Having played 11 matches, Birmingham Legion FC sit in first place in USL Group G with 21 points. The boys in black have earned those points with six wins and three draws on the year.
Although the Legion fell at home to North Carolina FC on Wednesday night, marking their second defeat of the year and first suffered at BBVA Field, confidence is still running high as the regular season winds down.
In the contest with NCFC, Legion FC dominated possession from the start of the match, but a slight deflection off of a Legion defender allowed Nazmi Albadawi to slot home a goal and give NCFC a first-half advantage. His shot swung around Legion keeper Ford Parker and found the top left corner in the 24th minute of the game.
The Legion tied the match in the 59th minute due in large part to a clean strike from Ghanaian midfielder Prosper Kasim. Substitute and fellow Ghanaian Razak Cromwell received the ball on the left wing, looked up, and slotted a low driven cross to Kasim around the penalty spot for him to smash into the right side of the goal.
The tie did not last long, however, as the visitors converted a penalty kick goal in the 62nd minute after a foul in the box.
As all things were pointing toward the first home loss of the season, an NCFC handball in the box provided Legion players and fans with a huge boost of hope and confidence. This, too, was short-lived.
Forward Neco Brett, the Legion’s leading scorer on the season, stepped up to take the penalty. NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis stood tall and dove to his right to make the save to earn his side a much-needed win and close the gap between them and second-place Charleston Battery in the USL Group G standings.
“We kinda left it at the end,” Head Coach Tommy Soehn said in a post-game interview. “In the first half we weren’t doing very well trying to break them down and we were too stretched. We organized it at halftime, and I feel like we closed a lot of that. Then it’s about making plays at the right time, and you know Neco hasn’t missed one yet, but today wasn’t the day.”
Legion players are ready to learn from this game and continue to move forward, finishing the season to the best of their ability.
“We tried to implement the same things we did against Charlotte,” defender Jonny Dean said. “Move the ball from side to side, spread the defense and try to break teams down. They were tight and compact in the first half, but we still created chances that we need to capitalize on. Other than that, we need to keep working hard.”
The Legion will return to action on the road against Memphis 901 FC on Saturday. The match is set for a 7 p.m. CT kickoff and can be viewed on ESPN+ and MY68.
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.