Birmingham Legion FC did not have an easy path to the USL Playoffs this year.
The Legion began their inaugural season with a series of home defeats to Bethlehem Steel FC and Ottawa Fury FC. However, the squad responded with urgency as they went unbeaten in the next four matches with three wins and one draw.
From that moment on, the Legion experienced several up-and-down shifts in the USL Eastern Conference table, sitting as low as 17th place at the end of June.
After making a historic run and clinching the final playoff spot in the USL due to North Carolina FC’s defeat of Saint Louis FC, Legion FC will be heading to North Carolina for the first round of playoff games.
After a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the final game of the regular season, the Legion will begin their post-season with a game on Wednesday against NCFC.
The Legion conceded a goal in the 90th minute on a header from Pittsburgh midfielder Mark Forrest that beat goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg after he came off his line.
The Legion previously had a playoff spot locked before the game, so many usual starters did not start and saw limited time, if any time at all, on the field.
Although the squad battled throughout the entirety of the contest and fell just short of an impressive victory, Head Coach Tommy Soehn believed the boys deserved a better result.
“I was disappointed for them because they put so much into it, but it was a great opportunity for some guys to get some minutes so we could really see where they’re at from a year of putting work in every day,” said Soehn in the post-game press conference.
“I give those guys a lot of credit because they don’t get some of the minutes that other guys do; they stepped up today against a really good team. Credit to Pittsburgh, they hung on until the end and got three points, but I really respect the fact that our guys did a really good job considering that a lot of those guys don’t have a lot of minutes on the year.”
With the victory, Pittsburgh secured the first-place playoff spot and will carry a home-field advantage for multiple rounds if they continue to win. However, if the Legion were to defeat NCFC in their opening playoff match, they would then face Pittsburgh for the second time in a matter of weeks.
Legion midfielder Joe Holland earned a rare start this season against Pittsburgh, and he is confident in the squad’s ability to make a run in the playoffs.
“The fact that we’ve improved as we went on is a big factor, that’s always the sign of a good team,” said Holland in the post-game press conference.
“In the American system of the playoffs you want to be hitting your stride when it gets toward the end of the season, and we did that. The second half of the season our win ratio was a lot higher and that’s a positive. We feel good going into the playoffs with that momentum.”
The Legion’s match against NCFC will be broadcasted on MY68 and ESPN+. The game currently has a start time set for 7 p.m. CST.
Gunnar Sadowey is the sports editor for the Crimson. He is a senior from Elkhart, IN. Gunnar is currently a journalism and mass communications major with a print concentration and a German minor.