Match Recap – Atlanta United 2 vs Louisville City – 06/06/2021
With the first loss of the season still fresh in the team's mind (against a rival nonetheless), Louisville City headed south to Atlanta to take on ATL2 for the second time this season. LouCity got the better of them in their first encounter and was eager to repeat that success to move on from the disappointment against Indy. Atlanta United 2, meanwhile, has still been battling for respect, and taking down the perennial powerhouse that is Louisville would be a statement victory.
Louisville City Lineup
Since Coach Danny Cruz has ascended to the throne, there has been a bit of variation from the 4-3-3 we had seen week over week with John Hackworth. While some of this may be Coach Cruz’s influence, it is partially motivated by the current roster struggles. With Oscar Jimenez still out and Jonathan Gomez away with the Mexican National Team, left-back was the major area of concern. Coach Cruz opted to deploy the squad in a 4-1-4-1 with Kyle Greig in up top covering for Cameron Lancaster who is dealing with a little hamstring issue, Brian Ownby making his return from suspension, and Napo Matsoso in at left-back. Not exactly known for his defensive prowess, it was an interesting experimental decision. Also worth mentioning is that academy player Sebastian Sanchez, son of Mario Sanchez, made his first appearance on the team sheet in the 18.
Just a few minutes into the match, LouCity had a nice look on goal. Antoine Hoppenot sent a cross in front of the net to Ownby, however, the defender beat him to the ball. Had Ownby edged him out, it could have made for an easy, early goal. This was unfortunately the only genuine opportunity that City had early on. It’s unlike Louisville to have to conform to another team’s style and pace but Atlanta was in control early. By 15’, ATL was out possessing Louisville City 63% to 37%. With all of this control, Atlanta United 2 poked and prodded at the Louisville defense. They didn’t have many looks on goal, but once they found an opening, they took full advantage. At 26’, a long cross from ATL was sent to the far post and found an open attacker who snuck it past Chris Hubbard for the opening goal. Napo’s defensive limitations were found and exposed resulting in a game to be chased by Morados. Only three minutes later, an Atlanta attacker drove the ball down the right flank and fired off an angled shot that was thankfully deflected away. For the rest of the first half, Louisville struggled to make anything happen and ATL was content to play safe and responsible soccer and maintain the lead. Entering the locker room at the half 1-0, there was work to be done for LouCity.
To remedy the tactical issues, Ownby was subbed off (he wasn’t exactly having a match to remember) and Wes Charpie made his 2021 debut. With these changes, Napo abandoned his role in the back in favor of his more traditional midfield slotting seeing the formation become a 3-5-2. Hoppenot fired off a shot at 51’ that made it through traffic but was claimed by the keeper. A more promising attack occurred a few minutes later when Paolo DelPiccolo sent a leading pass into the ATL box. The keeper narrowly beat a charging Greig to the ball, however, it was so close that Greig had gone to ground and collided with the goalie, earning him a yellow card. Not long after, Alexis Souahy nearly cost LOU a penalty kick when his arm collided with an Atlanta United 2 player who jumped for an aerial ball just inside the box. No call was made, however, it would have been hard to argue against it had the referee pointed to the spot. Souahy was blessed again with another no-call at 67’. At 70’, Louisville City threw the kitchen sink at the ATL defense, firing off several shots in rapid succession in one sequence. To Atlanta’s credit, they withstood the storm and kicked and deflected each attempt away to preserve their lead. Jimmy McLaughlin entered the match at 71’ for Hoppenot and Tyler Gibson came on for Nap at 77’. At 80’, Charpie attempted an audacious bicycle kick in the box that ricocheted off a defender's hand leading to a PK call! With Cam out, Niall McCabe lined up for the kick. He went low to the keeper’s right. He saved it along with the ensuing rebound shot. HUGE missed opportunity to salvage something from the match. An argument could be made about the GK coming off his line, but I'll leave that to you to decide. The remainder of the match was many desperate attempted by Louisville to find a late goal, but it never came. After 7+ minutes of stoppage time, the whistle blew and City was handed their second defeat in a row.
By The Numbers
Unlike the LOUvIND match, the numbers were deceptive. Yes, LouCity ended leading in most statistics but that was after a lot of desperate attacking that occurred in the second half, particularly late. Comparing the two teams’ key passes and shots shows exactly that (see below). As mentioned above, it was all Atlanta early 63% possession 15 minutes in, 57% a half-hour into the match, and ended only with 40%. Louisville clawed their way back (possession-wise), but only after the damage was done. Morados ended with an xG of 1.76 (compared to ATL’s 0.85), however, that is likely a result of the number of shots rather than quality shots getting stopped. Louisville’s passing was bad for this match as well. While 78% is much better than Atlanta’s 70%, all previous matches this season for the boys in purple were 81% or higher.
The previous LIPAFC may have been some bad luck, but this was just a poor performance. Souahy and Ownby struggled, McCabe couldn’t take advantage of a golden opportunity late with the penalty, and Napo was exposed. Initially, one could see the decision to deploy him at left-back as a clever move to try to replicate what JoGo usually provides to the attack. The difference between Napo and JoGo is that JoGo’s play is counter-balanced by his defensive abilities. Perhaps Napo can do a bit more work than he is given credit for as a defender but he was taken advantage of to find the only goal of the match.
City continues to struggle to find quality shots. Defensive errors will happen but the offense has to make things happen to address the inevitable. This is frustrating for fans knowing that this team is capable of some much greater output. There have been some roster issues to work through, however, the team is not yet firing on all cylinders. Slumps happen. It a long season and there is time to make up for missed opportunities.
Thankfully, Louisville City’s next match is back at home against a questionable Memphis 901 FC with… *drumroll* ALL ATTENDANCE RESTRICTIONS LIFTED! If that’s not a recipe for kick-starting a great run of form then I don’t know what is! Be sure to cheer loud and help the squad take advantage of this opportunity to get back on track! Also, make sure you get in on the Prideraiser action! Vamos Morados!