After making an impressive comeback to make the United Soccer League playoffs in the first place, Birmingham Legion FC were thrashed 7-0 by Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on a rainy night at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh.
In the Legion’s inaugural season, the squad finished with a 12-7-15 record.
The Legion were the only Eastern Conference expansion side to make the playoffs this season.
Pittsburgh took advantage of their first round playoff bye, capitalizing on opportunities in the contest early and often.
Riverhounds forward Neco Brett netted four goals in the contest, including a penalty in the 34th minute to put Pittsburgh up 4-0 in the first half.
Head Coach Tom Soehn, though proud of the Legion’s resilience against North Carolina FC in the first round of the playoffs, accepted the defeat to Pittsburgh.
“I wasn’t sure how Wednesday would affect us, but I really think it took its toll,” said Soehn in a post-game press conference. We put a lot into that and were hoping we could rebound, but today just wasn’t meant to be from the first whistle. You could see that we were a step slow to second balls, we weren’t clean enough on the ball and able to open things up, and to Pittsburgh’s credit, they were ready to capitalize in every aspect of that.”
Although the playoff loss was a tough pill to swallow for Legion players and fans alike, Soehn is confident that this game will serve as a building block in the offseason months, and that 2019 was filled with many positive memories and should be remembered as such.
“I asked the guys to keep their heads up, real high, because there were a lot of really good moments this year, positives that we can build on, and I’m proud of where they got to,” said Soehn. “It’s not easy to do, building a team like that, and in the end, I asked them to keep their heads up and be proud of what they’ve accomplished. I know it’s going to hurt but that’s the game. We’ll get back to work in the offseason and make it better.”
Soehn additionally took time to thank Legion fans for their pride and dedication in the inaugural season, along with offering a hopeful message for next season.
“I just felt so good playing at home, said Soehn. “We’re not a first-year team anymore, so we’re hopefully going to come out of the gate swinging. Hopefully they’ll be by our side, and we continue to grow that fan base and give them something to be proud of.”
Legion captain Mikey Lopez was thankful for a positive first year and is looking toward making a better run next season.
“We have a great group of guys and an even better core group,” said Lopez in the press conference. As long as we stay healthy, we will be a dangerous team next season, and I’m proud to be a part of this team. We want to thank all of the fans for sticking with us through thick and thin. We love y’all so much, and it’s an honor for me to be captain of this team and to represent the city of Birmingham.”
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.