Dean, Agudelo, and Martinez find the net, Lapa records two assists, and team earns sixth win in last seven games
BIRMINGHAM, AL (August 28, 2022) – A solid team performance from Legion FC resulted in a 3-1 victory over New York Red Bulls II at Protective Stadium on Sunday afternoon. New York took the lead early, Birmingham equalized in the first half and scored two more in the second to keep earn its sixth win in the last seven games and remain firmly in the race for a top four finish in the Eastern Conference and a home playoff game.
After back-and-forth action on both sides of the pitch, and action that saw the home side miss out on a handful of quality opportunities, New York opened its account in the 25th minute with Jordan Adebayo-Smith putting away a penalty after he was brought down in the box.
“I was disappointed with giving one up early, because we created so many opportunities early and I think if our head was in the right space, we would’ve buried those chances all the way through the first half,” said Head Coach Tommy Soehn. “I actually came in [to the locker room at halftime] pretty angry, and I feel like the second half was much better. But I think part of it was our own doing and making sure our mind is right against whoever we play.”
Birmingham kept its hopes alive and carried the confidence they would take all three points despite being down by one. In the 38th minute, midfielder Bruno Lapa and defender Jonny Dean linked up with a skillful one-two that gave Legion an equalizer. The Brazilian delivered Hotlinks a beautiful, over the top ball that fell perfectly for Jonny to slot it home.
“I think one [way to improve in the second half] is just to shut our mouths and play,” said Soehn. “We were so concerned with calls and everything else outside the game, and it’s just a distraction. I think once we started focusing on the game, obviously their desire to slow the tempo down was there, so we wanted to keep the tempo high, and I think as we did that, the second half things started falling our way.”
It was Birmingham’s turn to receive a penalty in the 49th minute to take a lead it would never relinquish. Quick-witted, fancy footwork won forward Juan Agudelo a PK, and he cleanly converted from the spot to notch his seventh of the season. With seven goals he now ties with Prosper Kasim for second in goals scored this season for the Three Sparks.
In the 74th minute, a brilliant team goal gave the Legion a two-goal cushion. Starting from the midline, a quick buildup saw the ball go from Dean, to Lapa, to midfielder Anderson Asiedu, and then back to Lapa who crossed it over to an open Enzo Martinez waiting at the far post to hammer it in with his head. Martinez’s goal marks his 11th of the season, leading Birmingham and tying for tenth in the League. And with Lapa’s cross, the maestro recorded two assists to bring his season tally up to four (=2 for the Legion).
“I was just joking in the locker room that I would come away disappointed that we only won 3-1 and most of the time you’d be excited about that,” said Soehn. “But I think when you have that many opportunities, you walk away hoping that you take some more of those opportunities. Several guys had looks and you want everybody to feel like the confidence is there to score goals. To be fair, we worked on finishing a lot this week, so maybe we don’t work on finishing [next week].”
Goalkeeper Matt VanOekel and Birmingham’s backline gave the Legion’s attacking group the confidence to keep up the press and finish the night out. VanOekel finished with five saves on the night, including a huge, diving, fingertip save in the second half, to bring his season tally up to 67 — fourth in the League.
The home side created dozens of chances to score – registering 24 shots to the Baby Bulls’ eight and leading with an expected goal ratio of 3.56 to their 1.49. The Three Sparks will look to carry that offensive momentum to Miami on Saturday, September 3 as they strive to solidify their place in the top four of the Eastern Conference.
“Well, I think we’re all excited to go to Miami,” said defender Jake Rufe. “Historically, we always perform well and play well there, so that’s exciting. They’re a good side. We had a 0-0 draw here [versus Miami on Wednesday, May 4], so we’re looking to get it back and make sure that we come out on top. Same thing with Pittsburgh [at home on Wednesday, September 14]. We definitely feel like we owe them one for our trip up there. So, it’s nice that that game means so much, and we’re playing here in front of the fans.”
Head Coach Tommy Soehn when asked about Bruno Lapa’s two-assist performance:
“He’s found his form a little bit right now. It’s been a long road back through injury and other things for him. He’s finally looking like his old self, and he makes us better when he is that good. I really feel like he had a really good game today.”
|1st Half||2nd Half|
NY – 25’ – #30 Jordan Adebayo-Smith (P)
BHM – 38’ – #24 Jonny Dean (assisted by #8 Bruno Lapa)
BHM – 49’ – #99 Juan Agudelo (P)
BHM – 74’ – #19 Enzo Martinez (assisted by #8 Bruno Lapa)
BHM – 4-3-3 – #1 Matt VanOekel; #24 Jonny Dean, #21 Alex Crognale, #3 Phanuel Kavita ©, #13 Jake Rufe; #20 Zach Herivaux (82’ – #7 Ryan James), #6 Anderson Asiedu, #8 Bruno Lapa; #19 Enzo Martinez, #11 Marlon Santos (74’ – #47 Mataeo Bunbury), #99 Juan Agudelo (70’ – #29 Sadik Balarabe)
NYRB II – 4-2-3-1 – #71 Giannis Nikopolidis; #88 O’vante Mullings, #98 Hassan Nolam, #90 Danny DeLeon, #60 Curtis Ofori; #20 Jesus Castellano, #92 Erick Ruix; #53 John Murphy, #77 John Filipe, #66 Mike Knapp; #30 Jordan Adebayo-Smith
Legion FC heads to South Beach next weekend to battle Miami FC on Saturday, September 3 at 6:00pm CT. Fans can tune in to watch the match on My68 or ESPN+ and can follow @bhmlegion on twitter for live match updates.
The Three Sparks return to Protective Stadium on Wednesday, September 14, at 7:00PM for the only home game of the month to take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in a pivotal contest in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and fans can grab 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.