With five regular-season USL Championship matches in the books, we now have a decent idea of what to expect from the 2022 version of Louisville City. While five matches is still a somewhat small sample size, there has been a good blend of home/away matches and varying opposition talent levels. There is still a lot of season left to play, but here are some of the early observations on LouCity:
This past offseason was Coach Danny Cruz’s first at the helm and he did not waste any time crafting the team in his vision. Over 10 new players joined Morados and nine departing including Jonathan Gomez, Chris Hubbard, and Antoine Hoppenot. This is a bit more roster churn than we have become accustomed to in Louisville. Continuity has been a big part of the club’s success. While there have been next to no concerns about the incoming talent, the on-field cohesiveness becomes an immediate concern. It can take time for players to gel in a new team. Thankfully, Coach Cruz and the staff’s offseason plans almost entirely alleviated this concern. While there are many new pieces to the team (and many younger players at that), there have been little to no issues on this front. Players know their roles and the roles of their peers. Miscommunications have been rare and the new signings have all managed to impress.
An Abundance Of Riches
Speaking of new signings, this team leveled up in the offseason. Several quality players departed the team, however, those that joined in 2022 all appear to be upgrades. Kyle Morton and Manny Perez have shown why they were in the MLS ranks last season. Matiti Mushagalusa and Wilson Harris brought the same quality we saw from them from Sporting KC 2. The list goes on. In the post-match interviews, Coach Cruz has repeatedly expressed confidence in every player on the squad. Even the players have stated that they believe that they have a roster full of starting-caliber players. No players’ position has been a lock including longtime staples Brian Ownby and Sean Totsch. Roster depth of this magnitude will be a difference-maker as the season trudges on and injuries inevitably accumulate.
Five matches into the regular season, Louisville City has only allowed one goal. That includes a match where they played a man down for ~50 minutes. That is 0.2 goals allowed (GA) per match with an expected GA (xGA) of 0.64; both first in the league. Defense has been a repeated focus. After the Miami match, Coach Cruz said, “I talked a lot last season about how we didn’t concede a lot of chances, but we were still conceding goals. Anytime you have a shutout again tonight, the way we choose to play, it’s collective. That zero is not because of just the goalkeeper, not because of just the defenders. I felt that my staff and the players did an excellent job tonight.” Kyle Morton has been fantastic but isn’t the sole reason for the impressive defensive displays. Manny Perez, Amadou Dia, Josh Wynder, Wes Charpie, and Sean Totsch have all played important roles. Let’s also not forget the rest of the squad who’s gotten back to contribute. It’s been a team effort.
Growing Opportunities For Finishing
While the defense has been the shining star, the LouCity attack still has some kinks to work out. They have gotten the job done, however, there is more opportunity there. Louisville has the third most shots per match (15.2) and the fourth-highest expected goals for (xGF) per match (1.66), however, they are all the way down in 14th for actual goals for (GF) per match with 1.2. After the Atlanta United 2 match, Corben Bone admitted more goals should have been scored, and against Miami, the two they put in the net felt low based on the dominance they exhibited on the pitch. Putting Cameron Lancaster’s absence aside, there is still another offensive level to this team. Coach Cruz acknowledged this after NYRB2, “We’re nowhere near where I believe we can be.” Last season, there was a gap between GF and xGF. There is still plenty of time for them to crack the code and close the gap they were not able to last season.
Back Three Not Ready For The Main Stage
Coach Cruz’s ideal formation is a back three, and this has been billed as a story to watch this season. Our first exposure to a back three didn’t go as expected. You can blame short rest, opposition preparedness, or a lack of prep time, but regardless, it wasn’t the introduction the team was looking for. Given the roster composition, this team was built with that in mind and one can expect that we will see it again… it just may time some time and a favorable situation. It may not take the status of the team’s go-to shape, however, we will likely see more of it as the season progress. It just needs a little more workshopping before it becomes the gold standard.
The back three during the first LIPAFC of the season wasn’t working and halftime adjustments were made and LouCity subsequently salvaged the match. A red card turned the match in Birmingham on its head and during the break, the squad adjusted and arguably had a better second half despite the disadvantage. In both situations, the team responded to adversity. They adapted and overcame. You could even say this adaptability was first shown when plans required altering after Cameron Lancaster sustained an injury in the final few minutes of the last preseason match. He is one of the top strikers in the league, and many other teams may not have been able to get results without someone of that caliber. Think about if Colorado Spring lost Hadji Berry last season or if Memphis 901 had lost Kyle Murphy. Louisville City has found results one way or another with every challenge that has been thrown their way. Having a great team alone can only get you so far. If Coach Cruz and the staff can continually navigate these types of issues successfully, we could be in for something special. This may not seem huge now, but it will add up in the long run. It could be the difference between winning the regular season and entering the playoffs in the middle of the pack.
There is a lot to be optimistic about this season. While there is still a lot of season left, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. The standard of play for the league as a whole has only gone up and Louisville City will need to fight for every point. As it stands now, we appear set for another memorable LouCity season.
There is no formal preview piece on LouCity's first Open Cup match but a collection of insights is available on Twitter!
The 2022 Coopers Kit is now available! Jump on this offer before the end of April!
For 2022, the LouCityLadies have partnered with the Louisville Coopers to create an all inclusive one of a kind Pride scarf. Proceeds will go to the Purple Family Prideraiser June charity (TBD). This is a pre-order and scarves will ship before first Racing game in June.
Have a friend just getting into LouCity soccer? Be sure to send them the Introduction To Louisville City link to give them a point of reference to learn about the club and league.