The Roots host Birmingham Legion for the final match of the season at Laney, barring a genuine playoff miracle. The match will be at 7:00 p.m. and I hope you already have your ticket, as they have apparently sold out. The matchday experience will include a concert by new Roots part-owner G-Eazy and the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, which I’m sure will be a thing. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+, which is where I will be watching it, as I miss my first and only home game this season. The Roots need all three points here, but this is their toughest remaining opponent, and three points might not be enough.
Birmingham Legion were founded in 2018, playing their first match, somewhat overdeterminedly, against the erstwhile Bethlehem Steel FC. Is Legion owned by a used car dealer? Even better!
From 2006 to 2008, Styslinger served as an appointee on the President’s Export Council, where he advised then-President George W. Bush on trade policy. He became a member of President Donald Trump’s Manufacturing Council in February 2017, focused on Workforce Policy, Deregulation, and Infrastructure. He is also on the Council on Foreign Relations, where he is part of the independent task force behind “The Work Ahead,” a report on workforce changes.
In April 2020, Styslinger was selected to be part of the Great American Economic Revival Advisory Council assembled by President Trump. This council was established to lead the reopening of the US economy in the wake up the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other owners don’t have Wikipedia pages, but I’m not optimistic.
What does Legion say about itself? Their graphic is too overwhelming to share in its entirety, so I’ll just snip the most exciting part:
In addition to being an incredibly stupid color name, if I was the home of Bull Connor I am not sure I would invite the comparison with “Attack Black.”
Birmingham’s first season was a bit of a dud, finishing 12-7-15, but they sneaked into the playoffs one point above St. Louis F.C. Their playoff run ended in a 7-0 hiding at Pittsburgh Riverhounds. It was already 5-0 to Pittsburgh behind a Neco Brett hatty and an own goal when Birmingham went down to ten men in the 61st. In 2020 they finished in 7th, this time on goal differential over 8th place St. Louis, and made a better showing in their first round loss eventual championship-game qualifier Tampa Bay Rowdies (the championship was canceled when several Rowdies tested positive–Wikipedia attributes to a Jeff Reuter piece for the Athletic that the USL opted not to simply award the title to Phoenix Rising because of the homophobia incident from earlier in the season). Last season Birmingham finished second in the Eastern Conference Central, and ended up with a rematch against Atlantic Conference third-place team Pittsburgh. This match was canceled due to a COVID outbreak on the Riverhounds. Birmingham celebrated with a quiet 1-0 exit to Tampa Bay Rowdies in the next round.
Around the Western Conference
|11||LA Galaxy II||30||36|
Classic three-way tie for a spot that isn’t quite good enough for the playoffs, and a 7-point spread between fifth and twelfth. This fucking league, man.
Birmingham are a solid offense, with 1.65 g/90, and a solid defense, with 1.03 goals conceded per 90. The caveat that is always required for Eastern Conference teams is that the bottom of the Eastern Conference is straight trash. Birmingham has 51 goals on the season, but 21 of those come in just five games against Loudoun, Atlanta 2 twice, Charleston, and the Baby Bulls. No shame in putting four past Memphis and three past Indy Eleven, though. Birmingham have been solid throughout the season, with their worst stretch coming to start the season with two points in four games. Birmingham have two four-match win streaks (where the Roots do not have a three match win streak). Let’s start with that 3-4 barnstormer against Indy Eleven.
Aww yeah, seven minutes of highlights. Indy went up 1-0 and then 2-0 in the first sixteen minutes on identical corner kick routines cleanly headed in at the back post (maybe put Karlsson there). Indy got their third in the thirty-first, but conceded a penalty two minutes later, and then somehow Indy saved the penalty, but Enzo Martinez got his own rebound and scored easily.
On September 14, Birmingham beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in Birmingham.
Agudelo got it in the back of the net in the 36th but was denied by a truly baffling offside call. There were two defenders playing him on, one by at least five yards. Unless I am missing something this is the worst offside call I have seen in the league this season. Pittsburgh scored a minute or so later and if I was a Legion fan I’d be fuming given the playoff implications. Legion tied things up five minutes into the second half, and then the winner was a great bit of interplay by the entire Legion attack, in particular a great cutback through the defense by Martinez.
On September 23, Legion faced Tampa in Tampa for the first time since their playoff finale last season, and improved their result (albeit against a worse Tampa team) with a 1-1 draw.
Both teams got their scoring out of the way early and then futzed around for 73 minutes.
|3/26||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Home||L||2||3|
|3/30||New Mexico United||Away||D||2||2|
|4/02||Tampa Bay Rowdies||Home||D||0||0|
|4/13||January 6 Apologists SC||Home||D||2||2|
|4/30||Colorado Springs Troop Appreciators||Home||L||0||3|
|5/14||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Away||D||1||1|
|5/21||Galaxia de Carson, Two||Home||W||1||0|
|5/28||Central Valley Republic||Home||D||1||1|
|6/4||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Away||W||2||0|
|6/15||New Mexico United||Home||L||1||2|
|6/22||Five Shades of Gray, F.C.||Away||D||1||1|
|7/01||“The Two” but California||Away||L||1||3|
|7/16||More like Ex Paso, Right? Is that a thing? What about Lol Paso?||Home||W||4||0|
|7/23||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Home||L||0||2|
|8/24||Pweese No Steppy||Away||W||3||1|
|8/27||Elk Grove Republic||Away||L||0||1|
|9/4||San Antonio All Grays||Home||L||0||2|
The Roots got absolutely maximally punished for a turnover early when Barbir’s longball was claimed by a Switchbacks player around midfield, that player’s long-ball reached some asshole in the box, who managed to fend off Fuenmayor and lay the ball perfectly in the path of Elvis Amoh, who put an absolute worldie past Paul Blanchette. We talked about this on both RootsPod and the Hammerin’ Down podcast, but it is just the Rootsiest thing this season to make a minor and understandable mistake and pay the biggest possible price. The Roots never looked like the worse team in the match, really, and we thought things had taken a turn when Ottar won a free kick on the edge of the box, nailed Elvis Amoh’s hand on the free kick earning both the red card and penalty, and smashed the penalty in. But the Roots couldn’t do much, and arguably had fewer opportunities with Switchbacks sitting back. Is “Colorado Springs Sitbacks” a thing? We need Jose Mourinho to coach this team so that joke has more legs. Anyway, the Roots did not find a winner.
Players to Watch
Birmingham just do not rotate their players. Five Legion players have more minutes than anyone on the Roots (one in goal, which is kinda a freebie). I took meticulous notes when I talked to Kaylor on the Legion podcast and I, obviously, left them at home before traveling to DC for the above referenced wedding.
Enzo Martinez #19 – The 31-year-old Uruguayan leads Legion in goals with thirteen and assists with seven. FBRef says Martinez plays as a left-sided attacking midfielder, and Fotmob says he plays as a deep-lying central midfielder, and again, I left my notes at home. Shrug. Martinez has a wonderful beard–not at all attacking midfielder like. He played college ball at UNC and got drafted by Real Salt Lake, but never made an MLS appearance for them. He got one season for Colorado Rapids and has otherwise played entirely in USL, although never as productively as he is playing this season.
Juan Agudelo #99 – Agudelo is one of three Legion players on seven goals. The Colombian-born US international has 28 appearances for the USMNT, most recently in 2018, although overwhelmingly in friendlies and primarily in 2011. Before moving to Birmingham this season, Agudelo only had a single year outside MLS, when Stoke City bought his contract and immediately loaned him to FC Utrecht because he could not secure a work permit.
Lineup and Score Predictions
Like Aaron, I’m going safe with my lineup prediction. Obviously Klimenta might be back, and I think he goes straight into the starting 11 if he is. I am less optimistic than Aaron. I don’t think Roots can keep Legion off the score sheet, an I am not sure the Roots will have more than one goal in them against a team this good. 1-1 draw and gut-wrenching scoreboard watching.
We’re pretty much all three dropping the same lineup. I’m listing Emrah in the back line simply because he was on the subs list last week and I’m thinking a week of recovery could be enough for him to break back into the starting 11. If there are any other changes, I could see Mikael Johnsen lining up on the left wing in place of Formella. Oakland needs a win, I’m going 2-1 Roots.
I’m predicting boring (something something guys are in a rhythm something something), but I wouldn’t mind seeing a wild card or 2 in the starting 11 (push Azocar up, and sub in Memo, maybe? Dennis paired with Johnsen in central midfield?). Whatever lineup gets run out, though, I’m sure this will be close and extremely frustrating. I worry the reason it will be frustrating is that Legion are able to get an early goal and then suffocate Oakland, but I prefer to be an optimist and say it will be frustrating because Oakland has surrendered another stupid goal and are having trouble cashing in the chances they create. They need to get that winner, though, so I am betting that they will. 2-1 Roots.