Addressing the Strikers

Birmingham Legion FC forward Brian Wright (7) works past a diving New York Red Bulls II goalkeeper Evan Louro (24) to get a wide open shot for goal during the first half of the New York Red Bulls II at Birmingham Legion FC USL Championship League pro soccer game, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, at BBVA Field in Birmingham, Ala. (Photo by Vasha Hunt)

With the recent news of the loan of Chandler Hoffman to Orange County SC, it should be interesting to see how coach Tommy Soehn utilizes his available strikers.

In this blog, I will address the play of three potential stars in the Legion’s offense- Brian Wright, Neco Brett, and Rudolf Mensah.

The loss of Hoffman will pose some issues for depth and experience, but I do not view it as a huge obstacle in the Legion’s success on the pitch. Hoffman, the hometown hero and face of Legion FC, scored four goals in 17 appearances last season, after joining Legion FC as the club’s first-ever signing in August of 2018.

Hoffman seemed to struggle to put away the easy chances but baffle fans with thrilling goals, such as the outside-the-box rocket he scored against Hartford at BBVA Field. He will be returning to Birmingham eventually, and hopefully he gets much needed game time to fully recover from his leg injury stemming from last season.

In terms of who is available and rearing to go for the 2020 USL campaign, let’s start with Canadian forward Brian Wright.

Wright greatly helped the Legion last season, bagging six goals and adding four assists. In my opinion, his most memorable goals came against Atlanta United 2 and New York Red Bulls II. In the third minute of a September contest with ATL 2, Wright burst behind the defense and received a left-footed long ball from midfielder Prosper Kasim, only to absolutely finesse a defender with a cut back and chip goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira, sparking a celebration that included a flex-off with former Legion and current Atlanta United striker JJ Williams. His other stunner came in the 10th minute of an October contest with Red Bulls II, as he received a central through ball from former Legion midfielder Daniel Johnson, outmuscled a defender and smoothly glided past the keeper and slotted it into the back of the net, putting the boys up 1-0 in a crucial end-of-season match.

Wright can score, and his speed is extremely underrated. For a guy who had 46 pace on FIFA back in 2019, he has outran a bunch of defenders to put him in on goal in 1v1 situations. We can only hope Wright’s play gets even better this year and he bags around 8 goals for the boys in black this season.

Another forward to be on the lookout for is Jamaican Neco Brett. Brett spent last season with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and absolutely throttled us in the second round of the USL Playoffs, netting a whopping four goals. Yes, it was raining, and yes, Matt VanOekel struggled badly that night, but Brett absolutely left a bad taste in all Legion fans’ mouths that game. All I can say is, we are very fortunate to have him on our side now. The 28-year-old bagged 27 goals in 61 appearances for Pittsburgh over two seasons, and his assists should not be overlooked either as he notched 5 in last year’s campaign. Long story short, Brett is a guy who should have an immense role for us in the starting lineup from the very go. I’m expecting 10-12 goals from him this season, but I would not be disappointed with 8-9.

The last guy I’ll mention now is 18-year-old Ghanaian forward Rudolf Mensah. In two appearances with Ghana Premier League side Liberty Professionals FC, Mensah bagged a single goal in just 53 minutes of gameplay. Our very own Ethan Miller spoke about the potential of Mensah this year in a blog post last week, so I’ll leave it at that. He’s a young guy who has the chance to learn from some very experienced players. His future is very bright and I am personally hoping he delivers 3-4 goals in his first season with Legion FC.

The season is nearly here (July 15 start date) and training is underway. Let’s hope all three players mentioned above remain injury-free this year and can help us achieve greatness in 2020 and beyond!

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