Match Recap – Louisville City vs Birmingham Legion – 06/16/2021
Louisville City might have been less than pleased with the draw against Birmingham Legion in their first matchup earlier this season, however, they had a shot at redemption on Wednesday night. It was a short week for Louisville City after a big win against Memphis 901 but an opportunity to keep up the positive momentum. The Legion sits atop of the Central Division and has shown themselves to be a rival playoff contender to LouCity (check out Kaylor Hodges latest Hammering Down match preview for more about these two sides). This LOUvBHM match could be looked back at as a crucial point in Louisville’s season; will they be the winning side we’ve all come to know or will this be a season of struggle and uncertainty?
Louisville City Lineup
Quite a few changes in this starting eleven! Six, to be exact. With brief breaks like these, rotation is to be expected. Coach Cruz stated post-match, “I have said it over and over again. I believe in everyone in that locker room.” Akil Watts, Alexis Souahy, Niall McCabe, Napo Matsoso, and Cameron Lancaster all made their return to the eleven, and Jimmy McLaughlin got his first start in purple. The bench featured several familiar faces, but included one yet to be seen. Portland loanee, Jorge Gonzalez made his first-team sheet since joining the squad showing that he is close to returning from injury.
Right away in the match, Louisville City showcased their desire for all three points. Just a minute in, Cam launched a shot for the corner of the box, requiring the Legion keeper to tip it over the crossbar. Only a few minutes later, Birmingham retaliated with a shot outside of the box, forcing Chris Hubbard to make an acrobatic save. The power struggle between the two sides persisted until the 23’ mark when Cam when down after having his foot hooked just inside the Legion box. Initially, there was no call from the ref, then a foul called outside the box, and then a PK was called after deliberation with the linesman. VAR maybe would have adjusted that to a free-kick, but that’s not a factor in the USL. A strange sequence but not one the LouCity faithful will argue. When a goal scorer of Cam’s magnitude walks up to the spot there is hardly any doubt. He put it past the keeper and suddenly the good guys were up 1-0.
It didn’t take too long for Louisville to put themselves in an excellent position again. Ten minutes later, McCabe lofted a free-kick into the box in a perfect spot for Sean Totsch to head it in. It was on target, but a diving save from the Legion keeper kept the defender from bagging the goal. Birmingham’s biggest opportunity came not long after. A cross into the LouCity box was headed into the far post. The rebound fell to another member of the Legion, however; it bounced off him and out of play. There was almost an audible collective sigh of relief from the home team fans after that sequence. A huge missed opportunity for the Alabama side and the last notable moment from the first half.
Unsatisfied with a one-goal lead, Morados looked to remedy that early in the second half. At 47’, Cam sent a backheel pass to Jonathan Gomez on the outskirts of the box. JoGo worked the ball to the near post and sent a quick pass across the goal to Napo Matsoso, who hammered it into the top of the net for the second goal of the night.
The boys in purple were not comfortable in the lead at 2-0. Louisville deployed fresh legs at 56’ taking off McCabe and Jimmy for Corben Bone and Brian Ownby and then again at 66’ seeing Lancaster come off for Kyle Greig. The match continued as a back-and-forth struggle with BHM slightly more in control but unable to find quality opportunities to catch up on the scoresheet. Antoine Hoppenot entered the match for Paolo DelPiccolo in the final ten minutes. Shortly after that switch, Greig nearly found LouCity a third when he was provided a great leading pass with only the keeper between him and goal. The goalie came off his line to the ball, but Grieg was slightly ahead. Kyle got a foot to it first, but the keeper was right there and it deflected off him before the two players collided. A few more minutes of play saw Louisville City claiming all three points.
By The Numbers
First off, congratulations to Niall McCabe for 150 appearances for LouCity and Kyle Greig for 200 total USL appearances! Huge milestones for two fantastic players. This LOUvBHM match was statistically a little strange for Louisville as they did not win the possession battle or accurate passing. Thankfully, those are not the numbers that determine the winner. “Ultimately, you have to win games in different ways in this league,” Coach Cruz stated. “I was really proud of the fight of the group. I was really proud of the collective defensive effort.” While the two teams were level on shots, Louisville had more on target and was able to convert. The Legion should have converted the one roughly thirty minutes in, however, all of their other chances lacked real danger. Overall, Louisville City did what they needed to do to snag a big, convincing win at home.
Many fans would have considered this a “must-win”. One win was obtained on Saturday but this second win was needed to show this was not a fluke and to maintain the positive momentum and confidence. They did exactly that and proved FiveThirtyEight right in their favoring of Louisville. On top of all that, they did it on a short week with a lot of rotation in the starting lineup. Not as easy as it sounds. Louisville City ended the night with 9,500+ happy customers proving that they plan to continue their dominance in the USL. While it’s still early to be making any grand predictions, its big wins like these that help the team grow. Will the playoffs feel very possible, there are still a lot of matches left to play.
Post-match, Cameron Lancaster commented on the back-to-back wins. “It gives us that confidence. We’re going to have three games in a week and gives us a lot of confidence going into the Tulsa game. We just have to trust the process and know that the points are going to come.” Road trips are a lot easier when you’re coming off two wins. The boys in purple will be eager to make it three straight this weekend!