#5 Riverhounds (16-9-9) vs. #4 Birmingham Legion FC (17-10-7)
Date: Sunday, October 23
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.
Odds (90 minutes): Hounds +260 / Draw +250 / Birmingham -115
TV: 22 The Point
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtags: #BHMvPIT, #HOUNDTAHN and #HuntAsOne
(Editor’s note: This preview was updated at midnight on Oct. 23 to reflect Saturday night’s results in the USL Championship Playoffs.)
(Oct. 22, 2022) — The Hounds are back in the postseason for a fifth straight year, and Birmingham Legion FC will once again be the team’s first opponent to kick off the USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense.
It is the third time in the past four seasons the bracket has paired the Hounds and Legion in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In 2019, the top-seeded Hounds routed the Legion in a league playoff record 7-0 win behind four Neco Brett strikes at Highmark Stadium. Another meeting was on tap for last season at the Legion’s old BBVA Field home, but the Hounds were unable to travel for the game as a result of the league’s Covid-19 protocol, and Birmingham was advanced in a no-contest.
A tight match is anticipated for this year’s playoff outing after the teams split a pair of one-goal games in the regular season — the Hounds won 1-0 on May 7 in Pittsburgh, and the Legion won 2-1 on Sept. 14 in Birmingham. For the winner, a trip to top-seeded Louisville City FC and an Oct. 29 match in the Eastern Conference Semifinals awaits.
For the Hounds, Russell Cicerone is the team’s leading scorer for the second straight season. He ended a brief personal scoring drought in the team’s 3-1 win over Oakland to close the regular season with 13 goals, and he added his sixth assist of the year, as well. The Legion counter with a veteran presence in Enzo Martínez, who at age 32 has had a career year with 15 goals and eight assists, both tops in the Birmingham side.
The Hounds’ own veteran midfielder, Kenardo Forbes, has scored in two straight games and finished with a team-leading 10 assists — a career high and one off the USL Championship lead. The team also gets a boost from the return of Arturo Ordóñez, who will return to the back line after serving a one-game red card suspension against Oakland.
For the Legion, the match has significance as the first home playoff match in club history. Birmingham’s three previous postseason matches all were away from home, with their lone win being a 3-2 triumph over North Carolina FC in the 2019 Preliminary Round, which set up the quarterfinal tilt in Pittsburgh.
Fans in Pittsburgh can gather to watch the match at the team’s official watch party at Mike’s Beer Bar, where there will be giveaways and specials to go with the playoff viewing. The game will be shown live on 22 The Point and streamed via ESPN+.