Match Recap – Louisville City vs Atlanta United 2 – 07/17/2021
After having rebounded from the Tulsa loss with a 3-1 win over the Energy, Louisville City was looking together to rack up another win on a short rest period. Aiden McFadden’s Atlanta United 2 took the trip north to try to secure another win against LouCity. ATL2 had capitalized on a Louisville team stuck in a rut but this time, momentum was in City’s favor. Would LouCity get redemption for the loss earlier in the season or would the fixture congestion get the best of them?
Louisville City Lineup
Short rest periods mean more rotations and thankfully the Louisville City bench is deep. “It’s a luxury as a coach when you feel confident, as I've said over and over again, to play anybody in that locker room,” Coach Danny Cruz stated after the match. Deployed in a 4-2-3-1, Napo Matsoso, Akil Watts, and Paolo DelPiccolo all returned to the starting lineup after having been allowed to rest. Jimmy McLaughlin was given the nod again to make the starting eleven along with Josh Wynder. Making only his second appearance and his first start, the 16-year-old was put to the test to see what he could do for an extended period on the pitch.
The boys in purple took control of the game early but struggled to translate that into an actual lead. At 8’, Niall McCabe sent a crossover to Jimmy at the far post who narrowly missed making a connection with the ball. It easily would have been a goal had contact been established. Roughly 15 minutes later, pressure was applied to the ATL keeper whose errant pass was intercepted by Tyler Gibson and immediately dished up to McCabe. He hammered off a shot at the edge of the box,bandaged, but it went above the crossbar and right at the Groove Machine in Estopinal End. The only other notable opportunity of the half came at 41’ when a long, lobbed pass was headed from the side of the box to Cameron Lancaster. In an effort to translate it into a goal, Cam was hit, went down, and banged his head against the keeper’s knee. The cut was bandaged, but only a few minutes later, right before the half, he was taken out for Kyle Grieg. An unfortunate injury that will likely result in some missed time for the prolific striker. Despite leading in nearly all statistical categories, Louisville City could not find a goal in the first half.
Sometimes a get-together in the locker room is what is needed to crack the code of a match. Coach Cruz later said, “I felt the mentality of the group, especially coming out of the second half, was fantastic.” The tweaks and improved mindset paid off at 55’. In a sequence started by Gibson playing the advantage, LouCity finally found their first goal. Gibson began the string of passes in the opposition’s final third, which ended with the ball at Napo’s feet. He took the one-time shot into the far post and put the good guys up 1-0. It’s the type of goal that makes a coach proud. Coach Cruz reflected on the goal, “Tyler (Gibson) did an excellent job of driving, Paolo (DelPiccolo) found an excellent pocket. We spoke to Napo (Matsoso) at halftime about wanting him to play forward a little bit more and being a little higher towards the backline of the opponent and I thought Napo did an excellent job with the finish and taking that message at halftime and implementing it in the second half.”
Keeping player fitness in mind, Alexis Souahy and Pat McMahon entered the match at 57’ for Wes Charpie and Josh Wydner, who held his own against the older and more experienced opposition. Several minutes later was the moment of the match. Jimmy McLaughlin found his first goal for Louisville City in a specular fashion. After a stutter juke move to shake off a defender, he blasted off a shot outside of the box that smashed into the top crossbar and bounced in the goal. An easier contender for goal of the week, if not goal of the year. Take a bow, Jimmy!
At 72’, Niall drove the ball down the side of the pitch and crossed it over to Greig, who attempted to sneak it by the goalie at the near post, but the young keeper deflected it away. Shortly after that sequence, George Davis IV came on for PDP, and minutes later Jorge Gonzalez relieved Akil, who suffered a minor knock. Gonzalez, who had been plagued with injuries this season, finally got to make an appearance in front of the Louisville fans. With several fresh legs on the pitch, LouCity was able to see off ATL Jr and get revenge for their previous defeat in Georgia.
By The Numbers
Louisville City found a number of shots and created even more chances on the night. If one were to be critical, the scoreline could have been more lopsided, but a 2-0 win is plenty sufficient. While the goals scored were particularly outstanding, it was the defensive stats that deserve attention. Twolanta was held to six shots with zero on target. Yes, zero. While they did have a threatening moment or two, they would have been lucky to translate just one of those opportunities into a goal that would have still earned them an “L”. On top of that, of ATL’s 291 passes, 206 were in their own half. Possession doesn’t mean much if you can’t get it out of your own half. Their offense was suffocated, which allowed Chris Hubbard to earn a clean sheet.
What a complete performance with many positive takeaways. Jimmy scored, Hubbard got a clean sheet, redemption was earned from the previous loss to Atlanta, and Josh Wydner earn his first start and looked great in doing so. As mentioned above, the defensive efforts were excellent even with the young stud Jonathan Gomez taking a much-deserved rest. While JoGo is an enormous piece of the team, this was a clear example that when he eventually moves on to bigger and better, City will be just fine. After this win, FiveThirtyEight has LouCity at a 24% chance to make it to the finals and a 12% to win it all. Great odds that continue to improve. They are now top of the Central Division, top of the East, and tied for most points overall with Phoenix Rising, who have a match in hand. Still, plenty of time to catch up to them! Vamos Morados!
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