Louisville City’s Pathway To The Pros
Updated: May 5, 2022
Louisville City FC is approaching a tipping point. In their 7 years of play, they have done a fantastic job of retaining key portions of their roster. Players such as Oscar Jimenez, Brian Ownby, and Niall McCabe have been staples for years and have handled more than one piece of silverware in their tenure with the club. While their playing days are far from over, the organization has begun to build the infrastructure to develop the next generation of talent to eventually backfill the roster. The rapidly growing academy has already produced 3 first-team signings and 6 more on two-way contracts (allowing them to play for the first team and retain NCAA eligibility). The Louisville City youth movement has quickly bared fruit and will be a key component of the club's future success.
While external signings and loans will certainly still occur, young talent that works through the ranks of the academy will bring something unique and vital to the table. They will have been groomed for years in the system of play the club desires to employ, as well as having had an opportunity to train and work with players and staff already in a part of the first team. While the leap to professional play will still be a learning curve to manage, their familiarity will be crucial to their quick integration with the team once they are deemed prepared to make the leap. The oddities of 2020 limited integration of youth into first-team plans, however, 2021 still saw notable minutes going to the first wave of young local professionals, including Carlos Moguel and Josh Wynder. Both players began the season on a two-way contract but eventually signed full professional deals later in the season.
Carlos began playing soccer around 5 or 6 years old. His dad was always a big soccer fan and very early on he had his sights on becoming a professional. He attended his first Louisville City match during one of the club’s first few seasons when he was 12. Now, he plays with the athletes he once watched from the stands. “I was a little bit star-struck,” Carlos admitted, regarding his first training. “It’s the way they carry themselves. It was a really cool experience.” His move from academy play to pro play was a challenge at times. “In the first training sessions, Niall (McCabe) was really tough on me. Now, he is one of the closest teammates to me. We always joke around.” Having others his age like Josh and Elijah Wynder (LouCity’s 1st academy signing) helped him to feel at home as well as veteran presences such as George Davis IV. Before signing his professional deal late in 2021, Carlos was training full-time with the squad. “I trained with these guys full time and then signed my pro deal. I thought if I keep working then eventually I’ll get a contract.” He did eventually get that contract in September and earned his first minutes a month later at home against Memphis 901. Entering his first professional match at Lynn Family Stadium was “one of the best experiences ever.” “It was loud. It was really loud. It was definitely nerve-wracking, and it also excited me. I was ready to get in there and run!”
Josh began playing around 4 years old, following in his brother Elijah’s footsteps. He initially had the goal to play in college but later realized he could do better and going straight to the pros became his objective. Josh’s first LouCity match was back in the Slugger days. He got to go pitchside with his friend where he had his picture taken pointing to Niall McCabe, who he now shares a locker room with. Josh had the same nerves that Carlos experienced when he began to train with the first team. “I’ll never forget it. It was so tough,” he recalled. “You're so nervous before you get there. And then you start getting into it. And then you make a mistake. My first mistake,” Josh reminisced. “I remember I messed up, and I was just like, ‘wow’. They hold you to a high standard.” Having his brother on the squad helped with his integration with the team, along with a fellow youngster, Johnathan Gomez, who he said took him under his wing. In 2021, Josh made his first appearance against the OKC Energy and earned his first start only days later against Atlanta United 2. “That was the coolest feeling I ever experienced,” he emphasized regarding making his first home appearance. “I never knew how loud it was until I stepped on the field and the whistle blew, and then you can't even hear yourself think. It's insane.” Before the match, his teammate Pat McMahon tried to help him acclimate to his first foray in Lynn Family Stadium. “Pat McMahon was like, ‘I'm gonna go five yards ahead of you and tell me right-left, just to see if I can hear you’. And I thought I was as loud as possible. I was like, ‘you gotta be louder’.”
Their time at the academy really set them up for success when their numbers were called last season for regular-season USL play. The training they received reflected what the members of the first team were working on. Josh explained, “If we were training right next to the pros, we would do the same thing that they were doing. And if they needed an extra player, they'll send one of us over. And we just tried to make it as real and professional as we could so that when you do make that jump, you're as prepared as possible.” Carlos specifically noted the intense level of detail that was a focus at the academy. “You’ve really got to study the game.”
While both are some of the first few to make the leap from the academy to pro play, it was Elijah Wynder who originally paved the way back in 2019. His achievement was huge for both players. “I never knew you could do that,” Josh stated. “And once he did, it changed my whole mindset and everything.” Carlos, who grew up playing with the Wynder brothers, said, “When I saw him sign, it definitely motivated me to want to get it as well.” Now, it's Josh and Carlos who will serve as a goal for other young players. “Hopefully, this is the start of something that happens every year,” Josh said. “And new young players move up to the academy, and hopefully we will be role models for them and can help them get there. And then help them get introduced into the locker room and get used to all the little details that we all had to go through our first couple of weeks. And hopefully, there will be many more to come.” Carlos added, “The next player that comes in, it’s our job to help integrate them and be a role model.”
As for their goals, both are focused on earning minutes in 2022 and improving each match. Becoming a starter is something they will continue to strive for. Carlos shared, “I didn’t really play much last season, but that really motived me for this upcoming season.” These young professionals have a bright future. Their talent and hard work, combined with the resources and experiences the LouCity academy offers, has created a new avenue for aspiring athletes to pursue. Carlos and Josh represent the start of something special in Louisville. A new chapter in the rapidly evolving landscape of soccer in Louisville and the Bluegrass as a whole.
When asked if they had any messages for the fans, Carlos kept it simple, “You guys are dope.”
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? Might I suggest The Tifos of Louisville City, The Louisville City Youth Movement, What Are Expected Goals (xG)?, or What Are Goals Added (G+)?.
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