Birmingham Legion FC Defeat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0

A Good Night and Great Performance Soured in the 29′

As Legion are flying high while the rest of the Eastern Conference have stumbled out of a the racing blocks, my mood is somber. Is it because of Legion “overperforming”? Is it because it didn’t “look pretty”? Is it because the Rowdies have looked borderline horrible? No, no, and no.

Matt VanOekel went down with an injury and was subbed off in the 32′, and it fills me with dread. While he was out last match with a small knock, with the look of frustration MVO had, this was a moment my heart completely sank. It’s not my place to speculate on what the injury is. It could be that his foot had a paper cut, his entire foot might have came off in his shoe. I have no clue and it’s not my place. What I do know is that at age 36, a significant injury may be it for our Donut King.

And that makes me sad. No ceremonious goodbye. No penalty save in the playoffs to win the USL Cup. It would just be… done. While Matt has always struck me as the “Irish Goodbye” kind of guy, injuries are not supposed to be what ends the career. Again, I don’t know anything about the situation. I’m not hiding anything, but leaving that 2-0 win in Tampa Bay, that’s really the only thing I could think about.

What’s Working and Why?

Are you ready for the most boring answer ever? Better players get better results. For much of last season, I would talk about how Juan playing as a deeper player and not being the true 9 is a better role for him. Now Legion are taking advantage of his passing ability and him getting those chances created for Enzo Martinez, Tyler Pasher, and Neco Brett. We also have multiple goal scorers who are real threats.

Last season, Enzo Martinez was our main threat with 25 Goal Contributions (15G/10A), and coming in second was Prosper Kasim with 15 Goal Contributions (10G/5A).

Originally tweeted by Birmingham Legion FC (@bhmlegion) on April 2, 2023.

We’re already seeing these other goal scoring threats with Tyler Pasher both passing and shooting (obviously), Enzo Martinez is pulling the strings from that deeper lying role, Juan is sneakily one of the better passers in the Final Third this season, Neco Brett scores goals for fun, and Prosper is already making massive waves as a passer with a perfect ball in to Neco against Tampa.

Strength in Our Holding Midfield

The Holding Midfield has held some of the best players in Legion FC history. Ranging from Daigo Kobayashi, Mikey Lopez, Bolu Akinyode, Anderson Asiedu, Thomas Vanvaeyzeele, Zach Herivaux, and now adding to that illustrious list is young boy Matthew Corcoran. Against Hartford, he proved to be an offensive talent, and this match proved to be a real force defensively and starting counterattacks.

The biggest moment of the match was created in a moment of chaos that did not seem to trouble the young midfield, much thanks to Phanuel Kavita.

This breakdown was made possible by @Wyscout.

The counter by the Tampa Bay Rowdies was created because of a poor side volley by GK Spangenberg, which really was his only poor movement of the match.

You see as the moment is played, Captain Phanuel Kavita (@phanuel313) steps up to take on 10, Felix Schröter, with the ball, calling out to Gabriel Alves (@ga_alcides) to take on 14, Charlie Dennis, who is making an overlapping run. Seeing him step up, Corcoran fills in the space voided by Phanual.

As this move gets to 26, Cal Jennings, a known Legion killer, Corcoran stands him up and forces a heavy touch that turns into a pass to 21, Dayyon Harris. Harris looks to his right to play Dennis, but Juan Agudelo (@JuanAgudelo) fills in that space, completely eliminating any chance of playing Dennis through on goal. This is also not the first time we’ve seen Agudelo make that late run back to stop a counter, making the same move against Hartford last week.

Without Corcoran’s quick movement back to fill in that space and Phanuel’s decisive decision making in calling out who has who, this is possibly a 2-on-1 with Spangenberg. This moment ensured the 3 points, and eventually, a shut out.

The Counterattack

We’ve seen Legion take on different forms of attack this year. The one Legion decided to employ against the Rowdies was an all out counterattack. How do I know? Well, simply, they chose to not possess the ball. The 3 Sparks only had about 38.5% of the possession, but it felt like every single second of possession was putting pressure on the Tampa Bay backline.

Of Legion’s 265 passes on the night, 100 of them were considered to be “progressive passes”, which is a fancy was of saying “goin’ forward.” Meanwhile, only 36 went backwards.

Originally tweeted by Birmingham Legion FC (@bhmlegion) on April 2, 2023.

Legion were constantly going forward and eventually the backline for Tampa completely broke down, much in thanks to Corcoran with good pace and a perfect service into the box for Neco Brett.


I would like to thank my Patrons who help me out! This month’s Patreon Payments are helping fund my travel to Chattanooga for the US Open Cup on April 5th! This will get extra content out for everybody, so thank you to my patrons:

  • Ben Mims
  • Clay Grisetti
  • Dillan Reed
  • Matt Allison
  • Matt Ennis
  • Paul Hoffman
  • Ray Methvin
  • Sandy Lester
  • Scot Lee
  • Simon Iles
  • Trent Webb
  • Zach Ferris

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