It was billed as the biggest game in Alabama soccer history.
Major League Soccer vs. USL Championship.
A First in Alabama
Last night’s game between Birmingham Legion FC and Charlotte FC was the first time ever an Alabama professional sports franchise played a team from the top league in its sport that meant something.
Yes, the Barons played the likes of Babe Ruth and the barnstorming Yankees at Rickwood. The New York Jets took on the Buffalo Bills in a 1970s Legion Field preseason game. Just a few years ago, Legion FC hosted Atlanta United. But those games were exhibitions; they didn’t count.
This game did. It was the Sweet 16 of the 110 year-old U.S. Open Cup—U.S. Soccer’s version of England’s FA Cup. A tournament that gives the Davids a chance to play the Goliaths.
In front of a record crowd of 12,722 soccer-mad fans at Protective Stadium, the Three Sparks slayed the MLS team from the Queen City 1-0.
By the way, someone needs to notify the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame across the street from Protective they should make room for some Legion FC memorabilia.
Alabama sports history was made on May 24, 2023.
A close, tight game—Charlotte FC dominated possession of the ball for most of the 1st half. Thanks to a save by Legion goalkeeper Trevor Spangenburg that he saved off his own deflection near the goal line, the two teams went to the dressing room 0-0.
In the second half, Legion FCs fortunes changed, when for the second time during the match, Charlotte’s Adilson Malanda was given a yellow card in the 50th minute for fouling Birmingham winger Tyler Pasher, who blew past the defender. The subsequent red card changed the entire game—the Legion in their red kits smelled blood and took full advantage with the extra man, pressing forward and attacking.
By the 60th minute, they finally cracked the Charlotte defense. Prosper Kasim, the player that scored Legion’s first goal ever away and at home in 2019, struck a low left footed 20-yard “carpet-burner” past the lanky Charlotte goalie.
The crowd erupted. The supporter groups—Magic City Brigade and Elyton Ultras then serenaded Prosper with a chant to the tune of “Camptown Races.”
“Who scored Legion’s first ever goal? Prosper, Prosper
Who scored Legion’s first ever goal? Prosper Kasim
Prosper Kasim! Prosper Kasim!
Who scored Legion’s first ever goal? Prosper Kasim”
Here was the reaction on Twitter:
Legion FC held on for the next 30 minutes. They did not let up, putting their foot on the gas, creating several opportunities in front of Charlotte’s goal. Other than a last minute dangerous cross, Charlotte was kept pretty far away from Legion’s goalmouth.
Crowd was a Difference-Maker
“For me [the crowd] was amazing. I think especially when we scored, you can tell how loud it was, and coming out at halftime I got excited, because when you’re walking out you just hear a bunch of fans in there, and it’s nice because it gives us confidence and gives us joy and excitement to be playing in front of that many people. So, it’s always fun, and hopefully we can get more fans to come out because I think that allows us to blow up the city and have more people come out and enjoy.”Birmingham Legion Captain Phanuel Kavita
Next Game – David Beckham’s Team
Who is the Legion’s next opponent for the quarterfinals at Protective?
Another MLS team — Inter Miami. Their owner… the legendary David Beckham.
Can Legion FC do it again? We’ll all find out on June 6 or 7. We’ll know the date soon. Visit Legion FC’s website for the date, time and ticket details.