USL Championship Regular Season- Matchday 19
Sporting Kansas City II @ Birmingham Legion FC
Wednesday, August 11, 7:00 p.m. CST
Where: BBVA Field, Birmingham, Alabama
How to Watch: ESPN+
Sporting KC II is going to need a big performance to pull off the upset when they visit Birmingham Legion FC on Wednesday.
SKC II is coming off a 4-1 beatdown by Louisville City FC from last Saturday. After a quick counter to equalize, Lou City reasserted their dominance with a pair of goals not long after. Lou City added a fourth in the final seconds.
Sporting II enter Wednesday in last place of the Central Division with 14 points and a 3-10-5 record, sitting seven points out of a playoff spot. SKC II is separated from Birmingham by 15 points.
Out for Sporting KC II is defender Travian Sousa (hamstring) and forward Ropapa Mensah (groin). Midfielder Jake Davis has been removed from the injury report after dealing with a knee injury in recent weeks.
Players to Watch:
- Enoch Mushagalusa - Leading scorer for SKC II with six goals. He has been brimming with confidence and skill throughout the season. Most useful when on the left wing. Scored the equalizer that didn’t last long against Lou City on Saturday.
- Zion Long - Got his pro debut in Saturday’s loss to Lou City, but looks like he can provide a target forward with his big size. With some time to reflect on his debut, maybe Long can come in and have a greater impact on Wednesday.
- Jake Davis - A midfield stalwart facing an injury. Came in as a sub against Lou City. Perhaps he can return to the midfield as a starter and make his presence known.
This will be the first time these two sides meet since 2019 when both sides settled for a scoreless draw in Birmingham in April before SKC II got a 3-1 home win in September. SKC II will host Legion FC in September and October before they meet one final time in Alabama at the end of October.
Birmingham Legion FC
Birmingham is under the leadership of former New England Revolution player and head coach and current Legion FC President and GM Jay Heaps. Heaps joined Birmingham ahead of their inaugural season in 2018. He brought on his former assistant coach with the Revs, Tommy Soehn, also former DC United manager as the club’s inaugural manager, which he still holds today.
Soehn has guided Legion FC to 29 points with a 9-5-2 record this season, currently sitting second the in Central Division. They have a 4-2-1 record at home, losing to the Indy Eleven in May and Memphis 901 FC in July.
Birmingham is coming off their fifth loss of the season, a 3-1 loss away to FC Tulsa last weekend.
For SKC II manager Paulo Nagamura, he will be facing a familiar face in midfielder Mikey Lopez. The two were teammates for several years with Sporting KC.
Picked in the first round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting KC, Lopez tallied a total of 15 appearances for SKC between 2013 and 2015. He also spent time on loan with Orlando City and OKC Energy since SKC had no second team at the time. Lopez has spent time with New York City FC, San Antonio FC and most recently with Legion FC since 2019, where he has added five goals and three assists in 58 appearances, including a goal and an assist in the last three games.
Players to Watch:
- Junior Flemmings - USL Championship Golden Boot winner with Phoenix Rising in 2020 with 14 goals. Recently got back from representing Jamaica at the Gold Cup. Not his best season in 2021, but he has scored two goals in the last three games until coming off injured after 21 minutes on Saturday against Tulsa.
- Neco Brett - With 10 goals, Brett is the leading scorer in the Central Division and second-leading scorer in all of USL Championship. Scored three times in last six games, all from the penalty spot.
- Phanuel Kavita - Former captain for St. Louis FC, now captain for Birmingham. Played 90 minutes in every game except for the season-opener and Saturday’s loss to Tulsa, where he came off the bench at halftime.
Predicted Starting XI
SKC II will almost certainly be without a number of first team loans after Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Leon. SKC played 10 players that have featured for SKC II at some point this season,
For my predicted XI, I think Remi Prieur gets his first start in goal. Michael Lenis could also return to the fold for a game after Kayden Pierre went 75 minutes against Leon. I also predicted an all-SKC II midfield and forward line with Zion King getting another start.
While Birmingham sits high on the table, they don’t blow teams out. They only have one multi-goal win this year, which was a 3-1 win over Atlanta United 2 on August 4. They don’t score a lot, but they don’t concede a lot either.
I think Birmingham wins it 2-1.