Not All Results are Created Equal
To open the new era for Legion in Protective Stadium, the 3 Sparks had to fight for every single moment until the late equalizer from new winger Marlon. The Brazilian came on as an impact sub and boy did he have an impact.
Pre-Season and Pre-Match Predicitons
Before the season, I fully expected a draw. On my Pre-Match Preview I did with Daniel from The Unused Subs Pod, I also called this a 1-1 draw that would be very even throughout the match.
Starting Line Ups
Above are the starting line ups and how they tended to play for majority of the match. There were some question marks for the 3 Sparks looking at the line up. Where is Edi Horvat? Why isn’t Ryan James starting? What about Thomas Vancaeyzeele? What is Marlon’s role?
Tons of questions but one thing was for certain, Tommy Soehn wanted to win the midfield in this match and he made that very clear with this line up. It’s no secret that the Rowdies’ strength is in that midfield, so let’s neutralize it as much as possible.
The beginning of this match could not have started any better for the 3 Sparks, other than adding a goal, of course. This team dominated the midfield and held control of the ball and moved the ball beautifully. Of course Tampa Bay had a few chances but nothing real.
Enzo Martinez proved his worth early, getting behind the defense and causing frustrations very early on. Herivaux was also a nightmare for the midfield at times, with great defense and beautiful balls played to Jonny Dean. Anderson proved to be a rock early and not allowing the Tampa Bay offense to get the ball rolling. There were several “non-chances” for the Legion, but the pressure was there and the goal was coming, for sure.
Then is all went downhill… A defensive breakdown with Captain Phanuel Kavita losing the ball in the defensive third where Yann Ekra makes a fantastic play on the ball, makes a run into the box, and plays a wonderful cross to the trailing far post run to Sebastian Dalgaard. Dalgaard had to make quite the play as well to get the ball past Legion Keeper, Matt Van Oekel.
After the goal, the Legion looked absolutely shell shocked. All the momentum that was building was ripped away and the Rowdies looked to pounce on the wounded Legion. A few high quality chances for the Rowdies were missed because of lackluster finishing, allowing the 3 Sparks to stay in the match and crawl back from a mental (and obvious literal) deficit.
After halftime, it was obvious that Tampa still smelled blood in the water, but never put any real pressure on the Legion net. That said, we began to see how Tampa will play. This Rowdies team is a constrictor of a midfield. Once Legion began to work from the back, the Rowdies attack and midfield began the “Constrictor Press“.
The Constrictor Press is a pressing style that constricts a team from moving back to the front without the long ball. Eventually the team trying to start the attack will run out of room, choking the last bit of “attacking life” out of the squad. The Legion were losing life a real estate but were finally able to break free from this press. I will do an article on this eventually that will hopefully make sense.
61′-End of Match
The Legion were finally able to break free from the choking press and suddenly this match became what felt like a track meet without any real end goal. So much running, so much attacking, so much everything except shooting the ball on target. The pressure for both sides began to build that it felt impossible that the match would end without another goal.
Of course you know how this story ends. Eli plays a perfect ball to Prosper who brings it down to absolute perfection. He looks around, surveys the field for late runners. He passes the ball to the newcomer, Marlon. Marlon turns, fires, and scores one of the prettiest goals you will ever see. Just like that, Legion have tied the match.
After that, there was only one more real chance of the match that was an absolute ROCKET that was saved by keeper Matt VanOekel. The match ended in a draw that felt like one of the biggest wins in recent Legion history. The ability to overcome the deficit, the suffocating press, and finally a stunning goal, it all just felt so right.
It’s no question on if Freddy will crack Austin FC’s squad, rather when. This match proved just that. His ability to allow us to move to the 3 man backline gave us everything we needed for the Rowdies. The ability to put 6 people on the backline but also spread out that backline and manufacture space when needed was masterful. Here’s to what will hopefully become a mainstay for the club. Long live the 3-Man-Backline.
There is no doubt I love Phanuel. He’s a stunning player. That said, the two times we’ve seen him play, we’ve seen uncharacteristic mistakes. Were they early season mistakes? Probably, but it’s still something to keep an eye on.
To be 100% honest, there’s not a lot to say about Alex’s play. He did normal Alex things. He put in the tackles when needed, he used his tall body to cancel out the massive forwards Tampa has, and played well off of Freddy.
Look. On the attack, Jonny was great. He got behind and forced the Rowdies in playing him deeper, allowing Enzo and Macky more room to work in the middle of the park. But, he lost his man that resulted in a goal. He floated too far forward, allowing Dalgaard essentially a free 1-on-1 with Matt VanOekel. This hasn’t been a regular problem for Jonny, but this was a costly one.
I felt like Mikey had a good day at the office. He is one of the best players in the USL at being a ballhawk and intercepting the ball, stealing possessions for the Legion. While his Robin Hood impression was great for starting attacks, it would’ve been nice to see him more involved in the attacking phase of play.
This was a fairly quiet match for the Number 6, but sometimes the best matches for a holding midfielder are the most quiet. He got his card, sent a message, and shut down the middle of the park. It was nice to see him really shut down what could be the best midfield in the USL.
I love this role of Herivaux. Allowing him to have offensive freedom and let him pick some passes and ask questions of the Rowdies’ backline was so much fun to watch. He also has the defensive ability to drop back and be apart of the backline, so it felt like he had that true box-to-box midfielder experience that could do it all.
Being a professional s–thouser doesn’t get you brownie points on Fotmob. It doesn’t raise your average rating. But it does lead to frustrations and getting under other players skin. On top of that, he was a large portion of our offense. While he was called offside twice, he was forcing the defense to cover his every move, creating real issues for the Rowdies’ midfield and backline.
Our “Point God”, the Brazilian Magician, the guest for Episode 100 (#ad). He had a frustrating day at the office. He played well. He had good passes, solid positioning, and looked dangerous at times, but nothing he was doing was leading to real chances. Is that on him or the person he was passing to? Maybe both? Maybe neither? I don’t know, and I don’t know if I will know. I just hope it gets better. And fast.
Macky looked good at times, but was largely replaceable. In-fact, he was. By Marlon. I’m not saying that we should write off Macky as a failure already. Actually, the opposite. He showed great potential as a ball winner and distributer (much like JJ Williams), but he never got the ball into truly dangerous areas. Will he get those chances against a worse team? Very likely, but we needed him against Tampa Bay and he was mostly silent. This is absolutely something to keep your eyes on…
Prosper the Winger. Prosper the Assister. Prosper. He played very well on the left wing. Admittedly, I was very surprised that he didn’t go in as the right winger so he could drive into the box and shoot, but it all made sense in the 86′. His ability to control the ball with his magical left foot is beautiful. His ability to pass and cross the ball is VERY underrated. We saw both on display for Marlon’s goal. Prosper can be that inside forward or a true winger, and I’m so pumped to see more of it.
What a beautiful goal. That was as natural as you like. The natural winger came in and went up top and immediate gave the 3 Sparks life. While Macky’s size was giving the Rowdies’ trouble, there’s something about about a slightly smaller body bursting into space and forcing others to catch up. Marlon proved to be a 100 MPH fastball after seeing 75 MPH curveballs for almost 70′. Both are effective, but that speed kills. Hope to see him more in that role.
Eli Crognale and Ryan James
It feels rude to put these to together, but there wasn’t a lot to say about the two. Eli came in, immediately got a yellow, and then got the hockey assist for Marlon’s goal. I liked what I saw out of him, but he didn’t exactly have that big impact sub appearance.
As for James, I’m just wondering why he didn’t start. We only got to see about 5′ of him so it’s hard to judge his impact.
This team got tested. No questions about that. We saw the Legion take control of the match, but everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. The 3 Sparks looked dazed and confused, but regained their composure to force a draw. While this draw will look like the Legion stealing points at home, it absolutely feels like a win for the Magic City Faithful.