Post-Match Reactions: Legion Dos a Cero New Mexico United

Not to Overreact, but That Might Be the Best Road Win in Legion FC History…

I said what I said, and I stand by it. To find a road win that is ever comparable to the win against New Mexico United, you would have to go back to 2019. The matches that could be comparable would be our Playoff Win against North Carolina FC, the 3-2 win over Louisville City (3/31), the 3-2 win over St. Louis FC (4/13), or the 1-0 win over Tampa Bay Rowdies (8/10).

It’s been a LONG time since Legion have gone on the road and beaten what many would consider a title contender, or even a title favorite. Good friend John Morrissey, aka @USLTactics, said that he viewed New Mexico as a TITLE FAVORITE, and I agree. I still agree. Legion may have beaten New Mexico United 2-0, but that does not change the fact I believe that NMU is a top dog in the West.

Pre-Match Predictions

So, this was a weird match to predict. I believed that Legion could neutralize this New Mexico attack. I didn’t see any way that they would score more than 1 goal, the question would be if we could score goals.

On The USL Show, I said Legion would win. On my Pre-Match Preview, I said we would either lose 1-0 or draw 1-1. Pre-Season, I said it would be a loss. I thought that would be a hard-fought match that could go either way depending on which Legion and New Mexico team showed up. I didn’t expect the match to go how it did, clearly.

Formations

While FotMob and Opta may have Legion’s formation as a 4-2-3-1, or a 4-3-3, this is more or less how Legion started the match. There are clear holes in Anderson Asiedu on the bench, Prosper Kasim not making the 18 due to injury, and Bruno Lapa finally back from Brazil. This is the same exact line up we had against Memphis 901 after Prosper went out with an injury. How did it work in context?

In Context: The Defense

This is similar image to what we’ve seen in my other article, but with some additions. The blue arrows are defensive responsibilities. The red arrows are attacking options. The red box is the “danger area”. The blue circles are defensive zones. So, in this new system we’re using, we have coverage across the box that has major overlapping so there is always coverage, but every system has a weakness. Our weakness would be the attacking left, also known as the defensive right, also known as Jonny Dean and Alex Crognale’s side due to Jonny’s options to go forward.

This also illustrates why Legion were so successful on defense last night. Other than a couple of attacks, which were New Mexico’s best chances of the night, the Black and Yellow chose to attack Legion’s defense head-on.

I know, it’s a lot of lines. The black dots are the New Mexico attack and how they tried to break down the Legion defense. Again, the red arrows are the offensive options. By playing as narrow as they did, they only allowed themselves to work between the interior channels.

This did lead to one great chance that was stopped by Matt VanOekel, onto the post, but that was the only real opportunity that New Mexico created from their narrow attack, but even that was created from a poor defensive clearance.

Originally tweeted by Birmingham Legion FC (@bhmlegion) on June 26, 2022.

As you can see by the blue zone circles, they were attacking spaces that were EASILY covered by one, two, or even sometimes three defenders. If I were New Mexico United’s coach, I would have tried moving Hamilton (RM) and Rivas (LM) out wider in a winger position to take advantage of that space, but even then that’s a massive disadvantage to NMU. Neco Brett and Cristian Nava are MUCH smaller than Alex Crognale and Phanuel Kavita, so the ariel attack is pretty much out the window.

In Context: The Offense

This week, we returned to the press and counterattack for almost the entirety of the match, and it worked. Legion only held on to 39% of the possession, but that is not to say that we were outplayed. Quite the opposite. For over 79.2%(!) of the match, the ball was either in the midfield or in THEIR defensive third. That is 71′ worth of match time that New Mexico was either passing the ball in the back or we were putting pressure on net.

We saw a lot less dribbling, a lot more quick passes, AND A CROSS IN THE AIR!

Originally tweeted by Birmingham Legion FC (@bhmlegion) on June 26, 2022.

For the first time this season, we really tried to take advantage of Juan Agudelo’s height, netting his first goal from open play this season. Also, what a ball from Jonny Dean!

The second goal was a well worked ball from Ryan James to Zach Herivaux to Juan Agudelo that was finished off by Enzo Martinez. While Juan deserves a ton of credit for the assist and Enzo obviously for the finish, the hockey assist by Zach and the wide play by Ryan deserves love too.

Originally tweeted by Birmingham Legion FC (@bhmlegion) on June 26, 2022.

While Juan Agudelo had easily his best night in a Legion shirt, there’s still some things to work on. Before the goal, Juan had a 2v3 opportunity with Enzo to his right, completely unmarked. Instead of passing the ball to Enzo, Agudelo tried to 1v3 the NMU backline. While that was a frustrating moment, that was really the only major mistake by him. He had a great outing and does deserve his flowers for the match that he had.

Going Into Louisville

Yes, Louisville is still the boogyman. They are the Beasts From the East. They are still a worrying side. That said, this Legion squad is on a roll. Louisville City FC have a brilliant defense, but this offense is really starting to click. This is a chance for Legion to test themselves against my pre-season favorite to win the USL Shield and Cup.

Admittedly, I would be more than happy with a draw…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: