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Martinez leads Legion FC to Open Cup win against Memphis

By Staff, 05/10/23, 11:41PM EDT


Veteran playmaker notches one goal, one assist in 3-0 victory to send Birmingham to Round of 16

Birmingham Legion FC advanced to the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday with a 3-0 victory against Memphis 901 FC.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Enzo Martinez notched a goal and assist while Juan Agudelo and Tyler Pasher also found the net as Birmingham Legion FC took a 3-0 victory against Southern Harm rival Memphis 901 FC at Protective Stadium on Wednesday night to advance to the Round of 16 in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Legion FC will await the draw for the next round of the tournament on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, where it joins fellow USL Championship club Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC as the lone two remaining lower division clubs in the tournament.

“It means a lot for Birmingham,” said Agudelo. “The club, the crest. It’s been an effective season of hard work to get to the next round. As you can tell, a bunch of the guys are pretty excited to see who we've got up next. Hopefully it’s a home game. As you can tell, the team is clicking offensively. We're becoming a little sharper and it's looking good.

“I’m really excited to see how far we can take this team and keep fighting with my brothers. As you can tell [as he held out a busted lip], it’s going to be blood, sweat, and tears and that’s what it takes to be a champion.”

Entering on a seven-game undefeated streak in all competitions, Memphis almost struck first in the fourth minute when Akeem Ward cut onto his right foot in the left side of the Legion FC penalty area and curled a shot that hit the right post before being smuggled away to safety by the hosts. The visitors made a positive start overall, in fact, but were unable to find a breakthrough despite controlling much of the possession.

Instead, Legion FC took the lead in the 20th minute after being awarded a free kick on the right flank. Martinez swung in a cross that was met on the volley by Agudelo, whose sharp finish clipped off the inside of the left post and back across the goal before going in as the forward beat former United States teammate Bill Hamid in the Memphis goal.

901 FC pushed to get back into the game but ended up conceding a second on a counterattack by Birmingham six minutes before halftime. Pasher broke forward and fired a shot that was saved by Hamid, but the rebound fell to Martinez in the right side of the penalty area from where he cut inside his defender and tucked a low shot into the bottom-right corner.

Birmingham added a third in the 64th minute with Pasher this time doing the honors. The Canadian gained possession in the left side of the penalty area and cut onto his right foot before curling a shot just inside the far corner to put the game away for the hosts, leaving Memphis to return home with its Open Cup journey complete and Legion FC with the chance to look ahead to the next round.

“Myself, a couple of other guys, they’ve had opportunities and been denied from some MLS teams,” said Agudelo. “I think they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder – I know I do a little bit – so I’m excited. I’m hoping we draw an MLS team.”

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