Match Preview: Legion FC V. Charlotte Independence - Saturday, September 12
Birmingham Legion FC vs Charlotte Independence
Saturday, September 12 - 5:30 Gates - 6:30 PM Kickoff
BBVA Field - Birmingham, AL
Watch - My68, ESPN+
Legion FC and the Charlotte Independence meet for the fourth and final time in Group G play for what is the most important contest between the two sides this season. Saturday's match has massive implications toward either side's playoff positioning, with BHM looking to extend its lead at the top while the Independence looks to close in with just a few matches remaining.
The Black and Gold have gotten the best of the Jacks so far this season, with the former collecting 4-1 victories on two separate occasions. The only contest between the two clubs that was not a losing effort for Charlotte was a 1-1 draw that saw the Independence miss out on all three points thanks to a last-minute equalizer from Legion FC defender Mikey Lopez.
Mike Jeffries' side heads into Saturday as the team in form, as the Independence followed up on its 4-1 defeat to Legion FC on August 29 with two dominant wins against Memphis 901 FC and rival North Carolina FC. The pair of victories saw Charlotte's lead over NCFC jump to eight points and saw the club's playoff odds shoot up to 72%, per FiveThirtyEight. The Independence has a game in hand on first place Birmingham, as well.
Charlotte forward Dane Kelly and Co. will need to continue their run of good form on Saturday if they want to try and catch Legion FC and take over the first playoff spot from Group G. Kelly led the way for his side against North Carolina, firing his team to a 3-1 win with a hat-trick. The USL Championship's all-time leading goal scorer will be the biggest threat to the BHM backline, with midfielders Luke Haakenson and Enzo Martinez being other players Tom Soehn's side need to keep quiet in order to limit the Independence's chances in front of goal. Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller's league-best 48 saves presents a challenge to Legion FC forwards, but it is a challenge that those in the Black and Gold have conquered in the past, putting nine past Miller over three matches.
Birmingham has failed to earn a victory in its last two contests for only the second time this season, with the club's last two outings against North Carolina FC and Memphis 901 FC ending in a 2-1 defeat and a 1-1 draw, respectively. This downturn in form from the Black and Gold has set up what will be a crucial final regular season meeting with Charlotte heading into the final stretch of Group play. Legion FC has entered somewhat of a dry spell regarding goals, scoring only twice in as many matches following a three-game span that saw them find the back of the net eight times. Coach Soehn and Assistant Coach Khano Smith will hope that leading goal scorers Neco Brett and Bruno Lapa can get going again, but in the instance they do not, last season's leading goal scorer JJ Williams has returned to the club, on loan from Atlanta United FC, to bolster its firing power.
Legion FC remain the side to beat in Group G, but the Charlotte Independence are looking to knock the Magic City side off its perch in a crucial meeting on Saturday. With Coach Soehn's side looking to return to winning ways and lock down its spot at the top of Group G, expect BHM to come out strong in order to silence any doubts surrounding their group dominance this season.
Defender Mathieu Laurent (torn ACL) and goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg (groin) will be unavailable for the match, per the VIVA Health injury report.
Legion FC is back on the road to face Miami FC on Wednesday, September 16. For live match updates, follow @bhmlegion on Twitter, or tune in as the match will air live on My68 and ESPN+.
The last home match of the regular season is on Saturday, September 26 vs. North Carolina. Get tickets at bhmlegion.com/tickets, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the Legion FC Ticket Office at 205-791-7145. Fans can also download the Legion FC app to preorder concessions on gameday, load the full season schedule straight into your calendar, and stay up to date with all things Legion FC!
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