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  • Writer's pictureBenton

Match Recap – Charleston Battery vs Louisville City – 04/09/2024

Photo Credit: Charleston Battery

Louisville City fans had little time to dwell on the thrashing of Indy on a national broadcast. The boys in purple were off to South Carolina for a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Battery, who only grew stronger in the offseason, have started their 2024 campaign undefeated but not accumulating big wins like LouCity. Between the short rest and the conclusion of the 2023 campaign, it was bound to be a spicy match, for better or for worse.

Full-Time Thoughts 

Shots and Assists (top), Touches (bottom)

Even the most biased Louisville fans knew that the team would eventually come back down to earth. I think we can all agree we wish it hadn’t been so harsh or against the Battery. This match could be described as a tale of two halves. "In the second half, I thought we were the better team, and they certainly were in the first half," Coach Cruz acknowledged after his team's first loss. Despite scoring first, it felt like the first 45 minutes were dominated by one-way traffic in favor of the home team. "I thought we were completely outperformed in the first half — nowhere near good enough," he added. LouCity had a mere 39% possession with only two shots (both on target). In contrast, Ben Pirmann’s side held the ball 61% of the time, amassing 13 shots (six on target) and scoring three times. Kyle Adams's handball, which led to a converted penalty kick, was the most unfortunate of these incidents. There is also a case to be made for the bounce the ball took off Arturo Ordonez’s deflection right before the first goal.

CHS had plenty of chances throughout the match, including a second penalty kick later that was stopped. With an xG (expected goals) of 3.8, LouCity was fortunate that another shot didn’t find the back of the net. The second half saw Adrien Perez, Elijah Wynder, and Jansen Wilson enter the match, tipping the scales more favorably toward the two-time USL champions. "I thought we made really good adjustments at halftime, got into the players a bit, and saw an excellent response in the second half," Coach Cruz commented. It’s hard to imagine the locker room was a pleasant place during halftime, but the discussion, substitutions, and tactical adjustments proved to be an effective solution to stop the bleeding. Possession rebounded to 61%, and the reinvigorated squad matched Charleston in shooting pace (eight for LouCity and nine for the Battery). Taylor Davila scored at the 52nd minute, but the squad never found a third goal to steal a point. "I definitely feel like we could have tied the game up or even won," Davila commented. "That’s how well we played in the second half. I’m definitely bummed we didn’t come out like that in the first half, but it’s a good learning experience."

The glass-half-full crowd will agree with that last statement. It’s a long season; mistakes will be made, and it is all about how you learn and grow from those dud matches. "We talked a ton, and have continued to talk a ton about complacency, making sure it doesn’t set in," Coach Cruz said. "I thought in the first half, it did. And I thought the response to the adversity from the first half to the second half was excellent." The thought of that narrative reemerging this season is frankly terrifying. You can read more on that element from 2023 here, however, it was a noticeable factor in the disappointment of 2023. Did the first half look like the 110% effort we have seen to start this season and that fans expect? It didn’t look that way to me. The Battery clearly wanted it more, and Louisville couldn’t rely on superior talent against a quality opponent, as they might have in other matches. Mentality has long been a focus for Coach Cruz, so anyone who didn’t appear up for the match will have a steep hill to climb in terms of earning minutes.

A lot of fan discourse was focused on the lineup. While not totally inaccurate, I feel it was somewhat overemphasized. If you had been told at the beginning of the season that Amadou Dia, Carlos Moguel, Aiden McFadden, and Wes Charpie would be starting away at Charleston, would you have complained? There are some minor arguments to be made, but by and large, they are all starting-quality players. We’ve boasted about the depth of our talent, and there is no reason why most permutations of eleven players can’t put on a competitive performance against any squad in the league. The staff does not take lineup decisions lightly, and I’m sure a variety of factors (many of which we don’t and probably will never know) were taken into consideration. Player health/condition and nuanced tactical choices are likely the leading reasons. Unless you were outraged when the eleven were announced, it's purely hindsight bias driving the narrative. The starting eleven used in the first four matches did a tremendous job, but it’s highly unlikely all eleven will be fit for each and every match. With the exception of McFadden, these players have trained, reviewed film, and played matches with one another for months, years in some cases. Too much rotation isn’t my top concern with this one, but I understand the perspective of those who are displeased with the lineup decision.

Regardless of the root cause, we can all agree that the performance was not up to the club's standard, and those involved will have work to do to redeem themselves. The match against the Battery was crucial for the club, and we can expect them to vie for the title of best in the East once again. Those points matter, but with a long season ahead, there is ample opportunity to close that gap. The preseason provides only a glimpse of what works and what doesn’t, and this match offered several key lessons on various fronts. If any player was becoming overly confident from the team's electric start to the season, this setback likely adjusted their mentality. Next up is the Open Cup, where the Morados will host Greenville Triumph, a competitive USL League One side. As playoff regulars, the gap between leagues is not as pronounced as some might think, and they will not be easy opponents. However, LouCity will be eager to make amends after the missed opportunity for revenge against the Charleston Battery.

Parting Thoughts

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