Welcome to Switch the Pitch, where we chat each week with a fan of the upcoming opponent to learn a little bit more about their club, their city, and their supporter culture. First up is Kaylor Hodges, who hosts the Hammering Down podcast, focused on Birmingham Legion FC

Q: Despite meeting in the playoffs for the last two seasons, Tampa Bay and Birmingham haven’t played in the regular season since 2020. What’s been going on with the Legion?

A: “The big thing is, we’ve sold players, there’s been certain departures new guys in, some of the old guys out, but I think the big storyline for Legion fans right now is the new stadium. There’s big, local celebrities and a pretty big recording artist coming for the halftime show, and they brought in Grammy award winning people to sing the national anthem. They’re making this a big deal and Protective Stadium has allowed the Legion to explore and make it more appealing and more like a big deal because I love BBVA Stadium, which is now PNC Field, but it was always going to be viewed as minor league because it was small. And for me personally I love the small field because a bad crowd still looks like a good crowd on TV. The moment we moved into this new place, people started paying attention and I think for a lot of leagues and fans it’s scary because it’s so big we’re afraid of looking empty. But I think a lot of us are excited because we know what the potential is there if that stadium gets rolling.”

Q: You mentioned some comings and goings – who are some of the names that have stayed or re-signed, who are some of the names that have come in and who has left?

A: “Okay, so we have a very strong core but in my humble opinion obviously, Bruno Lapa, this is the first time in a little bit we’ve been fully healthy because he came in with a groin injury last year. His numbers were down a little bit and he had to have a sports hernia surgery. He’s fully healthy now and ready to go, he told me ‘I haven’t felt like this in a while.’ I think the two guys that will catch eyes very quickly are Johnny Dean, he’s an absolute burner and you’re gonna be hard pressed to find anyone faster than him in the USL. He is ridiculously smart player. Anderson Asiedu is arguably one of the most improved players in the league last year. Anderson is a wonderful holding midfielder and can put in a crunching tackle, if he has to, he does all the dirty work and pretty much the entire backline is really, really good. Phanuel Kavita, he’s been around the block for a while. Big strong dude, I wouldn’t want to have to go one on one with him. Phanuel and Alex are wonderful center backs, but you can really if you want to circle people who are staying pretty much our entire defense. I think Eddie Horvath might be the new comer in the USL next year. He’s a 6’1″ striker and can jump as high as you want. Big physical body, as fast can be. I watched him go one on one with Miles Robinson of Atlanta United, USMNT Miles Robinson. Eddie got past him, he was more physical than him at times, if he gets it going Eddie is going to be ridiculously good. Let’s just hope he translates it. As for people who have come in, everybody’s favorite player Enzo Martinez. He made friends with everybody, he’s in a, in those and as a human, just a wonderful human. But God, if you, if he doesn’t play for you or if he doesn’t play for you have him. We hated that guy. Another one to come in is Marlon Santos. Marlon was arguably the best player for Tulsa last year. Why they didn’t keep them. I don’t know but he’s now with Legion, Our big departure, I guess you would say is Junior Flemmings, selling him for allegedly $500,000. It’s so hard to look over at Neco Brett not coming back, one of the best goal scorers in USL history, and the leading all time leading goals scorer for the Birmingham Legion. JJ Williams, JJ was probably our best looking attacking piece during that playoff game, big body to get his head on anything, and decent dribbling/decent passing.”

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