Match Recap – Charleston Battery vs Louisville City – 04/23/2022
The lead-up to Louisville City’s match against Charleston was exhilarating, to say the least. An instant classic against San Diego followed by a memorable shoot-out win against St Louis City SC 2 only a few days later. The wild stretch of matches would be a test of depth for Louisville as they faced a struggling yet well-rested Battery. Coach Danny Cruz has repeatedly expressed confidence in his whole squad. This was the match to find out who could step up, as a number of familiar faces were absent from the starting eleven.
With Sean Totsch out suspended for his red card against SD and Josh Wynder out on international duty, the backline was the one spot fans expected to see a lot of change. Bench-regulars, Ian Soler and Jan-Erik Leinhos got the start along with Amadou Dia and Wes Charpie. Paolo DelPiccolo remained a constant in the midfield and was joined by Carlos Moguel and Napo Matsoso. No Wilson Harris or Brian Ownby up top. Instead, Jorge Gonzalez, Ray Serrano, and Matiti Mushagalusa lead the line in the 4-3-3.
Louisville City’s first match at Patriots Point began rather slowly. The first really notable moment didn’t occur until 30’. A Battery attacker got a step ahead of Amadou with the ball and took an angled shot that was deflected by Kyle Morton and rolled just wide of the far post. At 32’, disaster struck for the visitors. Morton rolled the ball out to Napo. He tried to pass out to Amadou when pressure started to close in, but it was intercepted. A quick shot was taken with little defensive pressure and it when by Morton into the net. A costly mistake. The Charleston Battery were hungry for another and nearly found their second at 40’. A long pass over City defensive line found an attacker who timed his run well to remain onside. He fired off a shot at the near post, but Morton did well to block the shot and force the ball out of play. Uncharacteristically, LouCity entered the half down 1-0.
The second half started with Brian Ownby entering the match for Ray Serrano followed by Corben Bone in for Napo at 64’ and Wilson Harris in for PDP at 65’. By this point, the match drifted more in City’s favor. However, the home team was still proving to be threatening. At 65’, another long pass over City’s backline resulted in a one-on-one shot. Morton made his best save of the day, diving to his right and getting a hand on the shot that was headed towards the far post. Morados found their equalizer at 73’. Ownby intercepted a Battery pass and took it down the right-hand flank before dishing it over to Bone at the top of the box. He passed it to a wide-open Matiti who took the shot at the near post and secured his first goal with the club.
City was eager to walk out of the match with more than a draw. At 85’, a long pass down the right side of the pitch left Harris with the ball in Charleston’s final third. He worked the ball into the corner of the box before hammering the ball into the far post. A game-winning shot missed by a matter of inches. The match would conclude as a 1-1 draw.
By The Numbers
A tale of two halves. In the first half, LouCity had 54% possession with five shots (one on target). The second half saw City with 71% possession and 12 shots (four on target). Passing accuracy went up from 64% to 77% as well. The heat map for the first and second half supports the trend that the second 45’ went much more in Louisville’s favor than the first. What changed? Ownby came on at 46’, Corben Bone at 64’, and with the help of those two, City found their equalizer at 73’ along with a handful of close calls.
Player Of The Match
This accolade goes to Enoch Matiti Mushagalusa. Not only did he have Louisville’s lone goal, but he also had the most key passes (three) and most tackles (three). It took him a few matches, but he finally scored his first for Louisville City. You love to see it.
This match showcased two themes we have seen several times this season. First is the team’s ability to adjust at the half. Coach Cruz has done a tremendous job responding when things just are not working. We saw that when the back three wasn’t working against Indy and we saw it here again in this match when the starting eleven were not exactly living up to the quality we would have expected. They let one in and struggled to find opportunities of their own, which leads to the second theme; scoring in the final third. It was part of my early impressions and has come up several times in post-match interviews.
Personally, I entered this match bullish on Louisville City’s chances. Despite the short rest, squad rotation, playing on the road, etc. I still felt a win and nothing less should be expected. Coach Cruz as well as players on the team have repeatedly stated we have a team full of starting-caliber players. This was a match to prove that. Unfortunately, it took regular starters, Ownby and Bone, to come in and get an equalizer. “When those guys came in, the game really changed,” Mushagalusa said after the match. “We had more speed and more weapons up top. We were combining well.” There will be other chances for these guys to prove themselves. I was just hoping that someone was going to step up and be the difference-maker.
With that said, I realize it’s a harsh take. The factors going against City can’t be glossed over. “We had a lot of different ideas with regard to managing the minutes for this game,” Coach Cruz said. “It was obviously a hot day here as well, which was something new for us. But I think you could tell the difference from a physical standpoint between them and us as the game went on. I felt like we were still going at a heavy pace. We were still putting everything into it and getting chances in the final third. Some of that is the ability to make seven changes from the game on Wednesday...To make that many changes and still create enough opportunities to win the game, for me, is pretty impressive.”
Regardless of whether you’re satisfied with the match results, there is still plenty to be happy about in the grand scheme. City is still top of the league and was able to rest or at least limit minutes for critical pieces such as Manny Perez, Brian Ownby, and Wilson Harris leading into a huge home match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on 04/30. Coach Cruz and his staff handled the fixture congestion as best as they could and avoided City earning their first loss. “We’ve gotten results in different ways now,” Cruz said. “It’s not easy to go down a goal on the road in the heat. But at the same time, I made it very clear to them at half that I’d better see the same belief out of them when the half starts that I honestly had for most of the game. I genuinely believed we were going to win the game.”
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Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? Might I suggest The Tifos of Louisville City, Louisville City’s Pathway To The Pros, Louisville City's Preparations For The Future, What Are Expected Goals (xG)?, or What Are Goals Added (G+)?.
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