Match Recap – Louisville City vs El Paso Locomotive – 03/25/2023
Six points in two matches in California isn’t too shabby of a way to start the year. Louisville City most recently avenged their 2022 loss to Monterey Bay and will now head home to play El Paso. All signs seemed to point to a great home opener. What could possibly go wrong?
With eight players unavailable for action, a few fresh faces made it into the mix for this match. Elijah Wynder and Carlos Moguel earned starts along with newcomer Ramzi Qawasmy. Jorge Gonzalez made his first appearance of the season in the eighteen after having been part of previous matches’ injury list. He was joined by new signings, Travis Smith and Colin Elder.
The match began with both teams feeling each other out but it was Louisville with the first look on goal. At 13’, Rasmus Thellufsen provided Cameron Lancaster with a nice cross which he headed slightly off target. The visitor’s first chance was a shot from range at 21’ that was just a hair over the crossbar. At 29’, Paolo DelPiccolo put a leading pass through the ELP defense to Rasmus but the keeper beat him to it at the box’s edge. LOU retained possession and a few passes later Wynder took a shot within the box that went wide. ELP’s press won them the ball at midfield at 34’ which resulted in a counterattacking sequence. They put the ball across LouCity’s net but no one was home to redirect it on target. They kept the sequence alive and sent a header goalbound but Kyle Morton dealt with the chance. The stalemate was broken only a few minutes later. A lobbed ball into the box looked like a pass to a charging attacker but that attacker ducked and allowed for the ball to continue on past Morton for an ELP goal. Qawasmy was caught focused on the attacker rather than the lobbed ball. The positioning made it hard for Morton to see. Unfortunately, Louisville conceded again before the half. At 45’, the attacker got the better angle on Qawasmy and let off a shot at the box’s edge that was inch perfect to get by Morton and go in at the far post. Being down 2-0 at halftime was not what anyone had expected.
It was a platoon change at the start of the second half. Niall McCabe, Jorge Gonzalez, and Oscar Jimenez entered and PDP, Wynder, and Qawasmy exited. Those moves pushed Amadou Dia into a central defensive role, and Oscar took the outside spot. Matiti Mushagalusa almost made some magic happen at 56’ with a long cross (shot?) that nearly splashed into the top corner of the goal. Nearly an ESPN Top Ten goal. The ELP keeper put a hand on it to redirect it out. Only a minute later, any positive momentum built up in the second half was derailed. LOU won possession in their third and Dia’s back pass was not jumped on by either Sean Totsch or Manny Perez and ELP took advantage. It was an easy one-on-one shot with not much Morton could have done. 3-0 Locomotive. At 66’, Morton denied a 4th goal with a big save laying out using his leg to keep the shot out of the net. Louisville City’s biggest and best opportunity of the day came at 68’ when a lofted cross was headed over to Jorge, whose first shot was blocked and his rebound shot shook the far post. Terrible luck for the Spaniard. Tyler Gibson came in at 77’ for Mushagalusa and less than 10 minutes later, Colin Elder made his professional debut coming in for Jorge. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more to this match and Louisville City was stunned 3-0 in their home opener.
By The Numbers
Louisville City outpossessed (58% to 42%), outshot (12 to 8), and even outpassed (362 accurate passes (80%) to 240 (73%)) the visitors but failed to make those advantages count. They even generated a higher expected goal (xG) value (1.44 to 0.92). With these statistical edges, how did the match end up a 3-0 loss? City failed to neutralize several weak attacking threats that became goals and failed to make the most of their time on the ball in dangerous areas. More on that later, but this match had shades of the 2022 Monterey Bay loss to it. And it isn’t just because of the “upset” factor. The vast majority of stats went in Morados’ favor, however, the visitors grinded out a positive result.
USL Show member Ryan Allen did the research I didn’t want to do and pointed out that Louisville’s last loss 3-0 was in 2019 away at Loudoun and the last time they lost by 3 at home was a 4-1 loss to Toronto FC 2 in 2018. He also observed that it was the first home opener loss since Pittsburgh ruined the LFS debut in 2020.
Player Of The Match
Slim pickings in a match like this, but I’m giving POTM honors to Jorge Gonzalez. His limited appearance was largely a net positive and gave the team a bit of an offensive spark. His unluckiness from last season carried over into this outing, where he was mere inches from a goal with his shot off the side post. His time was limited (no new injuries, thankfully) but it was what the squad needed. Honorable mention to the grounds crew as the pitch was looking great for its first showing of the year!
Coach Danny Cruz began his post-match thoughts by accepting responsibility for the loss. “First and foremost, I take full responsibility,” said Coach Cruz. “That was an embarrassing performance, but at the end of the day I have to look at myself and where I need to be better in preparation for the game. They presented how we thought they would, but ultimately it lands on me, so I spoke to the players about having a good reaction. That’s all we can do at this point…You can’t change the result. I am embarrassed.” With all due respect, I completely disagree. The opposition played as expected, and it was made clear to the squad that they could not become complacent and overlook El Paso’s poor start. This was a failure to execute. On the offensive end, chances were there. The boys in purple had more total shots and created more scoring opportunities, but they didn’t find the back of the net, which is all that matters at the end of the day. It would have felt better if at least there were more than two shots on target. Defensively, all three goals were poor and a sharper LouCity team would not have let those in. The first two goals were defensive errors at the CB role and the third was bad back pass/communication lapses. None of the conceded goals were the products of superior play, but rather taking advantage of mistakes. Transitional moments hurt the team, and Coach Cruz even called that out as an area they excelled in. Allowing three goals is the bigger failure in this match. It’s hard to win with a defense that porous.
While the team was without some important players, that can’t be where we point the blame. If this team is going to make a playoff run, they have to be able to win without the likes of Brian Ownby and Josh Wynder. Ownby is 33 and Josh is going to be leaving for Europe later this year. There is enough talent on this roster to be able to win even in these games where many are missing from selection.
There were some silver linings to this loss. First, Paolo DelPiccolo was honored before the match for reaching 200 appearances for the club. When we talk about the successful “core” of LouCity’s squad, PDP is right at the heart of it. You can’t overstate his influence on this team. Congrats, Paolo! Second, it was a great turnout and with Bockfest going on concurrently, you have to imagine there were a number of first-timers that wandered over from the goat races and joined the crowd of 10,800+. Even in loss, we have to admit it was a nice fun day at Lynn Family Stadium. And finally, there is Colin Elder. Not only did the local kid just sign a contract, but he also go to make his debut! On the day of his prom, no less! What a day to remember. Congrats, Colin!
This loss stings, but I am choosing to look at it as an early season wake-up call. City had been riding high and meeting their lofty expectations. This loss will hopefully serve as a jolt and a stark reminder that anyone can win any day. The next few days of training may not be enjoyable for the players, but it hopefully becomes a valuable lesson that will make them better in the long run.
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 as well as Instagram!