On Wednesday, May 10, Memphis 901 FC made the trip down the I-22 to take on rival Birmingham Legion FC. There was not a lot of southern hospitality at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala. as the Legion defeated Memphis 3-0 to advance to the Round of 16.
With the win, Birmingham becomes the first Alabama club to reach the Round of 16 in the 108-year history of the competition.
This rivalry has gone through many iterations and is about as even of a match as you will find. This rivalry, dubbed Southern Harm, is anything but full of Southern Charm. There’s hatred, intensity, and a real intention to do damage to another person, and that’s before you even leave the pitch.
Coming into this match, Memphis was riding high, going seven matches unbeaten, including a thrilling win over Atlanta United in the US Open Cup. East on the I-22, the 3 Sparks were not having the same luck, losing their last two matches by a combined 7-2 scoreline.
In the first five minutes, it looked like it would be the same again. The Beale Street Boys were dictating play and had complete control of the ball, letting Legion only have one touch in the entire first five minutes. That, however, would be the only real success Memphis would have on the night.
After two chippy fouls by Akeem Ward, a former Legion man, the match seemed to completely shift in the Legion’s favor. The 3 Sparks started mounting up the pressure, and it was only a matter of time before the flood dams opened, and they opened in the 20th minute thanks to a solid short corner routine that made its way from Prosper Kasim, to Juan Agudelo, to both goal posts, and finally in the back of the net.
It was Agudelo’s third goal of the tournament, and the seventh of his career. Wednesday’s goal was scored a little less than 11 years since his first Open Cup goal which was scored as a teenager with the now-defunct Chivas USA of Major League Soccer.
From there, Birmingham was unrelentless. In the first half, the real bright spots were Bruno Lapa (making his first return to Birmingham), Jeremy Kelly, and Laurent Kissiedou, being the only real creative options on the night for Memphis.
Just 19 minutes later, Legion had a breakaway opportunity and Tyler Pasher was staring down at goal and had a rip from outside the box. Unfortunately for Bill Hamid, the ball took a wicked deflection off of a defender, but he did well to save it. Once again unfortunately for Hamid, his save only went as far as Enzo Martinez who took a touch around a defender and fired the ball into the bottom right corner. To this point, Memphis hasn’t made Trevor Spangenberg prove his worth yet, with every single one of their shots going well over or blocked before it could even trouble the Number 18.
In the second half, it was more of the same for Legion. The third and final goal was a beautiful goal set up entirely by Juan Agudelo. His touch and dribble into space to find Kasim was masterful. Unfortunately for Agudelo, Prosper’s slight touch before completely losing his footing and the ball falling to Tyler Pasher was enough to steal away the assist. Pasher, who was an absolute menace on the wings and in the middle, gets the goal he deserves, firing it far post to give the 3 Sparks 3 goals and securing the win.
In the next round, the Legion will likely be facing their first ever MLS opponent in the US Open Cup. The draw will take place on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET.