Louisville City’s 2022 Season Review
The 2021 season ended on a sour note. It was as painful of an ending as one could imagine and it helped to shape the 2022 campaign. In his first offseason as head coach, Coach Danny Cruz shook up the roster and began to build a team to fit his vision. The changes looked good on paper and it translated just as well onto the pitch. Louisville City’s 2022 season was one of its most successful to date, despite falling short of the ultimate goal to win the club’s third championship. The positives of 2022 greatly outweigh the negatives. With the season complete, it’s time to look back at the season that was.
The Roster - New Acquisitions, Depth, and Cohesiveness
One of the big storylines heading into this season was the roster overhaul. Given the pedigree of the incoming players, expectations were high. The recruiting class was filled with young players of the year and guys with MLS experience. Coach Cruz cherry-picked some of the best from around US soccer and added them to an already competitive LouCity roster. Not only did the overall talent and skill level increase, but it made for arguably the deepest Louisville roster to date. Not too shabby for your first offseason, Coach Cruz. Getting a bunch of talent is one thing, but getting it all to come together and work is another. We’ll talk about formation and X’s and O’s in a minute, but regarding the players settling in and operating in a cohesive unit, it was nearly instant. It can take a while for a new piece of the puzzle to fully fit within the existing structure. Corben Bone’s introduction to LouCity in 2020 is a perfect example. He is a great player, but it took a bit to get him up to speed and operating at his potential within the squad. It’s not a knock on him. These things can take some time. This year, it seemed as if that gelling took little to no time at all. The team hit the ground running. Regardless of whether it was an effective preseason, the new players’ age (a young lot), or the number of new players coming in at once, it worked! There is a lot to be said for the cohesiveness of a team and if you are gunning for a championship, every point matters. Even in the beginning, it never felt that cohesiveness was an issue.
The Tactics - Formational Diversity and Adaptability
If you were to turn on a random match from 2022, in all likelihood you would see a 4-3-3 shape with aggressive outside-back play similar to those in years past. If it’s not broke, why fix it? This year, however, Coach Cruz made a conscious effort to add to the team’s repertoire. A back three shape became more prevalent this season than in years past. It didn’t become the standard go-to, but it was a trick the team had up their sleeves that the opposition would have to plan for to not be caught flat-footed. Cameron Lancaster’s absence for the majority of the season hampered the usage of a 3-5-2 and forced more of a 3-4-3. Regardless, it came out a number of times in the 2022 campaign. Results were mixed. The team’s 4-3-3 shape was much stronger and more successful, but the back three had its place in the right situation. With that said, most of its usage was in conjunction with the 4-3-3. The team would either start in the back three, or pivot to it later in the match. This iteration of Louisville City was as adaptable as they have ever been. Coach Cruz knew the strengths and weaknesses of the tactical tools in his toolbelt and was not afraid to adjust as needed. Throughout the season, I called LouCity a “second-half team” and looking at when they scored their goals, it looks like I may not have been too far off base.
The Output - Numbers, Numbers, and More Numbers
A deep, cohesive roster along with a willingness to adjust and adapt makes for a successful team. Just take a look at the numbers below. I won’t speak to all of them but will try to hit the high points. Louisville City’s attack was one of the best in the league. They hammered off over 14 shots per match (3rd) and scored 1.88 goals per match (3rd), good for the 5th best shots-to-goal ratio. Defensively, they only allowed about 8 shots against per match (1st) and let in only 0.82 goals per match (2nd). This all resulted in the 2nd highest points per game with 2.12. Only second to the eventual champs, San Antonio FC (with 2.26 Pts/G). In every chart below, you will see LOU near or at the top of each category. A quick comparison of 2021 (a successful season in its own rights) to 2022 shows positive movement in goals against and points per match.
All in all, it was a phenomenal season minus the lack of the third star. Injuries marred this team, especially late in the campaign, yet they still managed to have one of the club’s most dominant seasons yet. Coach Cruz helped to future-proof the team with many young additions and fans can expect him to build upon that for the 2023 season. The future continues to remain bright for LouCity soccer!
Shout out to American Soccer Analysis for the data!
While this piece has been focused on the Louisville City team as a whole, I do want to take a moment to look at some individuals’ data.
Of players who have played at least 1080 minutes (>=12 games) and scored at least 8 goals, Wilson Harris was near the top (in terms of xG/90) with Matiti Mushagalusa near the average point (for this successful population), and Brian Ownby coming in slightly behind him. It was a similar setup for shots on target. Quite the successful campaign for LouCity’s attacking trio.
With the same playing time standards as above and at least 4 assists, both Brian Ownby and Amadou Dia found themselves on the “good” end of the spectrum, with Ownby notably “unlucky” in his earned assists this season.
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