It’s been a busy stretch for Louisville City as they have taken on Miami FC and NY Red Bulls 2 in the previous few days earning clean sheet wins in both matches. To cap off this run, Morados returned home from NY to take part in the first Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest (LIPAFC) of the season. Indy Eleven hasn’t had the best start in 2022 and was looking to correct course against their purple rival. LouCity may be operating on short rest, but the odds still appeared to be in their favor.
We will get more into this later, but there were two distinct shapes used by Louisville in this match. Coach Cruz began the match with his squad in a back three formation. Probably more of a 3-5-2 than a 3-4-3, but regardless, a departure from the 4-3-3 that has become the team’s default. Entering the second half, LouCity reverted back to the 4-3-3. A few modifications in the starting lineup for this matchup. Wes Charpie was swapped in for Josh Wynder. Ian Soler earned his first start along with Napo Matsoso. And Brian Ownby and Jorge Gonzalez returned up top to partner with Wilson Harris. Between injuries (Tyler Gibson), travel, the tight schedule, and the new formation usage, these adjustments all make sense. This is a very deep Louisville City squad and really anyone on this roster could reasonably start at any time.
This match had a slow start to it in terms of scoring opportunities. The first 20 minutes was largely comprised of a back-and-forth possession battle with both teams feeling out the other’s strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, it was the away team that cracked the code of Coach Cruz’s back three and secured the first goal. At 22’, a well-executed fake cross shook Corben Bone, allowing for the real cross to sail uninterrupted to the far post where a waiting Indy attacker put his head to it and into the net. It was the first goal that Louisville City conceded in 2022 and Indy’s first goal of the season. Several minutes later, Jorge was the first in purple to get a good crack at goal. However, his near-post shot was gobbled up by the keeper. Indy nearly made it 2-0 at 33’ when a LouCity clearance was deflected into the middle of Louisville’s final third. An Indy attacked took advantage of the loose ball and took a strike from the box’s edge. The well-placed shot to the top corner was barely deflected by Kyle Morton, which cause it to bounce off the crossbar. Amadou Dia quickly pounced on the ball and cleared it after that close encounter. Jorge Gonzalez, who appeared to have taken a little knock towards the end of LOUvMIA, appeared to be in some discomfort at 39’ and was subbed out for Matiti Mushagalusa. Dia had a decent opportunity at goal around 41’ but his far post attempt was slightly off target. Indy, trying to capitalize on their first-half strategy advantage, had some nice ball movement at 42’ resulting in a cross right in front of goal that just narrowly missed the feet of two charging attackers. Another close call that could have widened Indy’s lead. Thankfully for the boys in purple, the score remained 1-0 at halftime. The game was still very much in reach for the currently undefeated LouCity team.
Before the whistle was blown for the second half, Paolo DelPiccolo was subbed in for Ian Soler as part of a formation change from the back three to the 4-3-3. Post-match, Coach Cruz confirmed the sub was made out of tactical necessity and not the result of Soler’s debut performance. Coach Cruz felt that PDP brought “more bite and quality in the final third.” With his appearance in the match, Paolo DelPiccolo made his 200th USL Championship appearance. It was made quickly apparent that the shape adjustment was exactly what the squad needed. And it didn’t take long for it to pay off. At 53’, LouCity had some very dangerous ball movement in the Indy box but was unable to find a shot. It resulted in a corner kick that was knocked out of the air by the keeper and fell to the feet of Totsch, who made the most of his opportunity and buried it. Cue Song 2 by Blur! Match now 1-1.
Louisville City was now firing on all cylinders and kept Indy on the back foot. City was clearly hungry for more than a draw. The pressure from the home team continued, but the visitors did well to keep the ball out of their own goal. Then, at 82’, was the most talked-about moment of the match. Corben Bone took a corner kick which PDP was able to get his head-on. The ball bounced towards the goal, but a heroic effort by an Indy defender kept it from clearly going in the goal. His outstretched foot kicked the ball upwards into the crossbar and back out into the box. The stadium erupted into pleas from the fans for the referees to award Louisville the goal.
Without the assistance of goal-line technology, it’s hard to suggest that any referee could have confidently awarded a goal. Had the positions been flipped, we, the Louisville City fans, would have been beside ourselves if that was called a goal against us. Unfortunately, time ran out for City to find a second goal. A tough break for the boys in purple after their fantastic second-half turnaround. A 1-1 draw.
By The Numbers
This was a tale of two halves. In the first half, City did not look dangerous and it was Indy largely dictating the pace. In the second half, it was much more the Louisville City team we’ve come to know and love. The heat maps, shot graphics, and first vs second-half stat breakdowns do well to show this. Two full halves like the second would have likely been a LouCity win, but that was not to be. “The second half was excellent,” Coach Cruz said. “We held them to one shot – zero shots on target. But again, you look at it for 90 minutes. We talked in there that we just can’t start the game that way. It’s lessons learned, for sure.”
Player Of The Match
I’m going to go ahead and apologize to all the Sean Totsch fans out there. A defender scoring is always a special moment. However, I’ve got to give this one to Manny Perez. He has been absolutely brilliant. Perez passes well and had several fantastic dribbling sequences where he showed off what he can do on the ball. He is relatively young and only has four competitive matches in his Louisville City career. I am very excited to see what he can do as he continues to develop his skills and establish a stronger rapport with the rest of the squad on the field.
Coach Cruz and the gang came into this match with a plan to exploit Indy. He had noticed their previous matches were against a back three and they struggled. He felt it was the time to pull that trick out of the bag, however; they had answers for City’s iteration of the back three. The first half squad was not the same team we’ve become familiar with and the staff reacted accordingly. “It was a difficult week with travel,” Coach Cruz said. “We are proud of how the players finished the game tonight.” It’s a long season and missteps are bound to happen. What is important is how you react to those missteps or barriers that arise. While the starting tactics may not have been right and they ultimately fixed that to pull back and secure a draw. Not the ideal result, but earning that one point is better than the zero we were facing at the half. It stings a little more against your rival, but there are still plenty of matches left in the season. I don’t think this is the last we will see of that formation/shape, but it’s likely we won’t see it again until we are in very favorable conditions (ex. a weak opponent at home). One thing I have noticed thus far is how reliable the individual players have been. There have been a number of rotations and subs made and everyone has done what they needed. No terrible nights from anyone. This is a DEEP Louisville City roster and that will become very important as the season marches on and injuries begin to inevitably pile up. Coach Cruz has repeatedly expressed confidence in everyone and I currently agree with that. The draw was disappointing, but if that (or the rivalry’s name) is our worst gripe, we’re doing very well.
For an alternative perspective on this match, be sure to check out The Game Beckons' recap!
Have a friend just getting into LouCity soccer? Be sure to send them the Introduction To Louisville City link to give them a point of reference to learn about the club and league.