Recap: Sporting KC II takes narrow 1-0 loss to Birmingham Legion FC

Sporting Kansas City II (4-15-8, 20 points) took a narrow loss on Friday night at Children's Mercy Park as Birmingham Legion FC (15-7-5, 50 points) moved atop the Central Division standings with a 1-0 victory. Center back Alex Crognole provided the lone goal of the game in the 10th minute, boosting his side's hopes of securing homefield advantage in the USL Championship postseason later this fall.

Taking the field for their penultimate home match of the 2021 campaign, Sporting Kansas City II fielded a formidable lineup that featured eight players loaned down Sporting's first team—namely goalkeeper Brooks Thompson, defenders Amadou Dia, Kayden Pierre and Kaveh Rad, midfielders Ozzie Cisneros and Jake Davis, and forwards Grayson Barber and Wilson Harris. Center back Danny Barbir, holding midfielder Petar Cuic and winger Enoch Mushagalusa rounded out the XI assembled by head coach Paulo Nagamura.

The hosts began brightly and could have taken the lead inside four minutes when Mushagalusa squared up his defender on the left edge of the box, cut centrally and curled a shot just over the crossbar. Instead, the visitors landed the opening punch with their first sniff of goal as Crognale rose to nod Bruno Lapa's corner kick into the back of the net for his second tally of the season.

An open-ended game continued to entertain as Harris broke past the Birmingham backline and forced a save from goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel on the breakaway in the 13th minute. Shortly thereafter, Legion FC caused another major scare themselves as forward Neco Brett rattled the crossbar with a sweetly struck 25-yard free kick.

Mushagalusa continued to threaten down the left flank and forced Van Oekel into a diving save in the 38th minute, his right-footed effort taking a wicked deflection through traffic. Two minutes later, Davis' teasing free kick reached the back post and caromed off Rad before skipping a fraction wide. SKC then breathed a sigh of relief on the cusp of intermission when Thompson did wonderfully to dive at full extension and prevent an unfortunate own goal after Junior Flemmings' diagonal lob pass was headed goalward by the retreating Dia.

Sixteen-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Mataeo Bunbury entered as a halftime substitute and made a near-instant impact by sliding a silky ball into the path of Davis, who set up Mushagalusa for a booming shot that missed by the slimmest of margins. SKC II asked further questions of the Birmingham backline on the hour mark when Mushagalusa's audacious 22-yard strike smacked off the top right corner of the woodwork.

The teams exchanged huge chances near the 65th minute only for both goalkeepers to produce excellent saves. Thompson thwarted Lapa from the top of the box at one end before Bunbury did brilliantly to drive centrally and uncork a bending blast that Van Oekel palmed aside. Bunbury had his tail up and put another shot on target in the 69th minute, receiving the ball with his back to goal and swiveling to strike as Birmingham's keeper racked up another stop.

Sporting KC II were desperately unlucky not to restore parity in the 83rd minute. Pierre went on a marauding run down the right side, beat a defender and cut the ball back to Cisneros, whose rapturous hit from the top of the box bent wide by a matter of inches.

Birmingham went on a final attacking foray in the dying embers, with Thompson making a world-class save to thwart substitute Zachary Herivaux by extending his mitt to cast aside the deflected piledriver.

Nagamura's men will hit the road for a pair of matches next week, visiting Memphis 901 FC at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday and Louisville City FC at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday. Both contests will stream live on ESPN Plus.

2021 USL Championship | Match 27
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 72 degrees and partly cloudy

Sporting KC II 0-1 Birmingham Legion FC
Sporting KC II 0-1 Birmingham Legion FC
Sporting Kansas City II (4-15-8, 20 points)
Birmingham Legion FC (15-7-5, 50 points)

Sporting Kansas City II: Brooks Thompson; Kayden Pierre, Kaveh Rad (Graham Smith 61'), Danny Barbir, Amadou Dia (C) (Isaiah LeFlore 61'); Petar Cuic, Ozzie Cisneros, Jake Davis; Grayson Barber (Mataeo Bunbury 46'), Wilson Harris (Ropapa Mensah 77'), Enoch Mushagalusa (Rojay Smith 77')
Subs Not Used: Remi Prieur, Jahon Rad

Birmingham Legion FC: Matt Van Oekel; Jonny Dean, Alex Crognale, Phanuel Kavita (C), Ryan James; Anderson Asiedu, Mikey Lopez (Thomas Vancaeyezeele 68') Prosper Kasim (Jacob Rufe 90+1', Bruno Lapa (Eli Crognale 68'), Junior Flemmings (Zachary Herivaux 75'); Neco Brett
Subs Not Used: Trevor Spangenberg, Jaden Servania, Benjamin, Ofeimu

Scoring Summary:
BHM -- Alex Crognale 2 (Bruno Lapa 1) 10’

Misconduct Summary:
BHM -- Mikey Lopez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 53’
SKC -- Jake Davis (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 56'

Match Statistics
Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: DeShun Beard
Assistant Referee: Juan Pablo Casas
Assistant Referee: Esad Omanovic
Fourth Official: Velimir Stefanovic