Match Recap: Louisville City vs Loudoun United – 08/15/2020
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Last night’s match provided fans a refreshing respite from Group E action. Loudoun United is a relatively unfamiliar foe who only joined the league in 2019. Having only played the D.C. United affiliate twice, Lou City entered the match with one win and one (ugly three-nill) loss against this squad last year. Although Loudoun’s prospects of making it out of Group F are all but a dream (a lowly 6% chance according to FiveThirtyEight), City has been growing more and more desperate for points and a confidence boosting win. It felt as if this match could serve as a tipping point from an optimistic mindset to a pessimistic mindset in regard to Louisville’s possibly of making it to the post season; I certain know I had that mentality.
The starting eleven for Louisville saw a few changes from the previous match. Given there is only a short rest period until the next match up on Wednesday, you have to assume some of those adjustments were to manage the fixture congestion. Notable modifications included Antoine Hoppenot replacing Brian Ownby, the return of winger-Napo Matsoso, and Jonathan Gomez getting his second start. The inclusion of the club’s first academy signing, Elijah Wynder, into the eighteen was an interesting decision. I’ve been quite vocal about my excitement surrounding the academy and its importance to the club. Wynder had only seen the pitch once before in an Open Cup match up against the MLS side New England Revolution. This was the first academy presence for City in USL play. Lou City lined up in a 4-3-3 facing off against Loudoun’s 4-2-3-1. The D.C. squad did make a few curious decisions. One was their choice to place Elivs Amoh in a defensive midfield role, as he normally plays in a forward position. The second was only making sixteen players available out of a total eighteen. Louisville is a bit of an outlier with their roster depth. Loudoun has twenty-eight players total on their roster which makes this fact even more odd. One would have to assume there were external reasons preventing their coach from making two additional players from being ready for action.
The match commenced and our purple squad wasted no time trying to take control. A long pass launched over the defense at 3’ found itself between a break-away Napo and the Loudoun keeper charging outside of the box. The goalie barely beat Napo to the ball. This early aggression helped to set the tone for the match. City wanted the 3 points and did not want to waste any time. Paolo Del Piccolo had am outstanding defensive tackle at 8’, dampening a Loudoun side trying to exert some level of control over the match. At 12’, PDP received a pass in the Loudoun box but was unable to quickly secure the ball with his first touch before getting dispossessed. Early in the match, two contrasting performances stood out. First being the play of JoGo. Gomez’s play was not perfect but he had many more positives than negatives. At only 16 years old, he was managing to fill the role of starting eleven staple, Oscar Jiménez. He was frequently disrupting the Loudoun build up and assisting Lou City in the offensive pushes. Meanwhile, Napo was not overly as impressive (in the first half at least). He was not looking as sharp early on compared to his previous appearance in the winger role.
Loudoun was the first team carded with #28 seeing yellow at 17’. The Lou City boys had a great offensive sequence at 19’ with great passes between Corben Bone and Cam Lancaster leading to a shot from Speedy Williams which was body blocked by a defender. At 24’, Loudoun’s #7 got the second of an eventual four cards for their side. Not long after, the D.C. affiliate made their first substitution of the night due to injury. Their side was struggling to mount an effective offensive against the home team. JoGo made a fantastic offensive contribution at 27’ after a drive down the sideline and into the box which was then converted into a dangerous cross deflected by the keeper into a corner kick. Morados had been doing well to keep on the offensive aggression and quickly shut down any drives by Loudoun. PDP’s performance was already beginning to stand out. He was heavily involved in the attacking buildup and contributing defensively. You could not have asked much more from him. It was a quality outing by the captain.
By the hydration break, no individual performance stood out according to FotMob’s player ratings; however as a collective, it was a convincing showing from the home team. On the Loudoun side, Elvis Amoh appeared to be the only positive take away earning a rating of 7.0. Play resumed and Cam had a clever drive around the 30’ mark passing the ball around a defender back to himself leading into a shot on goal. It was one of those moments where his tremendous quality was on display. At 35’, Napo almost repeated his beautiful assist from the previous match but the ball missed the header by mere inches. In the ensuing corner, Speedy sent another in the box that was nearly headed into the goal. The first big scare from Loudoun occurred at 37’ when two of our defenders were juked out, which resulted in a poor shot. At 39’, the dam finally broke and our pressure finally paid off. A long pass lobbed over a high pressed defensive line found a hustling Cam who pounded in the shot past the keeper. To quote one of the TV commentators, “the cloud of carbon dioxide you see on the field right now is the collective sigh of relief from all the Lou City fans”. After four minutes of stoppage time and a little bit of a desperate Loudoun offensive push (which included a Pat McMahon yellow card), the first half came to a close and the 4,850 in attendance were all left smiling with a 1-0 lead.
It was refreshing to see the squad be a bit more selective with their shots. The past few matches filled with nonthreatening shot after nonthreatening shot left a lot to be desired from our normally dangerous offense. Cam Lancaster went into the locker room leading the team with a player rating of 7.8. Not far behind were the quietly solid defenders Alexis Souahy (7.2) and McMahon (7.0). Bone was having a rather bland performance sitting at a rating of 5.8. Hoppenot was also pretty quiet only earning a 6.2. City was leading in a number of statistical categories including possession with 59%, total shots at eight, seven chances created, and a passing success rate of 76%. While Loudoun United is not terrible, the gap in quality was showing itself. A confident Lou City is an opponent to be feared.
Going into the second half, it was clear that this would be Louisville City’s to lose. As long as they kept up the quality play, they would get the much needed win both fans and the players alike craved. It did not take long for them to extend the lead. At 49’, PDP passed to Napo who snuck the ball past the keeper to put the good guys up 2-0. Loudoun tried to fight back but Bone had a nice defensive steal and some fancy evasive ball work around a defender at 57’. One minute later, United ushered in two new subs to try and liven up their squad. It looked to pay off early after a drive around 60’ which lead into a sneaky low shot saved by a diving Ben Lundt. Feeling the need to put in some fresh legs of their own, Lou City assistant coach Danny Cruz called over Jason Johnson and the academy kid, Wynder, to get suited up and ready for action. Loudoun made yet another sub at 65’ shortly followed by City’s first changes of the night. Johnson and Wynder came on for Hoppenot and Bone. This was a great call by the City staff as those two were not having their best outings, and it allowed for the relatively unfamiliar faces to get some competitive action. What a big moment for the club. Elijah Wynder’s appearance in the game marked the first USL action for the academy. Surely a proud moment for many, especially Director of Youth Development Mario Sanchez. More substitute action shortly followed as Abdou Mbacke Thiam and Oscar were called over at 68’ and prepped to enter the match. At 69’, Napo, who was looking a lot better in the second half, sent a cross to Cam who took the chance and sent the ball just wide of net. Loudoun responded at 70’ with a dangerous missed stop from Alexis, but the shot was stopped. Thiam and Oscar made it onto the pitch at 78’ relieving Cam and Speedy. It was here that I was reminded of a very smart observation by Robin Pryor on the Hot Brown Soccertown podcast (go subscribe if you have not already) that Coach John Hackworth does very well managing his lineup. He is not afraid to make adjustments to address issues that he is seeing and plan ahead. Given the short week, one would have to assume that this rotation was to help try and preserve energy levels of those in his plans later in the week. Reality was beginning to set in for Loudoun United as the match began to approach its conclusion. They had a nice offensive drive with a late 86’ push however it was dealt with before a shot could even be taken. They had another attempt at 87’ although the shot went wide right. Super sub, Luke Spencer, made his was on for a very impressive PDP. Four minutes of stoppage was added but it was a mere formality as Louisville City was comfortably in the driver’s seat until the final whistle.
Boy, did we all need that! It may not have been the absolute beat down some of us were crossing our fingers for, but it was still exactly what the doctor ordered. The night ended with many Lou City players earning very favorable player ratings. Worth mentioning were JoGo’s 7.4, Alexis 7.6, and PDPs 7.9. I had PDP as my man of the match. He was consistently solid the entire night contributing on both ends of the pitch. Paolo tallied up an assist, seven created chances (most of all players in the match), and nearly an 80% pass success rate. Napo ended up winning the fan selected man of the match honors after recovering from a mediocre first half and finding a goal and rebounding up to a player rating of 7.5 by the match’s end. Bone was not necessarily one of the team’s top performers in the match; however, he did complete the most passes (34) in the match with an 89% completion rate. The newer faces in the squad, Johnson and Wynder, did not end up having a big influence on the match although it’s understandable as they were only on for a limited period and are continuing to accumulate experience with the closely gelled squad.
Our boys in purple kept hold of their leads in most statically categories. Lou City ended with 57% possession, 18 shots (three on target), 16 chances created, and a 76% pass success rate. Although the shots to shots on target ratio was numerically in line with the previous matches, it still felt as if they were being more selective and being a little less impulsive. Still some work to do there but, numbers aside, it appeared to be a step in the right direction. Something all fans can appreciate.
Between our win, Indy’s win over Pittsburgh, and a St Louis win over Sporting KC2, City has now jumped over SKC2 and are now 3rd in the group. Keep in mind, we do have games in hand on Indy and St Louis. City is still very much in the running with FiveThirtyEight projecting a 50% chance for a purple postseason. With a renewed sense of confidence, Louisville City returns to Group E action on Wednesday against a familiar foe in SKC2. Momentum is in our favor as we begin our heavy push to try and lock down a playoff spot.