New Mexico was the hottest team in the league coming into the night before a goal and assist from Juan Agudelo, paired with suffocating defensive play, earned BHM its fourth win in a row
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (June 25, 2022) – Birmingham Legion FC put on one of its best performances of the season to beat New Mexico United 2-0 on the road on Saturday night, in the first ever showdown between the two sides. Dominating offensively straight from the kickoff, Legion led by two at half time thanks to goals by Juan Agudelo and Enzo Martinez. The trusty Three Sparks defense held the two-goal lead for the remainder of the match, marking Birmingham’s sixth clean sheet of the season.
Juan Agudelo poetically opened the scoring early on the 20:18 mark — the same year New Mexico and Birmingham joined the USLC. Jonny Dean beat a defender and made a perfect lob pass over the top of the box with his left foot to find Agudelo, who leaped over the New Mexico backline and hammered it into the bottom left corner.
Enzo Martinez scored just nine minutes later to continue Legion’s first half fiesta in front of a USL Championship season high 12,500+ fans at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque. Zach Herivaux sent in a perfect cross to Agudelo who, standing in front of goal, unselfishly volleyed it to an open Enzo Martinez who controlled the ball and found the back of the net.
“It felt great [to get first open play goal and first assist of the season], especially off of great team play,” said Agudelo. “Finishing the first goal I thought was huge for the team’s confidence and chemistry, and that translated also into the second goal. I’m glad we got the three points.
“I think we’ve sort of found our identity – who we are, understanding one another, keeping things tight – and sort of believing that if we keep the game zero to zero for as long as we can, we can always come out with three points.”
The offense pulled through in New Mexico, but the backline deserves just as much credit. One of the best defensive units in the league, Birmingham’s backline only allowed one shot on target in the first half. Goalkeeper Matt VanOekel stretched and saved a rocket of a shot from New Mexico’s Justin Portillo in the 8th minute with a fingertip, sending the ball wide to ricochet off the post.
In the second half it was the same story, as the visitors outshot the home team 15-7 on the night and put up an impressive edge in expected goals, 1.78-0.28, and head home knowing that is the fourth win on the trot, a clean sheet is secured, and doughnuts are waiting for them.
“Defensively, I think it’s a team effort,” said Legion FC Assistant Coach Khano Smith. “It starts up top with Juan [Agudelo] defending, and Enzo [Martinez], and the work rate that they put in up top. The harder they work without the ball for us, the easier it becomes on the guys behind them. Everybody buying into that, and the defenders defending when they need to, you know, doing their job.
“We’ve had a good defense for a couple of years now with the same core guys, and I just think that everybody’s finding their groove. Jake [Rufe]’s come in and played well, as well, so that’s huge for him, but all the guys are doing what they’re paid to do. So, I’m really pleased for all of them.”
|1st Half||2nd Half|
NM – 4-4-2 – #1 Alex Tambakis; #33 Harry Swartz, #22 Kalen Ryden, #16 Will Seymore, #15 Rashid Tetteh; #4 Sam Hamilton ©, #43 Justin Portillo, #41 Chris Wehan, #11 Sergio Rivas; #45 Christian Nava, #7 Neco Brett
BHM – 4-3-3 – #1 Matt VanOekel; #24 Jonny Dean, #21 Alex Crognale, #3 Phanuel Kavita ©, #13 Jake Rufe; #20 Zach Herivaux, #5 Mikey Lopez, #19 Enzo Martinez; #7 Ryan James, #99 Juan Agudelo, #11 Marlon Santos
The Three Sparks continue the summer road tour after this game, and the next stop is Louisville on Saturday, July 2, for a 7:00pm CT kickoff. Tune in to watch the match on My68 or ESPN+, and follow along @bhmlegion on twitter for live match updates!
Legion FC will return home to Protective Stadium on Saturday, July 23 to kick off a big fall of soccer in Birmingham with a contest versus Eastern Conference foe FC Tulsa at 6:30pm, and fans can grab your tickets today!
For team updates, news and more, follow @bhmlegion on social media, sign up for Legion FC’s Newsletter, or visit bhmlegion.com. The Legion FC app is also available for download via Apple or Android. For gameday reminders, sync the Legion FC 2022 schedule to your calendar HERE.