An intense match saw both sides score in the first half, and great defensive play by the Three Sparks kept the game level to tie against the Rowdies for the second time this season
Tampa, FL (Sept. 23, 2022) – Birmingham Legion FC drew for the second time this season against the Tampa Bay Rowdies Friday night after the game ended 1-1 at Al Lang Stadium. Two early, first-half goals saw both sides score the only goals of the match.
Birmingham opened the scoring in the first ten minutes of the match. What started as a great defensive play that saw Legion goalkeeper Matt VanOekel make a great save, led to a brilliant counterattack. Juan Agudelo put himself through on goal and played it out to Marlon Santos who roofed a shot into the crossbar and into the Rowdies goal. Santos, prolific as of late, earned his third goal in two straight appearances and brought his goal tally up to seven on the season – tied for second in the club alongside Agudelo.
The Rowdies responded minutes later in the 17th minute. Tampa’s leading goalscorer Leo Fernandes produced a solo goal in a crowded box that gave the Rowdies an equalizer.
The second half was just as intense, but the two sides remained level with one each. A lot of back-and-forth action in the second half saw Tampa record nine shots and Birmingham record six, but good defensive efforts by both sides left the game at a draw.
Birmingham’s attacking threats came through counterattacks, something Head Coach Tommy Soehn expected might give them chances coming into the game.
“I feel like [Tampa] opens up and takes some risks going forward, and we were able to capitalize on some of those,” said Soehn. “Unfortunately, we didn’t turn them all into goals, but the effort the guys gave today was phenomenal.”
Tampa’s best chance in the second half, and arguably Legion’s best defensive play, came in the 47th minute. A shot by Tampa’s Yann Ekra was on target, but Legion’s Alex Crognale blocked and cleared the shot to set the defensive tone for the second half.
Crognale himself put up a great performance for the Three Sparks, registering a team-leading six clearances, a goal-stopping block, and won possession eight times.
“Tampa is always a tough place to play,” said Crognale. “The boys battled for 90 minutes tonight and earned the point on the road. We wanted more but, given the playoff implications, this result keeps us in striking distance of 3rd place,” said Crognale.
Although the boys earned a point against a tough team in the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the mood in the locker room is not a happy one.
“[The boys] are a little disappointed,” said Soehn. “Every sub we made was more attacking minded. We wanted to come out with three, and unfortunately, we didn’t. So, I think there’s some disappointment, for sure. But again, I’ll say the effort was phenomenal from everybody,” said Soehn.
Now the Legion look to their last away match of the regular season against the Oakland Roots on Saturday, October 1. With the standings so tight and so much on the line, the squad means to treat every remaining match like a playoff match.
“Now, [Oakland] will be our primary focus,” said Soehn. “You know, we’ve put a lot of work into this match and obviously wanted more out of it. But once again, I feel really happy for what the effort was from our guys,” said Soehn.
Legion fans can watch next Saturday’s match against the Oakland Roots on ESPN+ and MY68. Tune in to watch Birmingham take on the Roots for the first time this season in the pivotal last away match of the regular season.
“We are confident in who we are and know the stakes going into the final three matches of the season. Our focus shifts to Oakland and making sure we are recovered for the trip out west,” said Crognale.
|1st Half||2nd Half|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||1||0|
BHM – 10’ – #11 Marlon Santos (assisted by #19 Juan Agudelo)
TBR – 17’ – #11 Leo Fernandes (assisted by #23 Sebastian Dalgaard)
BHM – 4-4-2 – #1 Matt VanOekel; #24 Jonny Dean, #21 Alex Crognale, #3 Phanuel Kavita ©, #5 Mikey Lopez (59’ – #13 Jake Rufe); #20 Zach Herivaux, #6 Anderson Asiedu, #8 Bruno Lapa (59’ – #29 Sadik Balarabe); #19 Enzo Martinez, #99 Juan Agudelo (86’ – #47 Mataeo Bunbury), #11 Marlon Santos (66’ – #10 Prosper Kasim)
TBR – 3-4-1-2 – #30 Philip Breno, #33 Aarón Guillén, #2 William Antley, #5 Jordan Scarlett, #11 Leo Fernandes, #4 Lewis Hilton, #27 Laurence Wyke, #23 Sebastian Dalgaard; #7 Yann Ekra; #13 Steevan Dos Santos, #10 Sebastián Guenzatti
The Three Sparks return to Protective Stadium to wrap up the season with two home matches on Sunday, October 9 at 4:00pm against League-leaders San Antonio FC, and Wednesday, October 12 at 7:00pm against Indy Eleven. Fans can get tickets to the October 9 match here, and the October 12 match here.
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.