Match Recap – Louisville City vs Birmingham Legion – 07/02/2022
Coming off a road win in Hartford, Louisville City was faced with a clash against the Birmingham Legion, a team likely to make the playoffs. When LouCity took the trip south to play them earlier this season, they were only able to walk out with a point. Since that meeting, the Legion has improved. They arrived in Louisville on a four-win streak. They were looking to make it five while City hoped to continue the streak they have begun since coming off the bye week.
With Kyle Morton and Cameron Lancaster still out of the equation, the lineup looked similar to the Hartford Athletic match, except Ray Serrano was taken out for Wilson Harris. Unsurprisingly, the formation has remained unchanged for several matches. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Only eight minutes into the match, the press from Brian Ownby in BHM’s final third forced a loose ball at the top of the box. Wilson Harris was in the vicinity but he slipped, ruining his chance at an early open chance at goal. Two minutes later, a freekick from Niall McCabe was sent towards the far post where Sean Totsch put it back in the mix. Josh Wynder has a point-blank opportunity but fell. Matiti Mushagalusa took a shot with the loose ball but the defense disrupted the shot enough to put it off target. Two very close calls for the home team. Roughly twenty minutes later, City found their goal. At 32’, McCabe hit a freekick into the box that Wynder put his head on and into the net for his first USL goal. “It was a great feeling to score my first goal here at home,” Wynder said. “Niall put it on a platter for me. I really didn’t have to do much on that.” At 41’, Harris was subbed out for Ray Serrano due to a rib injury. Coach Danny Cruz expressed concern about the injury after the match. Ray got into the action quickly with a shot that went just over the crossbar at 45’ before the end of the half.
After a few subs of their own, Birmingham found a goal of their own off a low-probability shot. “Their goal really came out of a brilliant shot,” Totsch commented post-match. “It was not something where we were lacking super defensively or anything. He cut in and buried that, and I don’t expect any goalie to save that.” At 63’, fans saw Corben Bone and Manny Perez enter the fray for Tyler Gibson and Wes Charpie. Two minutes later, the Legion’s hope of securing a win on the road got much more difficult. Mikey Lopez received his second yellow card of the match for a challenge of Serrano that earned him a sending-off. Serrano received a long diagonal ball at 71’ which was passed to Ownby for a quick near-post shot that was blocked. City, now up a man, was still looking to secure the lead. At 76’ Matiti hit a cross wide of the far post and Bone’s shot from outside of the box at 79’ was also wide. Just a minute later, LouCity earned a penalty when Ownby was taken down by the keeper challenging for a loose ball. Some Legion fans were aggravated by the call however, Coach Cruz was comfortable with the ref’s decision. “I’ve watched it back. I think it’s a clear penalty.” With Cam out, Totsch stepped up and buried the PK, putting the home team up 2-1. The Legion's coach's disagreement with the call earned him the teams second red card. Paolo DelPiccolo and Napo Matsoso came on for Jorge Gonzalez and Matiti to see out the win.
By The Numbers
LouCity out-shot (17-5), out-passed (389-261), and out-possessed (59.9%-40.1%) Birmingham in a dominant performance. Birmingham, as mentioned in the preview, is an outstanding defensive team. To have as many opportunities created as we did is very exciting. Coach Cruz was satisfied with the threats that Louisville created. “I do feel like we created more than enough opportunities tonight to win this game.” LouCity’s xG of 3.33 certainly agrees with that assessment.
Player Of The Match
For me, it was Brain Ownby. Even before the opportunity and subsequent PK he earned later in the match, he was leading the race in my mind. He has done incredibly well at causing problems for defenses even when he doesn’t end up earning a goal or assist. There is a case to be made when you take a look at his A-xA (as seen in How’s It Going Pt2) that he has been quite unlucky to not have earned more based on his performances. This match was a great example. With a lesser player, we may not have earned all three points.
While the last two wins were against lesser opposition, this one was a big one. The Birmingham Legion will make the playoffs and could quite likely climb a little higher on the table should they continue to improve on their somewhat slow start to the season. The biggest win of the night was the number of chances created against their defensively orientated play style. While there was an opportunity to have converted more of those chances (something Coach Cruz mentioned after the match), it was a very promising outing for the boys in purple. This match was a great example of why LouCity leads or is near the top in almost every statistical category (see the charts in How’s It Going Pt2).
FiveThirtyEight now has LouCity at a 34% chance to make the final at a 19% chance to win it all. That is up from 18% and 9% as of March 1st. They are only second to San Antonio. It was expected that City would be good but they are pushing to prove that they are even better than expected. They have now won three straight with this most recent match, sending a message of their intent. With Memphis 901’s loss to Tampa, Louisville now sits alone atop the East with 36 points from 17 matches. Even with the likes of Kyle Morton, Cameron Lancaster, and Wilson Harris out, this team can still earn big wins.
Special shout out to Kaylor Hodges of Hammering Down for his coverage of the match and for showcasing our community and club. I love to see away fans enjoying their experiences here! Be sure to check out his work below:
Away Day: Louisville City FC
Post Match Reactions: Legion Lose 2-1 to Louisville City FC
Be sure to check out my assessment of LouCity's performance the first half of the season (How's It Going Pt. 2) as well as my feature on Josh Wynder!
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? I suggest the following:
Be sure to check out the Vamos Morados Podcast featuring me, Benton, and Zach Allen-Kelly. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Audible, and Spotify. Everything you need to listen can be found on the Podcast page. Subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!
If you don’t follow the site on Facebook, do yourself the favor and follow there so you don’t miss any of the action! I'm also on Twitter dispensing #LouCity and #RacingLou info and thoughts.