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  • Writer's pictureBenton

How’s It Going? Part 1 - An Assessment Of Louisville City’s 2024 Season-To-Date

It may be early, but the 2024 Louisville City squad is already making a case for them to be included among the greats. Following the disappointing yet successful 2023 campaign, Coach Danny Cruz has put together a team and play style that is beginning to parallel the level of dominance that we saw in the 2022 season. The season is too young to confidently draw any conclusions yet, however, the boys in purple clearly have put themselves on a trajectory for great things. With seven league matches (and one Open Cup match) in the books, it's time to take a step back and review what we have learned thus far about this season.


 

Storylines

Before the club’s 10th season kicked off, I had shared several storylines to watch over the course of 2024. While we won’t dive into them all just yet, two are already worth revisiting. 

 

All In On The Back Three

Those who have seen this team before will have surely noticed the adjustment in play style. It’s no secret that Coach Cruz has been keen on a back three shape, but its usage in the past has been intermittent with the 4-3-3 (and its minor variations) retaining its longstanding title as preferred formation. This year, Morados is all in on Coach Cruz’s grand vision and as the data visuals down the page show, it’s paid off. The offense has had an insatiable appetite for goal (a refreshing change from 2023) without any compromises on the defensive end.

 

Photo Credit: Connor Cunningham

There has been a heavy demand on the outer flanks with the outside back roles required to both be key components to attacking buildup and first responders in the defensive third when dispossessed. Despite the extreme work rate required, those who have made the starting eleven have been up for it. The center back trio have done a fantastic job with the balancing act of pushing up to contribute to the attack while knowing when to drop back to keep the goalkeeper out of danger. The pressing action of the forwards has been as effective as ever and that is partly thanks to the heavy midfield presence. While the outside backs get a lot of focus in this system (deservedly so), the midfielders have been quietly impressive in helping to make all phases of play work. And after eight total matches, there has only been one half in which they did not look like they will waltz right into their 10th straight Eastern Conference Finals.

  

Experienced Additions

Photo Credit: Connor Cunningham

As great as the system itself has been, it is the players who make or break it. Between the players retained from the prior season and the new additions, they have been outstanding. While the proven entities of Arturo Ordonez, Ardien Perez, and Sam Gleadle have all shown to have been as advertised, it has actually been some of the less experienced additions who have been making waves. I’d be remiss not to mention Jake Morris and Jansen Wilson first. They play the critical outside back role and have done a phenomenal job. Morris’ only USL experience was a stint with Loudoun, while Jansen only just signed his first professional contract. While I had suggested that league experience was an important missing factor last year, they are doing their best to prove me wrong there. And I’m all for it. Meanwhile, Taylor Davila has looked every bit of the all-league midfielder that he was last season. He has terrific vision and his presence has been a nice compliment to Elijah Wynder (who is turning heads along with Ray Serrano). Damian Las in net has very quickly eliminated any concerns about Oliver Semmle’s departure to the Philadelphia Union, while Ordonez’s addition has made LOU’s CB depth unfair compared to the league’s other squads. While league experience may not be the totally unifying factor, we can all agree system fit and usage may be the ultimate key. The signings the team made were all matches made in heaven for what the tactical vision was coming into this latest season. While Adrien Perez may not have the statistical tally I predicted, he has still done enough to show that he may be the best play-style fit of the bunch with much of his contributions missed by the analytics realm. The staff deserves a lot of credit for the incredibly intelligent moves made in the offseason.


 

Stats

With some of the broad strokes covered, let's dive into some of the numbers and how they stack up against the competition. Shout out to American Soccer Analysis for the bulk of the data used in the following visuals!

 

Offense

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ goal!? Especially when it’s at the beautiful Lynn Family Stadium accompanied by the booming call of Lance McGarvey. Well, this team has certainly delivered on that front. So far, the boys in purple are averaging over 3 goals per match. To put that staggering average into context, the Charleston Battery (who have been quite dominant themselves), are in second with 2.5, followed by Tampa, with just over 2. LouCity has already scored 5 goals on two occasions and 6 goals once. The 2023 LOU squad did not score more than three a single time.

Breaking the attack down further, the two-time USL champs are finding 15 shots per match (3rd) and are scoring once per every 5 shots (1st).

If you put any sort of weight on expected goal (xG) measures, I am happy to share that the expected attacking numbers largely support Louisville’s attacking dominance. 2.3 xG per match (1st) for the boys of Butchertown with the highest xG per shot in the league (at 0.155). 


Defense

The other end of the pitch looks bright but just a touch below the levels seen with the offense. City’s 0.86 goals against per match puts them at 4th in the league. 

They are seeing a little over 10 shots per match with LAs and Danny Faundez forced to make an average of 3.3 saves per game (both stats 8th in the league). With that said, it’s taken about 12 shots from the opposition per goal, good for 3rd best.

On the xG side of things, it’s a bleaker picture. The xG models have LOU at 1.4 expected goals against which puts Louisville in 12th. With xG per shot against at 0.133, LouCity is tied for 6th worst in terms of the level of threat each shot has possessed. Thankfully, these are just statistical conclusions based on a rather small sample size. These are not the numbers that crown champions, but they are items to watch as the season progresses.


2022/2023 vs 2024

The stats ranked with the others in the league do tell a story, but getting a look at how they fare against Louisville teams of years past may be a better barometer in relation to meeting fan expectations. We know we are going to be good; We’ve not had any reason in the club’s history not to be confident. Stacking up the numbers can give us context as to how good the team is. 

The above chart spells it out both in terms of the first How’s It Going piece from each season (2022 and 2023) and in relation to the full season’s stats (2022 and 2023). Big picture, this 2024 team is killing it.

 

The numbers they are currently producing are likely inflated and should fall closer to historical averages, but it still shows the direction this season is heading. And it is a positive one.

 

Standing

Our boys in purple are currently in 2nd in both the East and overall. With 7 matches played, they have won 6 and lost only once, putting them at 24 points. The Charleston Battery holds 1st, however, they have 3 more matches than LouCity. That is a significant difference, especially early on, so rather than focusing on the table itself, we will look at per game averages. 


In terms of points per game, Louisville is outpacing even Charleston with 2.57 Pts/G. That rate is even higher than 10 matches into 2022. With the CHS loss being the only exception, the squad has been perfect in terms of maximizing their point earnings. But as previously stated, there is still a lot of season left. In 2023, Lynn Family Stadium was not the fortress it was in the past, but 2024 is looking like a return to home dominance. Morados has earned all 3 points in each of the 4 matches played at home (not to mention the Open Cup match). 3 of those 4 were bloodbaths with 5+ scored on the opposition.

One criticism that could be levied at LOU is their early strength of schedule. This isn’t something they can control, but it’s worth acknowledging at bare minimum. Only once have they played a team currently top 4 in their respective conference, and it was a loss. Four of their opponents are hovering comfortably in the middle of the pack; BHM with 1.38 Pts/G, PIT with Pts/G, HFD with 1.29 Pts/G, and IND with 1.22 Pts/G. How those wins were earned plus the magnitude of those wins should not be ignored. But most of their big tests lay ahead of them and will reveal a lot about the squad. In the West, their single encounters with MB (1.56 Pts/G), NM (2.00 Pts/G), and SAC (2.11 Pts/G) (all of which will happen consecutively) will be revealing along with the upcoming OC match (1.88 Pts/G). In the East, they still have one more go with CHS (2.40 Pts/G) and home/aways with DET (2.29 Pts/G), and TBR (1.63 Pts/G). While these will be very important matches, we can’t devalue the wins they have earned. Three points earned against El Paso are the same as a win over OC would be. Eastern matches will have more weight due to playoff seeding, but I think you get the gist. There are tough battles to come.

 

Individuals

Several individuals have already been touched on in broad strokes, but let’s review some statistical facts on the team’s high achievers.

 

Photo Credit: Connor Cunningham

First off, the goals are coming from everywhere. Wilson Harris leads the pack with 7 scored in the young campaign, putting him 2nd in the league. Following him is Serrano with 3, Wynder with 2, and Davila with 2. Jorge Gonzalez’s 2 scored is particularly notable due to the rate of scoring in terms of time played. You could criticism that he is the benefactor of a small sample size, however, his league-leading 1.48 goals per 90 and 5.2 shots per 90 are verifiable facts. LouCity also boasts 6 additional players with 1 goal each.

 

Photo Credit: Chris Humphries

Assists, too, have a diverse list of names. Morris already has 3, with Serrano and Perez right behind him with 2 of their own. A staggering 8 additional players have 1 on their stat sheet. Everyone has proven to be a contributor, regardless of position.

 

Player ratings are a bit more obscure of a stat but do hold some directional weight in gauging how players perform. Per FotMob, it is “calculated based on more than 300 individual stats per player, per match.” So, a lot of unique factors in the mix that someone smarter than myself has assembled and vetted. Louisville City has 5 players in the USL’s top 20, more than any other team. Ray Serrano leads the boys in purple with 7.99, putting him at 4th in the league. Sean Totsch is right behind him in 5th overall with 7.91. Davila (7.58), Harris (7.52), and Ordonez (7.49) are 11th, 17th, and 19th, respectively.

Photo Credit: Connor Cunningham

 

Summary

Photo Credit: Connor Cunningham

It has been just about as fantastic of a start as Louisville fans could have asked for. In contrast to the previous season, they are scoring goals at an insane rate and are right in the mix for being deemed best in the league. As great as the season has begun, the majority of the season has yet to be played and anything can happen. How will they fare against stronger opponents? Will their insatiable appetite for winning hold strong or will complacency creep in? Will injuries force changes to the system that has brought them early season success? All these questions and more will take time to answer. All we know is that things are very much trending in an excellent direction. If the team continues to perform at this level, it seems inevitable that they will be playing for a trophy in the fall.

Photo Credit: Connor Cunningham

Match Recaps

  

Data Visuals

The following are a few supplemental data visuals related to the difference between expected values and actual. This provides a snapshot as to who is "lucky" and who is not in terms of their performances compared to statistical conclusions made by the xG/xPts models.


Parting Thoughts

 

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