A brace from Tyler Pasher, including an 83rd minute wonder goal, and then a second half stoppage time game winner by Neco Brett gave Birmingham the 3-2 victory
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Mar. 17, 2023) – In the second game of the USL Championship season, Legion FC came back to defeat FC Tulsa 3-2 on Friday night with two goals from newcomer Tyler Pasher and a game winner off the head of Birmingham’s all-time leading goal scorer, Neco Brett.
Pasher scored his first goal in Magic City reds in just the fourth minute of the game to give Legion the early lead. Center back Alex Crognale followed up his goal in the first game of the season with an assist to Pasher in the second, playing the forward in behind, and Pasher just beat the onrushing goalkeeper to the ball, skipped around him, and his first time shot from a tight angle found the empty net.
“We have a lot of fast, talented guys up front, and we can catch teams on turnovers and playing quickly forward, and we can capitalize,” said Pasher. “I’m grateful enough that I got on the end of [Crognale’s pass].”
Legion FC sat back and absorbed pressure for most of the rest of the first half, as Tulsa had most of the possession, but Birmingham looked to catch the visitors on the counter and headed into the break with an edge in shots and expected goals.
Tulsa came out swinging to start the second half, scoring twice in the first ten minutes. Captain Rodrigo da Costa cut by a couple of Legion defenders and found the corner of the net from the top of the box in the 49th minute. Then forward Marcus Epps whipped in a long-range curler of his own just five minutes later for the lead.
Birmingham Head Coach Tommy Soehn countered with some heavy duty reinforcements just minutes later, subbing in midfielder Ben Reveno, forward Neco Brett, and 2022 Team MVP Enzo Martinez, for his first minutes of the young season, in the 58th minute. All three would play vital roles in the comeback.
For all of his teammates’ efforts, it looked like Pasher was going to go get the result all by himself, as he danced past four defenders in the 83rd minute, making his way from deep in the right corner to well outside the top of the box, before ripping a shot inches inside the post to finish one of the nicest goals in club history.
“It was one of those where we were kind of dragging and then, again, I’m happy that I was able to help uplift the team,” said Pasher. “As soon as that goal went in, we all just came out with a different kind of energy and got that third goal and came away with the win.”
But, a tie was not good enough on the night for the #ThreeSparks, as the home team kept pushing and found a dramatic game winner deep into stoppage time, in the 93rd minute. After some well-worked interplay to get into the box, Pasher dropped the ball back to Reveno on the right side of the area. Reveno crossed in a first time ball that found Brett, who rose highest and expertly nodded his header just past the outstretched ‘keeper for his 70th career goal.
“We show a lot of tenacity, a lot of grit tonight, man, to come back, down two goals to one at home, we all came down, buckled together and we fought back and came away with the win,” said Pasher. “So, I’m really happy for the team, happy for the boys and helping the team along the way is all I care about.”
The win was Legion FC’s first over Tulsa since 2021 and sets the team up for a fast start to the new season, as the Black & Gold head on the road to face Hartford on Saturday, March 25 at 1:00pm CT, before coming back home for its next home tilt on Sunday, April 9.
“When I look at the game, we still have so much to get better at as far as keeping the ball and causing them more problems,” said Soehn. “But there’s defining moments in the season and the little challenges you have to get through and character builders and, obviously we’re still trying to get Enzo and Neco fit enough and Prosper, and little by little they’re coming back, but having special moments like that and winning games in crucial moments, those are things that keep you going and drive you.”
The victory also served as a stellar way to send off Assistant Coach Khano Smith, in his last home game for Legion FC before he takes over as the first Head Coach and General Manager for new USL Championship club Rhode Island FC.
“We’ve been through a lot building this, and I think he’s seen the positives and negatives and some of the challenges, and whenever your coaching together with someone I always say the highs are higher than any job you could ever have and the lows are lower and we’ve gone through that together, which builds a bond that you can’t even really explain,” said Soehn when asked about Smith. “But I think he’s grown so much over the time he’s been here that he’s earned the shot and, I’m really happy for him and I think he’ll do an awesome job.”
|1st Half||2nd Half|
BHM – 4’ – #15 Tyler Pasher (assisted by #21 Alex Crognale)
TUL – 49’ – #10 Rodrigo da Costa (assisted by #6 Blaine Ferri)
TUL – 54’ – #7 Marcus Epps (assisted by #8 Collin Fernandez)
BHM – 83’ – #15 Tyler Pasher (assisted by #11 Neco Brett)
BHM – 92’ – #11 Neco Brett (assisted by #2 Ben Reveno)
BHM – 4-2-3-1 – #1 Matt VanOekel; #13 Jake Rufe (58’ – #2 Ben Reveno), #21 Alex Crognale, #3 Phanuel Kavita ©, #16 Gabriel Alves (80’ – #33 Moses Mensah); #6 Anderson Asiedu, #10 Prosper Kasim (58’ – #19 Enzo Martinez); #4 Collin Smith, #99 Juan Agudelo, #15 Tyler Pasher; #7 Diba Nwegbo (58’ – #11 Neco Brett)
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