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Playoff Match Preview: Legion FC at Tampa Bay Rowdies - Saturday, October 10

October 9, 2020 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Birmingham Legion FC News Release

MATCH INFO:

Birmingham Legion FC at Tampa Bay Rowdies

USL Championship Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Saturday, October 10 - 6:30PM CT Kickoff

Al Lang Stadium - Tampa, FL

Watch - My68,

ESPN+

Legion FC hits the road for the first round of the USL Championship playoffs, to face off against the Tampa Bay Rowdies this Saturday, October 10. The contest will see the Black and Gold compete in their second postseason in as many years.

The last time these two sides faced one another they shared the points in a 1-1 draw at BBVA Field early in the regular season. BHM defender Alex Crognale opened the scoring with a cheeky finish off of a well delivered set piece from midfielder Bruno Lapa, and Rowdies forward Sebastian Guenzatti brought his side level in the second half following a well-played ball from fellow forward Juan Tejada.

Tampa Bay won Group H and enters the postseason as one of the favorites to win it all, with FiveThirtyEight predicting the Rowdies have a 12% chance of lifting the cup. Neill Collins' side won its group with stiff competition from the Charleston Battery, edging out the Battery by three points despite losing to them three teams during the regular season.

The Rowdies were one of the most complete sides in the USL Championship over the course of the year. They got the job done on both ends, coming second only to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in least goals conceded (11) and finishing in the top half of the league in goals scored (25).

The aforementioned Guenzatti and Tejada have been key for Tampa Bay going forward, but equally as important has been midfielder Lewis Hilton. Hilton leads his side in chances created (28), is the joint-leader in assists (3), is fourth in total passes (615), and sixth in total passing accuracy (86%). Sitting behind Guenzatti and Tejada, Hilton is another player that Legion FC will need to contain if it wants to mitigate an already potent Rowdies attack.

On the defensive end the team has multiple standout players, like defender Forrest Lasso, but the unit's strength comes in numbers. The most impressive of those numbers being 45, which is the total number of minutes in the entire Rowdies season where goalkeeper Evan Louro, right-sided centerback Jordan Scarlett, Lasso, and left-sided centerback Aaron Guillen were not all on the field together. Those four took up their spots at the back in Tampa Bay's 3-5-2 formation for every minute of the season except for the second half against Legion FC on July 25, where Lasso was subbed out at halftime due to earning an early yellow card.

Lasso finished the regular season as the joint-leader in clearances in the USL Championship (85), while Louro finished joint-second in clean sheets (7). Scarlett led the Rowdies in interceptions (34) this season as part of a defense that is not used to picking the ball up out of its own net.

If there is an attack to break down a stout Rowdies defense, however, it is that of Legion FC. Tom Soehn's side finished the regular season joint-eighth in the league in goals scored with 29, a tally that could have been higher were it not for a dip in form toward the end of the regular season. Forward Neco Brett and midfielder Bruno Lapa are crucial components of Birmingham's play going forward, with the two directly involved in 23 of Legion FC's 29 goals this season (Brett with 9 goals, 2 assists; Lapa with 7 goals, 5 assists). Additionally, the likes of defender Jonny Dean, midfielder Prosper Kasim, and forwards Jaden Servania, Brian Wright, and JJ Williams make up the rest of a Legion FC attack that, if firing on all cylinders, can score against any team.

At the back, BHM has defensive stars of its own. Defender Alex Crognale finished joint-fourth in the USL Championship in clearances (73), while goalkeeper Matt VanOekel finished in the top half of the league in clean sheets (4) and saves (32). In the midfield, Anderson Asiedu is the engine for Coach Soehn, making his presence felt in all areas of the pitch with 23 interceptions and 29 tackles over the course of the season.

Legion FC enters the match as the underdogs, with many expecting the Black and Gold to give the Tampa Bay Rowdies a fair fight but ultimately come up short. However, that is not the mood within the Birmingham camp. With a previous victory at Al Lang Stadium under its belt last season and a group of players full of talent and determination making up its rank, the Magic City based club travels to Tampa looking to prove the doubters wrong.

Defender Mathieu Laurent (torn ACL) will be the only Legion FC player unavailable for the match, per the VIVA Health injury report.

With a win, Legion FC would travel next weekend to face the winner of the Charleston Battery at Charlotte Independence match. That match kicks off at 6:00PM CT on Saturday, thirty minutes before TBRvBHM and will be available to watch on ESPN+.

Fans can follow @bhmlegion on Twitter for live match updates Saturday night and tune in to watch the match on My68 or ESPN+.

Regardless of the result in Tampa Bay, fans can keep an eye on the Legion FC app, bhmlegion.com, or @bhmlegion on social media for club updates and info all year long.


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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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