A lot has happened in the mere month that has passed since the last How’s It Going piece. A new CB, a new formation, some big wins, and some big losses. With only 9 games remaining in the regular season, it is time to take another step back and assess Louisville City’s 2023 season, their remaining matches, and the likelihood of securing a home playoff match.
As previously stated, it’s been an interesting stretch for LouCity. It began with the San Diego player swap. Matiti Mushagalusa packed his bags and headed west for the remainder of the season while Morados acquired Kyle Adams. With Josh Wynder gone and Jordan Scarlett out, Adams was the missing starting-ready CB option that has been missing and the tactical flexibility he offered made an immediate impact. In what felt like a do-or-die match for the struggling Louisville team, the unveiling of the 3-5-2 featuring the team’s new signing for the Fill The Fam match against Indy was an instant success. This was followed by a road win against Tulsa. Suddenly, LouCity fans had found some optimism. A tightly contested draw to Charleston was only so-so, but it was better than the following two matches (RGV and BHM) where the wheels seemingly came back off. The loss at Birmingham was a particularly hard blow, mostly because of how the team looked. The Legion are a quality opponent, but the squad did not appear ready or willing to propel themselves back into the home playoff picture (see my previous comments on mentality).
The boys in purple did technically improve over this stretch; goals for per game (GF/G) went from 0.09 to 1.04, goals against per game (GA/G) went from 1.05 to 1.04, and points per game (Pts/G) increased from 1.45 to 1.48. Unfortunately, the improvements have not been substantial (or sustainable) enough to push the team into a top-four placement in the Eastern Conference. Louisville is tied with 4th place Memphis 901 on 37 points; however, MEM has two games in hand on LouCity. LOU does have a match in hand on both the 3rd place Battery and 1st place Riverhounds, although the gap is 6+ points with no remaining matches against either. Of the teams ahead of Louisville in the East, only the Tampa Bay Rowdies remain. TBR has a game in hand on Louisville and sits at 44 points, but the key note with them is they have yet to play one another. Two wins over the Rowdies would serve as a 6-point swing in Louisville’s favor and would dramatically increase their chances at a home playoff match.
While the table situation isn’t exactly in Louisville’s favor, there is a path for them to make it into the East’s top four. They can’t control what the other teams do, but they can control what they do. With that said, let’s take a look at the final 9 matches.
08/26 vs Oakland Roots
The Roots are currently 4th in the West with 37 points. They are in a battle of their own to secure their own home playoff match. This will be the first match between the two clubs and should be a thrilling one for neutral viewers, given the situation both teams find themselves in.
09/02 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks
The Switchbacks are a step below the Roots in 6th on 36 points. LouCity and the Switchbacks have faced off once before in 2021, also in CO. LOU has oddly done better on the road than at home so perhaps a slightly better potential for points than the previous match.
09/09 at Tampa Bay Rowdies
It is hard to overstate how big this match is for Louisville. Dramatic history aside, this is an opportunity to deny points to a team above you in the standings while earning points of your own. As usual, the Rowdies are a great team. This match could be a defining moment for LOU.
09/16 vs San Diego Loyal
Matiti’s new home is 5th in the West on 37 points. Last meeting between the two was a thriller in SD. I, for one, could go without the dramatics, but would take the three points they earned last time. Those points won’t come easy, though.
09/20 at Miami FC
The Messi-less Miami team is on the outside looking in. 9th in the East with 29 points. They have won four of their last five and are giving Tulsa a run for the last playoff spot. Here is to hoping that this meeting goes as well as the last time they played.
09/23 at Loudoun United
Early on, Loudoun was looking like an improved team that wasn’t going to be bullied like they were when they were a MLS2 team. They have cooled off and find themselves in 11th on 24 points. Having lost three of their last five, it’s quite possible that LOU could secure another win over the DC area team. It is worth noting this is a match on short rest so that could become a factor.
09/30 at New Mexico United
Louisville last played New Mexico in 2021 right before Coach Danny Cruz was able to shed his “interim” title. NM is 10th in the West on 29 points so it’s quite possible it could be another favorable result for the boys in purple.
10/07 vs Hartford Athletic
Hartford is bad (12th on 16 points) but to their credit, they held LouCity to a draw in one of the most forgettable matches of the season. As the last (regular season) home match, LOU will have pressure to not only get the desperately needed points but to also right the wrong of their previous draw.
10/14 vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
The importance of this match could be dictated by how the previously listed matches pan out, but regardless, it will still be big in some capacity. It could have playoff implications. It could be an opportunity to build momentum before heading on the road for round one of the 2023 playoffs. Regardless, it’ll be an important match for both teams.
With all that said, what are Louisville City’s chances of securing a playoff match at home and making a run at a third star? It is looking like an uphill climb. Between two TBR matches that could be make-or-break and the team’s performance this season (see the data below), it will be a tough ask. Not impossible, but certainly tough. Crazier things have happened. There is little margin for error as the team has squandered that luxury throughout the season. While some factors for those previous misses are outside of the team’s control (injuries, controversial officiating decisions, etc.), some of it has been self-inflicted. This team has a great amount of quality. Just look at what a very similar roster did last season. It is time for the leaders to step up and make a push to recover what has been a disappointing season relative to the team’s expectations. I’m optimistic that it can be done, but it will be up to the team to decide how the 2023 Louisville City team will be remembered.
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? I suggest the following: