After some well deserved R&R, the players will be returning imminently to the training grounds to begin their preseason training! While 2022 was by no means a failure (perhaps one of the best?), the sting of a loss in the finals will add an extra bit of drive to the upcoming 2023 campaign. With the season quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at the storylines that will shape Louisville City’s 2023.
Tests In The West
In the past, the East and the West have felt like two different leagues. With no cross-conference play, it left the door wide open for speculation on who could beat who. The USL has been working to rectify this and, in 2023, they have taken a big step forward by ensuring that every team will meet at least once. We will not get home and away matches for everyone, but one guaranteed meeting is much better than it’s been in the past. While exciting for fans, that means more travel and more unfamiliar opponents for the LouCity squad to prep for. Louisville’s road record has been an area of focus for Coach Danny Cruz over the past two seasons (hence the away-heavy preseason) and with even greater distances to be traveled this season, we will see how they fare in the west.
This was on last year’s list, but Cameron Lancaster’s injury troubles last season derailed the 3-5-2 dream and really only left Coach Cruz with the 3-4-3 as the alternative back-three setup to the primary 4-3-3. The 3-4-3 didn’t always have the same level of success as the tried-and-true 4-3-3 (LOUvIND comes to mind). A proper 3-5-2 along with lessons learned from last season’s back-three attempts could be the game-changer we all hoped for last season. Having a reliable secondary setup could make facing Louisville City that much more challenging for the opposition.
Stability vs Heavy Overhauls
One of the big storylines in 2022 was the notable roster overhaul. It’s quite the opposite this season. Dylan Mares is essentially the backfill for the now-retired Corben Bone, and Rasmus Thellufsen is crossing the Atlantic in place of Napo Matsoso. Beyond that, it’s basically the same group as last season. Considering how great the team was, no complaints here! What is going to be interesting is to see how the familiar LouCity team matches up against the many teams who saw big overhauls to their rosters. Teams like Indy, Birmingham, Hartford, and the Charleston Battery have all made moves that have “leveled up” their team on paper. The league has gotten more and more competitive year over year but this offseason was a big leap forward. Good for the league, possibly troubling for us. Between the improvements of our foes and the departure of the MLS2 teams for MLS NEXT, there are not going to be any easy matches. Gone are the days of confidence-boosting wins against the likes of Swope Park Rangers (SKC2), Atlanta United 2, or NYRB2. Will Louisville City be able to maintain the same level of success that they have become accustomed to?
The Rise of The Academy
It’s no secret that I am a big proponent of the academy and the pathway to the pros that it offers young local talent. It’s destined to be a big part of the first team’s future, and in 2023 it’s not too farfetched of a guess that some of our academy grads may be getting notable minutes. Josh Wynder (while he is here) is a no-brainer should he compete at the level he is expected. Carlos Moguel earned increasing minutes and those minutes should continue to rise as he begins to further develop into the midfield successor of Tyler Gibson or Paolo DelPiccolo. The one who I have my eye most closely on is Elijah Wynder. LouCity’s first academy product had an outstanding finish to the 2022 campaign after working through a grueling injury and subsequent loan to League One. If he can pick up from where he left off last season, Josh may not be the only one packing his bags for European football. It’s also possible that new names rise into the conversation. Time will tell. 2023 will be a big year for the academy grads, especially Elijah.
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