After Birmingham Legion FC’s dominant win against Memphis 901 FC, the team is moving on into the season 1-0-0 and many calling the club a dark horse to win the USL Cup. Before fans get excited about playoff football, it is important to look at each match as a new challenge for the club and what struggles their beloved Legion may face.
With all that said, that leads to our first entry on the Beautiful Game Network’s Legion Look Ahead series. We will be breaking down all of the Birmingham Legion FC’s upcoming opponents from a statistical view. These articles will tell you about the Legion’s chances to come away with 3 points. Tomorrow, Legion FC take on the Charleston Battery at 7 PM CT.
Who Are the Charleston Battery?
Honestly, it is hard to say at the moment. One match played on March 8th against Atlanta United 2 is all we know about the club. I have since watched the match three times in full while taking notes and there were several things that jumped out to me.
We don’t really know a lot about Phil Breno other than he was only tested once by the Atlanta United forwards on two shots on goal. Breno proved to have solid positional awareness as he was able to come out and claim a troublesome high ball with ease. On top of positional awareness, his pass distribution downfield was very impressive. Breno’s long balls were also very effective as he was able to complete 16 of his 30 long balls with quality accuracy.
While the scoreline for their only match this season says it was a “donut” for Atlanta, it should not have been this way and this is the most concerning part of the Battery. The Battery backline allowed 14 shots and 10(!) of those shots came inside of the 18-yard-box. Fortunately for the Battery, only two of those shots were on net with only one of those made it to the keeper. As all of the USL saw, the Legion WILL put shots on net, even if they are not the most threatening shots.
Another major issue came with distribution when working for the back. The biggest offender of inaccuracies while passing was Leland Archer, who only completed 67% of his passes, with almost all of those missed passes coming in the middle of field allowing ATL UTD 2 to take over with another offensive threat.
Not all of the backline was terrible, though. Kyle Nelson was the single most impressive player on the pitch that night with great physical play. Nelson had five important tackles that completely shut down the Atlanta attack. The right-back was an absolute force and eliminated almost every threat that came his way. If the Legion want to score, avoid the right side because Nelson will shut it down.
The midfield was spotty at best. Most of the midfield play ran through Angelo Kelly-Rosales and Romario Piggott, who both had a pass completion percentage above 78%. Piggott also helped his team get into dangerous positions through link-up plays from Nelson-Piggott-Zeiko Lewis. Of the other two midfielders, the biggest question mark is Dante Marini.
Marini played all 90 minutes and never seemed to have the ball at his feet. As an outside midfielder, he only had 48 touches on the ball. With limited touches, he did very little with the ball. He only completed 73% of his passes, delivered one cross, and attempted zero shots. Off the ball is even more puzzling. Dante lost 50% of his duels, lost all of his aerials, and was generally lackluster.
The forward position is the biggest head-scratcher to me. The obvious Man of the Match was the only goalscorer, Zeiko Lewis. While the goal was a penalty kick, he created the most chances out of any player on the pitch (three) and attempted the most shots on the team (four).
On the other side of the coin was Arthur Bosua, who was the most disappointing player of the starting 11. He only attempted 1 shot, created zero chances for his team, and completed a dismal 39% of his passes. While Bosua did not attempt as many passes, skewing the data against him, the passes he attempted were nowhere close to being accurate. He did not create any serious chances for the team by passing to teammates, who were open to maintain possession. He was also a liability for his team off the ball, giving up three careless fouls destroying momentum. With the ball at his feet, Bosua was dispossessed on every single dribble he attempted.
There are some misleading stats like possession and pass percentages that need to be addressed. Atlanta United 2 was trying to build from the back all match long. Atlanta held a 78% pass completion rate for the entirety of the match. Of their 363 completed passes, a whopping 228 came in their own half, so this possession was of no danger to the Battery. Keeping the ball in their own half also explains why Atlanta held 55% of the ball.
Charleston has great pieces in Nelson, Kelly-Rosales, Piggott, and Lewis, but the team all together was bailed out by poor forward play by the opposition. If there was not a handball committed in the box, this match would have been a very ugly draw for the Battery.
What Does This Mean for Legion FC?
This will be a much more difficult match for Birmingham Legion FC than Tim Howard’s Memphis 901 Squad. If Charleston allows ten shots inside the box like against Atlanta 2, Legion will convert those shots into goals. Legion has shown in friendlies and in USL play that they are a force on the offensive side. If the loaded forward group of Birmingham shows out in Charleston, then the Legion will leave MUSC Health Stadium with three points.