On a historic night in their club’s history, Birmingham Legion FC defeated Major League Soccer club Charlotte FC to advance to the Quarterfinals of the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. A solo goal from Prosper Kasim was the difference as Birmingham became the first Alabama club to reach the Quarterfinals after 107 tournaments in the competition’s history.
Along with their first appearance in the Round of 16, Protective Stadium in downtown Birmingham hosted an announced crowd of 12,722. This was the largest crowd to witness a Legion game in the club’s relatively brief history (est. 2019).
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) May 25, 2023
“We’ve been here five short years and I feel like the game continues to grow and then the city continues to back us up and it was hard not to enjoy that,” said Legion head coach Tom Soehn, who won three US Open Cup titles as a player (1997 Dallas Burn, 1998, 2000 Chicago Fire) and one as a head coach (2008 D.C. United). “I think understood what the game meant. We talked a lot about what it took to come out with the results tonight and then I think they executed quite well.”
The match began with Charlotte FC controlling the majority of the possession, leaving Birmingham unable to retain any of the ball and create any chances. 15 minutes into the game Charlotte controlled 67% of the ball and looked the stronger side. It nearly paid off after Brandon Cambridge scored for Charlotte but it was ruled offside.
The first half continued to go in Charlotte’s favor as they were relentless in their chances. Birmingham were saved however by their goalkeeper, Trevor Spangenberg, who made many crucial stops to keep the score at 0-0.
The second half saw Birmingham Legion come out on the front foot with quick passes that repeatedly caught out the Charlotte players. The Legion made the visitors uncomfortable and the momentum that they had in the first half dissipated even more after Adilson Malanda was sent off after picking up a second yellow card in the 51st minute.
With Charlotte playing with ten men, Birmingham completely took the match over. Their give-and-go’s caught out the Charlotte back line, along with their quick feet and darting runs this made Charlotte sloppy in their defending.
In the 60th minute of the match, Kasim received a ball from Juan Agudelo and darted at the back line of Charlotte before cutting onto his left foot and unleashing a shot that nestled into the bottom left corner. The 12,000 plus fans erupted as a “cupset” was brewing in Birmingham.
The match continued with no response from any of the Charlotte players and Birmingham kept knocking for a second to secure their path into the next round. Charlotte failed to spring any true attacks together in order to get back into the match. With Birmingham’s strong possession and their constant attacking threat, this made it near impossible for a comeback for the away side.
In added time, Charlotte had one last opportunity from a free kick to equalize. It was headed away by Birmingham and the full time whistle was blown. The crowd erupted as it capped off a magical night in the Magic City.