USL Championship expansion side Birmingham Legion FC defeated the NPSL’s West Chester United 4-1 in the first US Open Cup game in club history Wednesday evening before 3,307 fans at BBVA Compass Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
Not only did the Legion win their first US Open Cup match, but as the first-ever entry into the competition from their state, according to TheCup.us records, they are the first Alabama club to win a tournament game in the 106-year history of the competition.
Leading the way was Legion midfielder, and Columbus Crew loanee, Eddie Opoku who was involved in all four goals for the home team. The Ghana native, scored one of them, assisted on two others and drew the foul that led to a penalty kick.
West Chester United arrived in Birmingham having played four qualifying matches and its Round 1 match all on the road, including an overtime and penalty shootout dogfight against FC Baltimore Christos. In the early going, however, West Chester did not look like road-weary underdogs. Both teams had good chances to score in the opening minutes. Legion coach Tom Soehn was impressed.
“Credit to them,” he said. “They came out pretty well. They actually could have gone up one when we gave them that opportunity, so they made it difficult.”
Neither team was able to score in the early going, and the game settled down until the 22nd minute when Legion midfielder Eddie Opoku was brought down in the penalty area. Referee Sergii Demianchuk instantly pointed to the spot and forward Chandler Hoffman converted to give Birmingham a lead it would never give up.
Birmingham doubled its lead in the 38th minute when midfielder Femi Hollinger-Janzen connected with an Eddie Opoku pass and went into the halftime break up 2-0.
They did not let up in the second half, and after 52 minutes Eddie Opoku added a second assist, this time feeding it to midfielder Prosper Kasim for a 3-0 lead. West Chester got one back nine minutes later on a solo shot by forward Charles Wilson, who found himself in open space due to a defensive lapse by the Legion.
The scoring closed out in the 89th minute when Eddie Opoku finished a busy evening by scoring on a pass from defensive midfielder Daniel Johnson.
Tom Soehn, who won the US Open Cup three times as a player (Dallas Burn in 1997, Chicago Fire in 1998 and 2000) and as a head coach (D.C. United in 2008) was pleased with his team’s performance.
“In the end I think obviously the quality showed in our guys and to be frank we could have had a few more than we did,” he said
Birmingham piled up 18 shots in the game and created 15 additional chances. They controlled the game with 61.4% possession, executing the game plan nearly flawlessly.
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) May 16, 2019
“All we wanted to do was to make sure we stayed compact, organized, have a little bit more patience in our build-up,” Soehn said.
Birmingham also rotated out several regular starters to give some other players some valuable minutes, and also started central defender Razak Cromwell, who had arrived from his native Ghana just a week previously.
The Legion move on to visit defending USL champion Louisville City FC in Round 3 on May 29. The team have already met twice in the USL regular season, each team winning on the opponent’s field.