A draw with Tulsa and a loss to the Legion has set an unfortunate tone as Louisville City enters the away-heavy latter half of the USL season. It’s not what you want to see for a team not only battling to win their division but the East and the league as a whole as well. The sole home fixture in September against FC Tulsa appeared to be the opportunity to course-correct before returning to the road. Although Tulsa is no pushover, LouCity could rely on the home field advantage as well as the Roughneck's lackluster defense. Would this Friday night affair be a turning point or a continuation of an uncharacteristic trend?
Louisville City Lineup
Although they were initially questionable, both Brian Ownby and Jonathan Gomez got the start in the usual 4-3-3. Oscar Jimenez also started seeing the rare on-field paring of the team's two dynamic left-backs. JoGo held down the left while Oscar went to the right. Kyle Greig got the start up top with Cameron Lancaster MIA from the eighteen. Interestingly enough, it was the goalkeeper role that proved to be the most interesting twist. While Parker Siegfried got the nod between the stick as he has been, both Chris Hubbard and Simon Lefebvre were “unavailable”. While Chris’s situation is still unexplained, we later learned that Simon would be loaned out to the Switchbacks and, according to Coach Danny Cruz, “Colorado Springs inquired about getting him in games there”. To fill this GK void on the bench would be academy product, Alex Kron.
Morados came out hungry and wasted little time applying pressure. Two minutes in, Paolo DelPiccolo fired off a low shot that went narrowly wide. At 10’, Tyler Gibson hammered in a very similar shot that also went just wide. Only seven minutes later, a cross from Niall McCabe was headed by Jorge Gonzalez, that floated over the crossbar. Despite the number of chances and frequent offensive pressure, it was Tulsa who found the back of the net first. The visitors sent a long ball into Louisville’s half, retained possession, and dished it over to an attacker at the box's edge. With little direct pressure applied to him, he took a shot from distance toward the far post that had enough pace to beat Parker from making a diving save. It did take a slight deflection off Alexis Souahy that may have made the difference. It was a low probability shot (<0.1 xG per GameFlow) but unfortunately for City; it had enough on it to put the bad guys up 1-0. Looking to level the scoreline, Sean Totsch sent a header to the top right of the goal at 23’, however it was slightly off target. The remainder of the first half saw a lot of City control but little to show for it. The boys in purple entered the locker room down, but not quite yet out.
To start the second, Antoine Hoppenot relieved Jorge, who was not having his best evening. After settling back into the match, LouCity’s best opportunity of the night at 60’. A long cross was served in by PDP, whose header forced a fingertip save to poke the ball over the crossbar. A fantastic effort by the away keeper to retain his team’s lead. Tulsa found themselves a decent shot on goal at 65’ which a shot from distance that was batted away by Parker. Less than ten minutes later, Napo Matsoso and George Davis IV came on for Oscar and PDP, followed by Abdou Thiam for Tyler Gibson at 82’. This was the first appearance on the pitch for Abdou since a preseason injury has kept the striker sidelined. Despite these fresh legs injected into the match, the final quality shot from the home team came at 94’ when Hoppenot blasted a shot at the keeper off a McCabe cross, but it was deflected away. The final whistle blew and Morados were served another loss.
By The Numbers
Louisville City ended this match, leading in almost every category. City had 66% to Tulsa’s 34% which isn’t all that surprising given City’s tendency to lead in that stat as well as Tulsa’s regular sub-50% control. The LouCity defense did hold the potent Tulsa offense to only five total shots with only two on target; an accomplishment if you put the final scoreline aside. LOU, meanwhile, registered 19 shots, 14 created chances, but only four on-target shots. The opportunities were there (as seen in the 1.97 xG total) but the attempts and conversion were not. What was quite possibly the most interesting stat was the number of crosses. Louisville City is no stranger to hurling crosses into the box, but the total count of 37 on the match is very high, even for them. Of those 37, only six were accurate crosses. Although they are not known for their defensive work, Tulsa ensured those crosses did not convert into goals (despite several near chances).
In some regards, LOUvTUL was similar to the first LIPAFC of the season. Louisville City statistically dominated but lost the match. Even the xG numbers greatly favored LouCity. Given the expected point value (xPts) of 2.64, I'm almost willing to mark some of the matches issues to "bad luck". Soccer is a game of inches. Had Parker been a few inches over, he may have saved the lone Tulsa goal. A few inches on a number of the LouCity shots in the match could have been goals. That didn’t happen and now more points have slipped through the two-time champ's fingers. “Frustrating game and obviously unhappy with the loss” is how Coach Cruz characterized it. “It wasn’t good enough overall and really disappointing because I thought that we had control of the game the whole time,” said midfielder Niall McCabe. “It’s just incredibly frustrating because we had chances to win it and to limit them to two shots on goal. One goal is enough to win it if we don’t do our job at the other end, so really frustrating.”
With that loss, Louisville City is now 0-2-1 in their last three matches. While FiveThirtyEight is still giving them a 72% chance to win the Central Division, their odds of making the finals and representing the East have dropped to 26%, 4% below Tampa Bay. The count of goals and accumulated points have plateaued despite the chances being there (as seen in the xG and xPts values). While winning the regular season is now looking like a reach, the squad needs to get it together and work out the kinks to avoid making the battle for the Central Division and the East tighter than it needs to be. Making the playoffs is one thing, but it’s another to make it and have a home-field advantage. There is still a lot on the line and with most of their remaining games away, every single point counts.
On 09/18, LouCity will be heading north to take on Indy Eleven! Tickets to the designated visitor’s supporters section (208) can be obtained here. Let’s show the boys some support on the road! Please note there will not be any team-organized transportation due to the ‘rona.
If you’re looking to expand your purple wardrobe, Vamos Morados shirts are available!