Despite the fixture congestion, Louisville City has been picking up momentum. After back-to-back losses, LouCity won two straight (against MEM and BHM) with a cumulative scoreline of 5-0. Now, in their third match in seven days, Morados took the trip west to face FC Tulsa. While current form favored the traveling Kentucky side, tired legs could become a factor. Would this be a vulnerability that the Roughnecks exploited or would the two-time champs prevail?
Louisville City Lineup
LouCity lined up in their ever-reliable 4-3-3 which saw Corben Bone and Pat McMahon return to the starting eleven. Of the previous match’s starters, Jimmy McLaughlin was left out of the 18 while Akil Watts was made available on the bench. Like the last match, Portland Timbers' loanee, Jorge Gonzalez made the bench awaiting his debut in purple.
This match was off to a wild start. Only 90 seconds into the match Louisville bagged their first goal. It wasn’t any ordinary goal. Cameron Lancaster took the match's first corner kick and curled it in over the keeper. “We wrote it up beforehand," Lancaster said of his sterling first strike. "We had a look at the pitch, and we saw it was quite tight — quite narrow. We practiced it before, and Danny said why not give it a go for the first corner? We got the first corner pretty early in the game. I went for it, and thankfully it came off."
The purple party didn’t stop there. At 6’, a long pass to JoGo on the counter was taken into the left side of the box. With minimal pressure, he fired above the keeper at the near post to make it 2-0 City. The first for Gomez in purple!
It took only two minutes more for Louisville to put themselves in another scoring position. With a ball loose in the box, the Tulsa keeper came off his line and lunged for the ball to prevent the corner. However, he collided with a charging Cam. This quickly prompted the ref to point to the spot. The PK was taken and buried into the net. A brace for the Englishman. LouCity was up 3-0 in under 10 minutes. They always had a knack for scoring on a baseball field.
Louisville City nearly found another scoring opportunity at 14’ when Napo Matsoso snuck up on a Tulsa defender, dispossessed him, got it over to Bone but his first touch was too hard and the keeper took possession. Less than 10 minutes later the home team found their first of the night with some fantastic individual ball work from Da Costa in the box. The first goal against City since the Atlanta United 2 loss. With the lead reduced, Tulsa found a footing in the match and became more confident in their play. At 35’, a clever pass through the City defense led to an angled shot that thankfully found the side of the net. Although Morados dominated the first 10 minutes, it was now FC Tulsa imposing their will on the match. Despite their efforts, neither side found any quality opportunities for the rest of the half. They headed into the locker rooms with the away team up 3-1.
Entering the second half, Cam was subbed off for the veteran striker, Kyle Greig. No hat-trick for Lancaster in this match. Also coming out was Paolo DelPiccolo for Brian Ownby. Only a few minutes into the half, Niall McCabe launched a free-kick into the Tulsa box that found Alexis Souahy waiting right in front of the goal. Unfortunately, in true defender fashion, his touch sent it out of play. Had a more offensive-oriented player been in that spot it would have been a high probability scoring opportunity. At 52’, a low Tulsa cross made it past JoGo into LouCity’s box, but, McMahon was able to intervene and prevent the easy goal from the striker waiting at the far post. Not long later, McCabe took a corner and attempted the same audacious stunt that Cam pulled and nearly found success as well, hitting off the crossbar. It would be Tulsa that would be the next squad to score. At 55’, a pacey attacker took on Souahy and beat him, taking the open, angled shot and squeezing it by Hubbard for the Roughneck’s second of the evening. Wes Charpie and Akil Watts entered to the match a little later, replacing McMahon and Tyler Gibson. Off a corner, Charpie nearly found his second career USL goal hitting the crossbar and bouncing straight down. Implementation of goal-line technology or VAR, as seen in larger leagues, may have aided Louisville’s pleas for a goal call but unfortunately, the referee waved it and allowed play to continue.
Late into the match, Jorge Gonzalez made his debut for the club, subbing in for JoGo at 87’. While the Roughnecks continued their control over the match through the second half, the boys in purple hung on and escaped the ballpark with all three points. 3-2 good guys.
By The Numbers
Numerically, this was an unusual match for Louisville City. They only had slightly over 40% possession with 75% pass success. Yuck! They created 11 chances and fired off 13 shots, however, only four were on target. Looking at the xG, Louisville did well to limit opposition opportunities and create their own. Based on that metric, you’d expect a larger margin on the scoreline. But hey, a win is a win. Aside from the goal scorers, the likes of Napo and McCabe had solid outings. Napo won a match-leading nine duals and Niall created the most chances of the match with four (and passed at an 88% success rate).
Credit where credit is due, FC Tulsa fought like hell to get something out of that match but fell short. With a porous defensive and a high-powered offense, they are the team for the neutral fan. Goals for everyone! Aside from the first 15-20 minutes, Louisville was the second-best team in that matchup. You can assign a variety of excuses to that; away from home, tired legs, etc. "Difficult conditions — the field was very small, extremely hot, three games in one week — but I was so proud of the group,” Coach Danny Cruz said. “I told them at the end of the day, it’s about getting three points, and you have to be able to win games and grind games out, especially on the road. I couldn’t be more proud of them.” LouCity was not horrible later in the match but they did lack their normal aggression. "We just kind of took our foot off the gas," Gomez said. "We let them control the time at games. I think we needed to keep possession and, like Cam said, get that fourth goal." All that aside, City hung in there and secured the three points, making it nine points in three matches. Between the points, Cam’s highlight-reel goal, and JoGo’s first for LouCity, it was a successful road trip. Some much-needed momentum heading into the next #LIPAFC installment against an Indy side in flux. Time for a little revenge from the previous encounter!