Less than a month removed from their first meeting of the season, Louisville City and the Birmingham Legion were set to fae off once again. Between a frustrating draw to RGV and a loss at home in the previous BHM match, LouCity had all the fuel a team could ask for to get motivated to swipe three points on the road. It was poised to be a big match for both squads. Louisville needed the points to get into the home playoff picture while this match was a make or break opportunity to have a shot at the luxury of hosting in the postseason.
By The Numbers
Although Birmingham is a quality opponent, losing in the manner that Louisville City did is unacceptable. “Too many guys tonight didn’t have what I asked them to have, which is the fight and belief,” Coach Danny Cruz said after the 2-0 loss. “I don’t think disappointed does how I feel right now justice.” Goals change games and Louisville had the worst possible start. “We switched off there on the first goal — just everybody assumes the ball’s out of bounds,” Cruz said. “Too many guys fall asleep and (we) end up going down a goal.” Morados failed to get back into the match after the early goal and gave away a PK, ultimately putting them down by two only 25 minutes in.
While the team did defensively stabilize, the attack was MIA. With only two shots on target and a paltry 0.69 xG, the back three setup lacked the potency that we had seen in previous matches. The 3-5-2 used for the IND and TUL wins has recently been tweaked to more of a 3-4-3 since the RGV match with results more akin to the team’s woes in the first half of the season. Shape aside, its individual performances (or lack thereof) that have been a prevailing narrative of the season. Injuries and officiating decisions have been notable factors but an inability for various permutations of eleven LouCity players to play at the level we know they are capable of has Louisville on a crash course with possibly their most disappointing season in club history. There certainly is time to get this team closer to expectations, however, for every step forward they have taken this year, it’s been accompanied with a step backwards. “There’s nine games left,” Coach Cruz said. “All we can do is make sure we prepare the group to be better next week. We control what we can control, and that’s making sure that at the bare minimum our mentality’s right.”
While the staff will put in the work to help set up the players for as much success as possible, it is going to be up to those on the pitch to determine how the 2023 season will be remembered. There is more parity in the league than ever before. Minor mistakes can be the difference between a win and a loss. Young players need to step up to their potential while the veterans need to find the mentality that has brought them success in years past. This team can win. We saw it last season. They are running out of time to position themselves for a successful playoff run.
Of the nine remaining matches, four of the opponents are outside of the playoff picture. These are must win matches. Two are matches against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who are currently ahead of the boys in purple with 44 points in 24 matches. Along with winning those they “should” win, the TBR matches are massive opportunities to claw back into picture at the top of the East. Louisville City has not made things easy on themselves, but there is still a window of opportunity to earn a post season advantage. The time is now for this team to decide how they will be remembered.
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? I suggest the following: