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ARLIA: First Goal, Victory Well Worth the Wait for Legion FC

By JOHN ARLIA - john.arlia@uslsoccer.com, 04/01/19, 12:25PM EDT

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Expansion side overcame early obstacles, weather to earn 3-2 win over Louisville


Birmingham Legion FC celebrates after scoring in its 3-2 victory over Louisville City FC. Photo courtesy EM Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for.

After failing to score in back-to-back home defeats to start the season and then enduring a bye week and a weather delay in Louisville, Birmingham Legion FC gave its fans what they so desperately craved against Louisville City FC on a soggy Sunday at Slugger Field.

First, a goal. Then, a victory.

Legion FC had come close to opening its USL Championship goalscoring account in its Week 2 matchup with Ottawa Fury FC, but just couldn’t quite literally get the ball over the line. Fury FC defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère produced a stunning clearance to deny Brian Wright an equalizing goal in the 83rd minute and Joe Holland headed just inches wide of the post late in stoppage time of the 1-0 defeat.

By the time Birmingham next took the field in Louisville on Sunday morning, it was the only team in the Championship that hadn’t found the back of the net in 2019. And after waiting out the rain storms brought by Mother Nature the night before, the visitors had to weather an early barrage from the back-to-back USL Cup champion.

Louisville City FC attempted eight of the game’s first 10 shots and found the back of the net with the last of those efforts as Magnus Rasmussen directed a powerful headed past Legion FC goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel on the half-hour mark to give the home side the lead.

It didn’t last long.

The moment Birmingham fans had been waiting nearly four weeks for arrived less than 60 seconds later, with Prosper Kasim producing a splendid piece of control to settle Eric Avila’s chipped through ball before firing a shot into the roof of Ben Lundt’s net.

The wait for a second goal – and a first lead in club history – proved to be a much shorter one as Chandler Hoffman marked his return to Slugger Field with a goal against his former club. Hoffman, who scored 14 times in 28 games for Louisville during the 2016 season, grabbed his first for his hometown team just five minutes after Kasim’s opener with a tidy left-footed finish to Brian Wright’s right-wing cross.

The visitors were on course to take home all three points until Legion FC defender Mathieu Laurent sliced a clearance attempt into his own net to tie the contest with just nine minutes to play. And once again, it looked like Head Coach Tom Soehn’s side was going to catch another tough break and have to wait just a little bit longer for an elusive first victory.

But instead the group showed a resolve and togetherness that you might not expect to see this early from an expansion team that has only been together for a few months. And perhaps fittingly after being denied the club’s first goal against Ottawa, it was Wright who came up with the first game-winner in Legion FC history in the 87th minute, striking a sweet right-footed volley past Lundt after Louisville had failed to clear its lines from a free kick.

The ensuing group celebration by the corner flag told you everything that you needed to know:

Legion FC’s early hardships made its first victory – even one as sweet as a 3-2 road win against the defending champs – taste that much sweeter.

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