LEGION TRAINING NIGHT

Alabama FC is excited to further enhance the player development process with exclusive ECNL/ECRL weekly training starting September 19th. Legion FC will prove to be a vital partner to the growth of the players within Birmingham at all levels.

Academy, State League, and SCCL complimentary camp dates will be announced soon. Alabama FC is the only youth-affiliated soccer program with the Legion and we look forward to growing this partnership

Training Schedule

Training Schedule

The start is Monday, September 19th, and will Finish Monday, November 7th

Where: Dunnavant Valley Fields (Formerly Sportsblast) Field #3 and #4

Girls ECNL 

05s/06s coachs Eric Avila / Matt VanOekel
5:15-6:30pm DVF #3

07s/08s Trevor Spangenberg
6:30-7:45pm DV#4

09s/10s Zach Herivaux / Trevor Spangenberg
7:45-9:00pm DV#4

Girls ECRL 

07s/08s Zach Herivaux
5:15-6:30pm DV#4

05s/06s Ryan James
6:30-7:45pm DVF #3

09s/10s Ryan James / Mikey Lopez
7:45-9:00pm DVF #3

Boys ECNL

08s/09s/10s – Eric Avila / Matt VanOekel
6:30-8:00pm DVF #3

Boys ECRL

05s/06s/07s Mikey Lopez / Phanuel Kavita
5:30-7:00pm DVF #3

08s/09s/10s Phanuel Kavita
7:00-8:30pm DVF #3

Legion Boys Academy Pool

07s/06s/05s Wednesday’s 7pm DVF #5 – Eric Avila

Camp Schedule

Free to ALL SCCL, Competitive, and Academy players.

Coaches Bios

Eric Avila:

Avila spent the 2021 season coaching the San Diego Nomads under-15 MLS Next Academy team. He played for San Diego Loyal SC in the USL Championship in 2020, made 34 appearances with four assists for Legion FC in 2019, spent 2018 with the Las Vegas Lights, 2017 in Phoenix with Rising FC, and 2016 with the Rowdies in Tampa. Before Avila joined the Rowdies, he appeared in 174 games across eight seasons in Major League Soccer with FC Dallas, Toronto FC, Chivas USA, and Orlando City SC.

The now 34-year-old also had a successful college career, capped off by scoring the game-winning goal for UC-Santa Barbara in the 2006 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer Championship. While in college, Avila played in USL League Two for the San Fernando Valley Quakes and Ventura County Fusion. As a youth player, Avila was in residency with the United States U-17 National Team program at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and spent time playing with the Under-20s. He was also a member of the Chivas USA U-19 team before enrolling at UCSB. Avila recently earned his USSF ‘B’ License

Matt VanOekel:

VanOekel, who is the current goalkeeper and goalkeeper coach for the Legion FC first team, began his coaching career in 2008 with the Minnesota United Academy girls’ program. Since 2008, his previous coaching stints include the men’s and women’s goalkeeper coach at St. Olaf College, associate head coach for the men’s and women’s program at Dakota County Technical College, and the goalkeeper coach at Carleton College. Since 2018, VanOekel founded Front Foot GK, a goalkeeping training company that hosts camps, clinics, and private training for aspiring goalkeepers.

Entering his 14th pro season, and third with Legion FC, VanOekel’s playing career dates back to 2008 when he signed for Minnesota United in the NASL. After seven seasons with Minnesota, he played for FC Edmonton, Real Salt Lake of MLS, and Oklahoma City Energy. Collegiately, VanOekel played at Longwood University before transferring to Rutgers University from 2005-2007. VanOekel holds his USSF “C” License.

In 27 appearances for the Three Sparks in 2021, Legion’s Defensive Player of the Year earned himself 9 clean sheets (tied for 4th in USLC) and 84 saves (7=) with a 76.4% success rate. In addition, VanOekel made 11 catches, 13 punches, and 21 clearances. During the Black and Gold’s rival match versus Memphis at the historic Legion Field on May 15, VanOekel recorded his career-first assist that led to a 1-0 shutout victory for Birmingham. VanOekel made 14 appearances for Legion FC in 2020, racking up four clean sheets (tied for 9th in USLC) and 36 saves (12th) for goals against average of 1.21. He also added 13 clearances, six catches, seven punches, and played a vital role in the game-tying goal at Charlotte on August 12.

Legion FC’s captain and Goalkeeping Coach made 30 appearances for Birmingham in 2019 in his first season with the club and finished fifth in the USL Championship in shutouts with five. In 2018, he played for OKC Energy FC and in 18 matches, allowed just 26 goals. He signed with Real Salt Lake in 2017 and played in six matches for RSL. In 2015, VanOekel signed with NASL team FC Edmonton and was named the 2016 NASL Golden Glove winner.

Mikey Lopez:

Lopez made 27 appearances for the Legion during the 2021 season with a role as both an attacker and defender. The Mexican American scored two goals and was a tactical presence on the pitch, garnering four assists for the Legion to tie for second most on the squad. His outside-the-box goal against his former club OKC Energy secured Birmingham a draw. On the defensive side, Lopez led the team in tackles (63) and made 17 clearances, 27 interceptions and two blocks. Lopez, 28, started every match in 2020 except for one, and finished the year second on the team in clearances (34), second in interceptions (24), second in blocks (7), third in tackles (25), third in minutes (1438), third in passes (742), and added six chances created and one game-tying goal in the final minute at Charlotte on August 12.

The Texas-native was Legion FC’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, and he took the field wearing the captain’s armband for most of the season. His versatility was readily on display as he played all across the midfield, as well as at right back. He finished the year tied for fourth on the team in appearances (30), fourth in starts (28), and fourth in minutes played (2,390). He was also first on the team in passes (1256), sixth in goals (3) and shots (17), seventh in chances created (22), sixth in clearances (50), second in interceptions (46), and first in tackles (85).

Lopez spent 2018 with San Antonio FC and the two seasons prior with New York City FC in MLS. Originally, Lopez was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to Sporting Kansas City. His time in Kansas City included loan moves to USL sides Orlando City SC and Oklahoma City Energy FC in 2014 and 2015. Before turning pro, Lopez spent two years playing collegiately at the University of North Carolina. While with the Tar Heels, he was an integral part of their 2011 NCAA Championship team and was named the ACC Freshman of the Year. The midfielder made 17 appearances with the United States Under-20 National Team in 2012-13 and was a key part of the U-20 squad that finished second in the 2013 CONCACAF Championship, qualifying for the 2013 U-20 World Cup.

Phanuel Kavita:

Team MVP in 2021, Phanuel Kavita thrived in his first season with Legion FC. Always making an impact, Kavita played in every game with 32 appearances and was only subbed-off once. He led the club with 25 blocks and an 87.7% passing accuracy. Additionally, he racked up 87 clearances and 33 interceptions. He was a key part of Birmingham’s rock-solid backline throughout the 2021 season which led them to having the second least goals conceded in the league.

Kavita moved from Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to join the Real Salt Lake Academy, before playing collegiately at Clemson University from 2011 to 2014. As a Tiger, he started in all 81 games in which he featured and captained the team to the ACC Tournament Championship, where he was named to the All-ACC Tournament team in 2014. The defender then signed a homegrown contract with Real Salt Lake in 2015, and made one appearance for the club, but spent most of his time in Utah with the Real Monarchs. He made 38 appearances for the USL side and scored one goal across the 2015-2016 seasons. In 2017, he played for Puerto Rico FC in the North American Soccer League, where he made 27 appearances and scored another goal.

Kavita then spent the past three seasons playing for Saint Louis FC where he made 88 appearances, 84 of which were starts, and bagged three goals and one assist. In 2019 and 2020, he started 54 of the 56 STLFC matches and played every single minute in all 54 of those games. He finished this past campaign as Saint Louis’s leader in passes, blocks, and minutes played, was second in clearances, and fourth in tackles and tackles won.

Ryan James:

James made 33 appearances in his first year with the Black and Gold in 2021 and was a vital part of its defensive structure and movement on the pitch. He led the team with 65 interceptions and secured four assists, tied for second-most on the team. Additionally, James had a passing accuracy of 76.5 and won 27 tackles.

James was a nailed-on starter for the Riverhounds the past two years, mainly featuring as a left wingback. He also spent time at leftback and central midfield while playing in 55 of Pittsburgh’s 56 matches across all competitions. The Canadian finished the 2019 season with a career-high in assists (6) and then followed that statistical milestone up with a career-high in goals (5) in an abbreviated 2020 campaign. A two-goal performance against Hartford Athletic to go along with a shutout earned the fullback the USL Championship Player of the Week Award in Week 10 this past season.

Before joining the ‘Hounds, James played for Nashville SC in 2018 and made 19 appearances. After being drafted in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting Kansas City, he signed with the USL’s Rochester Rhinos for the 2016 and 2017. James spent his collegiate career at Bowling Green State University where he played in all 79 games in four years, making 69 starts, and racked up nine goals and 15 assists on his way to consecutive Second Team All Mid-American Conference selections following his junior and senior seasons. He was also named a MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete two years in a row and earned a spot on the Academic All-MAC Team in 2015.

Trevor Spangenberg:

One of Legion FC’s first-ever signings ahead of the 2019 season, Spangenberg has recorded 34 saves across 13 appearances playing for Birmingham. He spent 2018 with the Richmond Kickers in the USL Championship and spent some time in Richmond on loan in 2015, while a member of Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution. Before making the move to the USL full-time, Spangenberg played in the NASL for Puerto Rico FC for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Spangenberg’s professional career began with MLS side Chivas USA, but prior to signing with Chivas, Spangenberg was a standout college player at Missouri State University, where he finished his senior year as the school’s all-time career leader in goals against average (0.67) and led the Bears to the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Championship. While in school, Spangenberg also played in USL League Two for the Laredo Heat in 2010 and Springfield Demize from 2012-2013.

Zach Herivaux:

Herivaux made 23 appearances for the #ThreeSparks in 2019, racked up one goal on five shots, created 14 chances with one assist, and added 19 interceptions, 20 clearances, and 35 tackles with an 85% passing accuracy. In 2021, Herivaux made 25 appearances for the Black and Gold, scored one goal, had the second highest passing accuracy with 87.1%, and led the club with a 92.5% accuracy in Legion’s own half.

Herivaux also spent time in the USL Championship with Western Conference side San Antonio FC in 2017, on loan from New England, and played with SAFC in 2020 where he made eight appearances and added one assist. In 2017 he made five appearances and scored one goal.

This is Herivaux’s seventh professional season after signing with the Revolution as the club’s third-ever Homegrown Player in 2015. The Boston native made 10 career MLS appearances, including two starts, as well as eight additional appearances and two goals in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play. The midfielder has also made 17 appearances for the Haitian National Team, registering two assists.

CONTACT

For more information, contact Director of Coaching Ben Parks