After three Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contests, the 2021 LIPAFC remains undecided, all coming down to one final encounter. While Indy Eleven may be essentially eliminated from the playoffs, they have an opportunity to salvage something from their unfortunate season by winning the LIPAFC and hurting their southern rival's push for first in the division. Louisville City shot themselves in the foot with the Memphis mishap and need a repeat performance from their last trip to Carroll Stadium to keep their hopes for first in the division alive. This one was for all the marbles and a little more for LouCity.
Louisville City Lineup
Many important names returned to the starting eleven after missing or seeing limited time during MEMvLOU. Jonathan Gomez was back from his time with the Mexican U23 team, Brian Ownby returned to the lineup, as well as Alexis Souahy, Jorge Gonzalez, and Antoine Hoppenot. Former Indy player Tyler Gibson did not make the trip due to injury and Corben Bone was out as well as he welcomed in a new member of his family (Congrats, Bone family!). For the first time this season, a 4-5-1 was used in this matchup.
Another intense start by Louisville City nearly nets a goal. At 6’, Hoppenot fired off a shot that hit off the far post and back inbounds. Cameron Lancaster was in position to head it back goal-bound, but the keeper was able to wrangle the slow header. Indy Eleven found the next good look on goal when a corner kick at 17’ was headed slightly wide of the far post. At 24’, a free kick taken by Indy well outside the 18 was aimed towards goal on a bouncing shot that was kept out by Chris Hubbard. The home team again found themselves the aggressors a little more than five minutes later when a quick counter led to a shot on goal that was leaped on by Hubbard. It was an even, physical half with numerous fouls. LouCity has managed to put themselves in dangerous positions but failed to take quality chances on goal and challenge the keeper. Halftime was called with no additional stoppage time and the score still 0-0.
A quick start for City led to an early opportunity. At 46’, a high cross from Hoppenot went to Ownby at the other side of the box who sent it in to Jorge, whose header forced a diving save from the Indy keeper. Jorge again caused Indy a problem when, a few minutes later, his extended foot blocked a clearance kick. They retained possession and took a shot on goal that was deflected out. Over the following 15 minutes, LouCity largely retained control of the match and created several half-chances (mostly from crosses) but none that were particularly threatening. City used their first substitutions of the match at 70’. Cam came off for Kyle Greig and Jorge was subbed out for Niall McCabe. Ten minutes later, Jimmy McLaughlin and Akil Watts relieved Hoppenot and Paolo DelPiccolo. Disaster struck at 86’. An Indy counterattack resulted in a lobbed cross into LouCity’s box. JoGo was there to clear but missed making contact, allowing an Indy attacker to make the high-percentage one-on-one shot. Goal Indy. Napo went down in the goal-scoring sequence and Oscar Jimenez was subbed in to replace him. Indy got another shot on goal after a well-placed long pass, but it was sent wide. Unfortunately, despite City’s efforts, the match would end as a 1-0 defeat. The first loss at Carroll Stadium since 2016.
By The Numbers
For a playoff-bound team, this was a bit of an underperformance even beyond the scoreline for Louisville City. This was a relatively even encounter. A similar number of chances were created and shots. Louisville had a little edge on xG, but it was not overly substantial. City had an uncharacteristically low possession percentage and pass completion, more than half of which were in their own half of the pitch.
Pain. Two straight losses at one of the worst possible times. Indy fan GenWRX6, the owner of The Game Beckons (which you should check out for an alternative perspective), wrote “this game had the feel of a game that was going to be decided by a single significant mistake.” A spot on take. It was a tight contest and an unfortunate sequence blew the draw. Mistakes happen and younger players are more susceptible. Even young studs like Jonathan Gomez. Any insinuation that his ensuing transfer to Spain affected his play or has resulted in a lack of focus is completely out of touch. You could see he was gutted by what had happened.
Given LouCity’s position battle with the Birmingham Legion, even a draw wouldn’t have been sufficient. Despite the result, Coach Danny Cruz felt the team had taken a step forward relative to their last match. “I still feel a lot better after this one than I did after (Wednesday's loss to Memphis) with regard to performance. At the end of the day, though, it's about getting results.” He went on to offer a broader, more optimistic perspective, “These last two results don't take away the other 28 games that we’ve played and how we’ve performed. So, I have full confidence in this group of men, I have full confidence in what we're trying to do, and I'm confident that come Saturday we're going to turn this thing around and put ourselves in a good position leading into the playoffs. I fully believe that." For us fans, it’s easy to get caught up in the most recent result(s) and forget all the results that have happened prior. City, ultimately, is in a great spot. Their playoff spot is secured and they are simply battling for the optimal spot in the bracket. Regardless of their spot, they will face stiff competition. And if they go as far as they historically have, a rematch with Tampa Bay seems inevitable. Is it that huge of a difference if we were to play them in the conference semi-finals as opposed to the finals? “At the end of the day you look at the process and you look at what we've done all year, and if I just look at these last few games and think, 'OK this is this is who we are,' then that would be easy to be concerned," Cruz said. "It would be easy to be frustrated, but obviously we want to win the game. Obviously, there's a lot of frustration in that locker room right now but there's certainly no concern with regard to us coming home against Memphis and getting ready to push forward toward the playoffs.” While first in the division should totally be the objective, I’m more concerned with momentum and performance. If they fall short but play well in doing so, that could be the motivation needed to make a deep run. Some reading this may disagree, but it’s a positive spin on a situation we all (team included) are frustrated with.
This LIPAFC failure gave the Legion the opportunity to distance themselves from LouCity. However, OKC Energy did us a solid the following day and held Birmingham to a draw. City are two points behind first and down to a 36% chance at snagging first (according to FiveThirtyEight). They will need a win in Birmingham should both teams win their next match. Louisville has a home rematch with Memphis 901 before the trip to Alabama. With more time to recover than their recent tight stretch, expect a very hungry and prepared Louisville City team for their final home performance of the regular season.
The LouCity team is forming a fundraising walk team for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Light The Night. I encourage you to channel your charitable side and contribute whatever you can. And while you’re at it, consider supporting the NWSLPA as well as Racing Louisville’s Dare To Care food drive.
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