Birmingham Legion FC delivered the first comeback victory of the 2023 USL Championship season in epic fashion on Friday night, earning a 3-2 victory against FC Tulsa at Protective Stadium to pick up a first win of the campaign.
Here are three things we took away from a brilliant contest.
When he opened the scoring in the fourth minute, Tyler Pasher showed a big reason why Birmingham Legion FC acquired him this offseason. The Canadian’s speed left Tulsa’s defense for dead as he broke the offside trap on Alex Crognale’s line-breaking pass, and he was simply too quick for goalkeeper Michael Nelson as he came off his line. Even though his touch to evade Nelson took him wide of the left edge of the penalty area, Pasher’s technique was perfect to finish into the open net.
When Pasher pulled Legion FC back into the game with eight minutes to go, however, it was an illustration of his ability to go above and beyond when it matters most. You can compare this weaving epic through four defenders before a precise shot from almost 30 yards out to the best goal he’s scored previously in the league, a stoppage time winner for Indy Eleven against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC three years ago. It’s on that level of quality and provided the platform for a breathless finish.
Tyler Pasher’s first big night in a Legion FC kit was the biggest takeaway of the night, but Neco Brett capping the performance with a stoppage time winner was exactly the moment the home fans would have wanted to leave on. The Jamaican’s one-year stint with New Mexico United didn’t work out as planned, but Brett’s qualities are still there in abundance and his headed finish in the second minute of stoppage time off a fine cross by Ben Reveno was just too powerful for Nelson to keep out.
Sitting sixth in the Championship’s regular season history with 70 goals, Brett is clearly still working his way to full fitness. The good news there is as much attacking talent as Legion FC has at its disposal, it can afford to be patient. As clinical a finisher as the 30-year-old veteran has almost always been, though, you can expect there’s a starting role coming as soon as he’s ready to go a full 90.
If there’s anything to take away tonight for FC Tulsa it’s that the side looked to have made good progress from its season opener. While Head Coach Blair Gavin’s side came away with a point at Miami FC last weekend, it could have considered itself a little fortunate that the hosts weren’t able to take advantage of one of their good chances in that outing.
On Friday night, Tulsa’s players didn’t let the early goal faze them. Instead, they controlled much of the possession – which was fine with Birmingham as it looked to sit in and break – but also played with an incisiveness and sharpness we didn’t see consistently last time out. Tulsa delivered two fine goals – Marcus Epps’ curling finish one-upped Rodrigo da Costa’s initial tally for the side on a beautiful pirouette and finish early in the second half. They might head back to Oklahoma regretful not to have taken something from this game, but there were positives to take ahead of next Saturday’s home opener against Loudoun United FC at ONEOK Field.