United and Detroit just wasted Miami 4-0. This one could cause the playoff spots in the East to get a bit more crowded.

Oakland Roots v. Louisville City (Saturday, 9:00pm, ESPN+)

To round out our selections, this one has the potential to be a classic. The Roots are 3rd in the West and have been winning lately even more than Lou City. This is two very good teams who will have a lot riding on the result.

Back in the Old Country

Birmingham City has been pretty busy, as you might expect. First, they have a new head coach for the upcoming season, Chris Davies, who signed a four-year deal last month. Unusually, Davies never played senior soccer as he developed arthritis in his foot at the very young age of 19. He moved straight into coaching and has served various teams, mostly as an assistant to Brendan Rodgers. The teams include Swansea City, Liverpool, Reading, Celtic, Leicester City and most recently Tottenham Hotspur. This is his first head coaching appointment but his resumé seems pretty impressive.

The Blues have been rather less active in signing players so far. They’ve added just 3 senior players, and two of them are goalkeepers (Bailey Peacock-Farrell from Burnley and Ryann Allsop from Hull City). The only field player added so far is Alfie May, a center forward previously with Charlton Athletic. He’s 31 and has been with quite a few teams over the years.

The team also made a request to have their home match against Wrexham moved to the US. They were turned down flat, which frankly was poor financial decision-making on the part of the EFL. Oddly, the game did end up being moved for UK TV purposes, though, and will be played Monday, September 16th at 2:00pm US Central Time.


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