Although the Battle of the Magic Cities was dwarfed by other soccer news internationally, the US Open Cup Quarterfinal was the biggest thing happening in the city of Birmingham on Wednesday evening as host as the USL Championship side Legion FC looked to advance past visiting MLS side Inter Miami CF.
While the soccer world was fixated on the announcement that Lionel Messi intends to sign with Inter Miami, the current players on the field had a game to play.
The Magic of the Cup may have died for the Alabamian Magic City, but the magic lives on in South Beach as Inter Miami advanced to the competion’s Semifinal with a 1-0 victory. The only goal came in the 56th minute off the foot of Nicolás Stefanelli.
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) June 8, 2023
“This win is very important, not just for us as a team, but for the whole organization,” said Javier Morales, Inter Miami’s interim head coach. “We made history today — it’s the first time that the team makes the semifinals.
“This is not just about one player or the coach, this is about everyone. Inter Miami made history today…”
The first moment of this match came early for Legion, with their first attack of the game, Enzo Martinez forced a huge save out of Drake Callender, who had to extend to his left to deal with the attack. From that moment, it became a battle of wits between the two clubs. Inter Miami looked to slowly build up in attack, while Birmingham Legion looked to spring a counter at any possible opportunity.
The biggest moment of the match was one that is still one of the main talking points of the night. On a Legion counterattack, there were several shots taken in the Inter Miami box, and it finally lands at the feet of Prosper Kasim. Kasim, the Round of 16 hero, fired a shot on the half volley that very clearly hit the Inter Miami defender’s arm.
Alas, no penalty was given, and a corner was given instead. For the most part, the end of the half fizzled out from there.
To start the second half, it was a different attack out of Legion. Pressing high and looking to force Inter Miami to make a mistake, it also left the 3 Sparks open at the back.
In the 56th minute, Inter Miami sent a massive attack up the right side, a deviation from the left sided bombardment from the half before. From Corentin Jean to Stefanelli, Inter Miami CF had gotten their first ever goal in a US Open Cup Quarterfinal. This would prove to be the game winner for Inter Miami, La Familia celebrating accordingly, sending pink smoke high into the Birmingham night.
The rest of the match was filled with shoving, slapping, arguing, and cramping. It ended with more than 10 minutes of stoppage time added, but even after chance after chance, the Legion were unable to find their equalizer.
Before it was all set and done, over 18,418 fans packed Protective Stadium, smashing the previous record of just under 13,000. According to TheCup.us records, the game marked the 24th largest crowd to witness a US Open Cup match in the tournament’s 108-year history.
Legion players and coaches were only talking about the crowd and club despite the loss although they were beyond upset that they could not secure the equalizer for the biggest crowd in club history.
Alex Crognale, Legion Center Back, said, “The crowd came out tonight, Birmingham showed out. They deserved more. That was the loudest game I have ever been a part of…” which includes the 2017 US Open Cup Columbus Crew vs FC Cincinnati match, which drew over 30,000.