OKLAHOMA CITY – JJ Williams recorded a late game-winner and an assist as Birmingham Legion FC took its fourth consecutive victory in a 2-1 win against OKC Energy FC on Saturday night at Taft Stadium, spoiling OKC interim Head Coach Leigh Veidman’s first game at the helm for the hosts.
Sitting on a landmark moment, it took only three minutes for Neco Brett to bag his 50th regular-season goal in the Championship and put Legion FC ahead. A long clearance upfield by Birmingham goalkeeper Matt VanOekel was flicked on 35 yards from goal by Williams and Brett ran on to strike home a first-time finish to become the 12th player in the league’s history to reach the landmark.
The hosts looked to respond in the 10th minute as off a corner from the right by Aidan Daniels the ball came to Villyan Bijev at the top of the penalty area, and his shot went just high of the crossbar. The game then began to settle down as neither side created many clear looks, but seven minutes before the halftime break OKC’s Robert Coronado almost produced a brilliant free kick finish as his shot from 30 yards curled just wide of the top-right corner of the net.
Energy FC created a big chance less than a minute into the second half as Hiroki Kurimoto found Jaime Chavez with a good pass into the right side of the penalty area, only for the veteran forward to shoot wide of the near post. Coronado then took another attempt from a free kick in the 67th minute from wide on the right side, but VanOekel was able to comfortably gather low despite the runners moving in front of him at the near post.
Birmingham almost doubled its lead with 20 minutes to go as a clever passing move just outside the Energy FC penalty area came to Ryan James bursting up the left flank, and his low ball across the six-yard area found Brett, but the Jamaican couldn’t make clean contact on his finish as it slipped wide of the right post. That proved key a few minutes later as James brought down Bijev in the Legion FC penalty area, giving the hosts a penalty kick, and Bijev converted just out of the reach of VanOekel into the right corner of the net with 17 minutes to go.
The equalizer energized the hosts, and Arun Basuljevic went close to putting OKC ahead two minutes later as a cross deflected to him in the penalty area for a shot that looped over the crossbar. Legion FC grabbed the lead back with seven minutes to go, however, as Jonathan Dean was played in down the right by Junior Flemmings and then delivered a driven low cross into the six-yard area that Williams tapped home.
Energy FC pushed to try and find a late equalizer, including goalkeeper CJ Cochran joining the attack for a pair of late set pieces, but after a glancing header by Mitchell Osmond went wide of the right post in stoppage time the chances ran out as Legion FC claimed all three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
JJ Williams, Birmingham Legion FC – Williams recorded a goal and assist for the visitors and had two shots and two key passes, and also chipped in defensively with four headed clearances while winning 7 of 11 aerial duels.
BHM – Neco Brett (JJ Williams) 3’
OKC – Villyan Bijev (Penalty Kick) 73’
BHM – JJ Williams (Jonathan Dean) 83’