Birmingham Legion FC at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
USL Championship Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Saturday, October 26 – 6:00 PM CT Kickoff – Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Watch – My68, ESPN+, BBVA Postseason Run Watch Party at Good People Brewing
Legion FC looks to continue its postseason run at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC after winning the club’s first-ever playoff game on Wednesday.
In this inaugural season, BHM was the only Eastern Conference expansion side to make the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs and then took full advantage of that accomplishment by knocking off No. 7 seed North Carolina FC, 3-2, with goals from Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Zach Herivaux, and JJ Williams.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC won the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference Regular Season Title and thereby earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. Birmingham is the last opponent PIT has faced, in a 1-0 Riverhounds win on Sunday in Birmingham. The first time these two sides met, in Pittsburgh on June 29, the hosts won 4-1.
The ‘Hounds have been the most consistently formidable team in the East this season, having only lost four games all season. They rely on a lockdown defense that has only allowed 30 goals and has 17 clean sheets (best in USL), but the team can score as well, putting in 58 goals themselves (third-most in East). The attack is led by Neco Brett’s 13 goals (16th in USL), Steven dos Santos’ 71 shots (11th), and Kenardo Forbes’ nine assists (6th), 74 chances created (8th), and 1,824 passes (5th in the league).
According to Head Coach Tommy Soehn, the lineup that he ran out Sunday in Birmingham will not resemble the lineup that starts on Saturday and thinks that could work to his side’s advantage. He said, “it was unique. Playing that game, obviously we knew we were coming in and nine or ten [seed], so I don’t think we had a lot to gain by playing everybody and risking injuries. It was more about giving other guys a chance who deserve it, who are out there training every week, pushing each other, and it was fun to watch them. I was pleased with those guys, but it also gave me a chance to kind of step back and watch Pittsburgh as a whole and come up with a game plan for them as we watched that game unfold. So, it was a good learning experience all the way around.”
“Last time we played at Pittsburgh was probably our low point. We’d just come out of a really bad stretch and our mentality was kind of taking a hit, and we revamped things a lot, from personnel to the locker room, to training, the whole package. We came in and said look, that’s in the past, now we look forward to what’s next, and I really credit the group for even coming together more and putting a run together that was pretty amazing.”
When asked about how he feels about the season as a whole and establishing a foundation as a club in year one, Soehn said, “Well we talked in the beginning and the ownership group was real intent on making sure we establish ourselves in the community and did all the right things, and then when you get to the soccer purists like [President and GM] Jay [Heaps] and myself, playoffs was a mandatory thing. If you’re not setting your goals high enough then you probably don’t want it bad enough.”
“At the halfway point we felt like we were far away from it and had a lot to do to get to that playoff point, and now that we’re here and we made it I feel like we’re a different team than we were in the beginning of the season and now you want more than that, as we should. I don’t think that our group minds playing on the road or home - I think we come about business the way it is, and we’re going to go to work and get after teams. Sometimes I feel like teams open up a bit more because they try to show a little more when they’re at home, and that suits us just fine.”
#9 Chandler Hoffman (ruptured PCL), #22 Mathieu Laurent (torn ACL), #27 Eddie Opoku (ankle), and #30 Razak Cromwell (hamstring) are out for Legion FC, per the VIVA Health injury report. No players are unavailable for selection due to suspension or international duty.
For live game updates, follow along on Twitter @bhmlegion, or watch live on My68 or ESPN+.
Also follow Legion FC’s social media channels for updates on the playoff picture Saturday night and Sunday. If Birmingham advances, the third-round game would take place at the winner of the Louisville City FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies matchup on Saturday, November 2. Keep an eye on bhmlegion.com for information regarding kickoff time, watch party info, or streaming options.