I had the opportunity to conduct a little interview last Tuesday night with Legion FC center-back Alex Crognale, socially distanced of course. Alex is currently spending the offseason back in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, with his fiancĂ©, Kyle, and bernedoodle. He’ll be returning to Birmingham in the next few weeks to begin the journey of Birmingham Legion’s 2021 season. We discussed a variety of topics, from Alex’s goals for the upcoming season to the Legion owners and management to Alex’s crucial role as co-owner (alongside former teammate and current Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen) of Voyce Now, an organization designed to assist youth in underserved communities. Let’s dive in!

One of the first questions that came to mind when I was planning this interview was scheduling. How do Alex and his Legion teammates spend an average training day? For Alex, this is approximately what a normal training day looks like:

8:00 a.m. Get up; drink coffee; eat breakfast; relax by reading or checking the stock market; get ready for training

9:30 a.m. Training (time alone: stretch, foam roll); team meeting (film study, training tactics); training; recovery (gym session, stretch); team meal; shower

12:30 p.m. Return home; walk the dog; go to the park; grab a snack; rest of the day to himself

The next question I asked was about a typical diet for Alex. He likes to keep things consistent and healthy, with an emphasis on vegetables, a good protein source, and choosing organic. Alex avoids processed foods, fried foods, processed sugars, and excessive starches. Breakfast often features either sourdough bread toast with an egg on top or a sweet potato hash with various veggies and an egg. A snack might include mixed nuts, or Alex’s guilty pleasure, tortilla chips and dip. If you ever dine with Alex at a Mexican restaurant, keep a careful guard of the bag of chips, or else Alex may just eat them all! A dinner might consist of chicken or fish with asparagus or broccoli.

We then tackled the topic of motivation, particularly on game days. “I think I just have a personal drive to excel in whatever I’m doing. I wanted to be the best I could in whatever I was doing.”, Alex said. Scoring goals, making good tackles, and winning games are of utmost importance to Alex. He also realizes that performing well on the pitch has serious consequences with respect to his employment, so that is certainly a very motivating factor. And motivation for Alex doesn’t just apply to soccer, but other parts of life as well. For example, with Voyce Now, Alex’s goal is to raise as much money as possible and help as many kids as he can.

Alex and his team at Voyce Now, when not playing soccer, are currently working with the Boys and Girls Club of America to bring computer, printers, calculators, and etc. to underserved schools in six cities across the United States. They spend much of their time with merchandise, packaging and shipping out hats, hoodies, and more. Voyce Now recently had an auction of game-worn U.S. Men’s National Team jackets, donning positive messages such as “PEACE” and “STOP RACISM”, to help raise money for their organization. You can visit https://www.voycenowfoundation.org/projects to learn more about their movement and check out their shop.

Alex was actually playing for the Columbus Crew senior team when the “Save the Crew” movement happened back in 2017 and 2018. To summarize, the owner (J. Anthony Precourt), put plans into action to move the team from Columbus to Austin, Texas, behind everyone’s back. When Crew fans found out, they were shocked, but they quickly rebounded and turned their attention towards putting every ounce of effort in to save their team. A grassroots effort emerged among mostly Crew supporters and players’ families; they hosted a big rally, recruited over 350 local business allies, created contact lists and templates to enhance communication, and even made ticket pledges for future games. Thanks to their efforts, the Crew were eventually saved, when the plans to relocate the team to Austin were halted. “It was pretty wild. I remember getting the news that they were going to move the team, and it’s a pretty deflating feeling. I was not only on the team, but from Columbus, born and raised here. I was a Crew fan before I was a Crew player. To think about the team leaving the city, it’s kind of surreal. It was really weird being in the locker room. Everyone’s hearing different things from different sources. It was kind of an unspoken thing. No one really knew what was going to happen. Being in the locker room and not knowing any more than the average fan, when they’re talking about where you might be playing next year and your future, is kind of crazy.” Yet, even though things looked very dark for the Columbus Crew, fans and activists still kept a positive attitude. “But as the weeks passed, there was a growing level of optimism. As time passed, the crowd got bigger and bigger, calling out to keep the team here and fighting for the team. The fans, the community-they rallied together and pull of something really unthinkable, changing the owners’ and the league’s idea of having a team in Columbus. My mom was a part of the “Save the Crew” leadership, and I think that during that time period that was like her full-time job. Seeing it come to fruition, and see them come out and win a championship this year was really a fairy tale ending. It came down to the very end.” The team was staying in Columbus!! And it actually really worked out in the end for both cities, because now Austin has an MLS team, Austin FC, which will begin league play later this spring.

We also discussed the pros and cons of living in “The Magic City”. Some of Alex’s pros are accessibility to outdoors activities and parks, the food and restaurants, and the low cost of living. The cons were few and far between, but limited airport accessibility and lack of nightlife were cited as lower points for the city. Some of his Birmingham restaurant favorites are Greenhouse, El Barrio, Bamboo On Second, Big Spoon Creamery (for the weekend ice cream fix), and Taj India.

With the Legion season fast approaching, it will be exciting to see Alex and his teammates back on the pitch. It was truly a pleasure to interview Alex, and I really appreciate the time taken out of his busy day for this dialogue. With that being said, I wish him and the rest of the Legion squad the best of luck with the 2021 season!

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