Match Preview: BHMvTBR
Birmingham Legion FC v. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, June 1 - 7:00PM CT Kickoff - BBVA Compass Field, Birmingham, AL
Watch - My68, ESPN+
Birmingham Legion FC jump back into USL Championship play with a match up against the league leaders, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Saturday, June 1 at 7:00PM CT at BBVA Compass Field. BHM's tough run of games recently does not get any easier, with the only undefeated team left in the league coming to town.
Head Coach Tom Soehn is excited for the opportunity, and said, "anytime you play someone who hasn't lost yet, it gives you real incentive to be the team that knocks them off. If we stick to our game plan and do what we need to do, we're excited to go after Tampa and get a result."
The home side will gain a welcome boost to the roster with the recent return of a few injured, key players. Goalkeeper Matt VanOekel returned from his ankle injury to start midweek at Louisville, and midfielder Mikey Lopez is expected to be fully fit and ready to go after a week of full training.
Loanee forwards Brian Wright and JJ Williams are also back in BHM and will look to kick start the attack, and defenders Kyle Fisher and Marcel Appiah have returned this week to training and hope to be available to contribute - if not this Saturday, at least by next weekend after returning to full fitness levels.
"We've been handcuffed a little bit with our choices, especially off the bench," said Soehn. "We've had to change formations to impact games instead of changing personnel and having a few more options now to do that is refreshing."
Legion FC will need everyone ready to contribute, as the Tampa Bay Rowdies have been the class of the USL Championship, having won seven, drawn five, and lost zero of their first 12 matches. They rely on the best defense in the league to shut down opponents, having only given up four goals this season and earning eight shutouts.
The Rowdies are led in the attack by Sebastian Guenzatti, whose five goals are tied for 15th best in the league, and Leo Fernandes, whose four assists have him tied for sixth in the USL Championship.
When asked about Tampa Bay's success defensively, Soehn said, "They're committed to pressuring, they're committed to getting back with numbers, and it shows as they've only given up four goals all season - two of which were set pieces. So, they're committed to making your life miserable, attacking-wise"
"For me, I feel like it's a great test, we've just come through probably our toughest stretch of the season, ending with our toughest opponent, but I use it as a measuring stick to see how do we compete against them and how do we compare. We're excited for this one."
Forward Eddie Opoku is the only player out due to injury after sustaining an ankle sprain last week versus Nashville SC, per the UAB Medicine injury report. Loanee Zach Herivaux is also absent, having been called up to represent the Haitian National Team in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Follow @bhmlegion on Twitter for more match day info and live updates and watch the match locally on My68.
The boys get to settle into a steady routine of weekend games for almost the next month, and the team travels to face Charleston Battery next on Saturday, June 8 at 6:30PM CT. The match will air live on ESPN+.
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