Match Recap – Louisville City vs Orange County SC – 06/18/2022
The past several matches hadn’t been too kind to Louisville City. The boys in purple lost three of four with the most recent being against Eastern Conference rivals, Tampa Bay Rowdies, where goalkeeper Kyle Morton was taken out of action in a scary collision. Sufficient it to say, a bye week was welcomed. “I think the week off was important, more importantly from a mental standpoint,” Coach Dany Cruz said. “The guys have been on a tough stretch. They needed some time, both mentally and physically to try to recover.” A refreshed LouCity team restarted league play back at home against the reigning champions, Orange County. OC has had their struggles this season, but Louisville needed to remain focused to come off the bye week on a positive note.
Danny Faundez made his first league start in this match with Kyle Morton still out of action after his injury in Tampa. Manny Perez was listed as out for this match and Wilson Harris was listed as questionable, however, he did feature on the bench. While Cameron Lancaster was listed initially as part of the starting eleven, he was a late scratch with Matiti Mushagalusa getting the last-minute start in the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1.
At kickoff, fan were treated to unusually fantastic weather compared to many other home matches this season. They were also treated to yet another match where City was able to largely dictate the tempo and control the game. At 15’, Brian Ownby sent in a pass to Matiti in the box, however it had a little too much on it. A very close call for Louisville, as it would have been a big scoring opportunity. Faundez was tested at 26’ with a shot from outside the box that he was able to easily secure. It wasn’t until 40’ when the match’s first goal was scored. A LouCity freekick into the box was kicked away and fell to the feet of Matiti, who was waiting near the box’s edge. He had plenty of time to line up his shot and fire it through the crowd and into the net at the far post. Only three minutes later, OC tried to respond with a dangerous header that Faundez snagged out of the air. Unfortunately, they would find their goal a minute later. A cross was headed by a Louisville defender, but it wasn’t cleared and landed at the feet of a waiting attacker who took the close high percentage shot. Faundez got a hand on it to stop its initial trajectory, but the attacker followed up and gave it a second kick to get it across the line. The halftime whistle blew with the score even at 1-1.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Jorge Gonzalez came in and relieved Paolo DelPiccolo. At 69’, a OC turnover at midfield resulted in a Louisville passing sequence that resulted in Jorge with the ball at his feet in the box with a numbers advantage. He took the shot, but the keeper was able to get in front of it and put it onto the ground and got it to one of his defenders. A bad OC pass at 73’ resulted in another fast break for the home team. Ownby took the ball to the box’s edge where he was taken down for an easy penalty kick call. Sean Totsch stepped up and took his 5th converted PK for LouCity, giving his team the 2-1 lead. Following that, Wilson Harris and Tyler Gibson came on for Ray Serrano and Niall McCabe. Looking to respond, OC found a good shot on goal at 79’ from the edge of the box that forced a leaping one-handed save from Faundez. A few minutes later, Matiti came off and Napo Matsoso entered the match. Continuing their press, at 83’ a great pass from Ownby lead Harris into the box where he was promptly flattened for yet another easy PK call. Harris took the shot and scored, putting LouCity up 3-1. A scoreline that would hold through the end of the match.
By The Numbers
Although the scoreline was tight for the majority of the match, Louisville City largely controlled the match. They held the visitors to 44% possession with less than 32% of their accurate passes in Louisville’s end. The average position graphic does a good job showing the constant pressure OC was under, which ultimately helped force the penalties. “The press front and back throughout really wore them down,” Brian Ownby said. “That caused them to have some turnovers that we capitalized and turned them into penalties later on.” OC did actually outshoot Louisville, but the visitor’s shots generally lacked quality. Louisville’s xG may have been lower than normal, but the forced errors helped the squad secure all three points.
Player Of The Match
Matiti Mushagalusa is a young guy with loads of talent who took full advantage of the opportunity to start the match and scored LouCity’s lone open play goal. “It was crazy when I found out I was starting,” Mushagalusa said. “I like to put on a show, so I was like ‘It’s game on’. You just come in and have fun and enjoy it.” With an abundance of attacking options on the team, these types of performances help to earn more minutes. This was a well-earned player of the match performance for the former SKC2 man.
It’s always a nice feeling for LouCity to win a match most would expect for them to win, especially after hitting a few bumps in the road over the previous few matches. Normally, it might be a tad disappointing for two of the three goals to have come from the spot. However, those PK calls were the product of the pressure the team was applying and were well earned. No dark arts or questionable calls needed, so no complaints here. City’s conceded goal wasn’t the best, but the occasional error happens and the team ultimately put more in the net than they allowed. Coach Cruz shared many of the above sentiments; “I was pretty happy with the first half. I thought we did a good job limiting opportunities and controlling the game. Obviously, I’m not happy that we conceded a goal the way we did, but I had full confidence at halftime with the team. But all in all, I felt we wore the opponent down over 90 minutes, and that’s where the penalties came from.”
With that win, Morados is back on top in the East with 30 points. They are only three behind Colorado Springs and one behind San Antonio in the West. FiveThirtyEight remains optimistic about Louisville’s future. They have City with a 99% chance to make the playoffs, a 28% chance to make the final, and a 15% chance to win it all. Currently, only San Antonio has a higher percentage. It’s easy to get worked up and caught up in the moment when the team takes a few losses, but in the grand scheme, Louisville City appears well on track to continue its history of success. LouCity currently has the second-highest expected points per match (1.96) and the fourth-highest points per match (2.00). By both actual and theoretical measures, Louisville is still one of the top clubs in the league.
We’ve now seen this team fully healthy and with critical pieces missing. We’ve seen them against good competition and against bad teams. The identity of Coach Cruz’s squad is now fairly well-formed. The squad knows what they do well and what some of their opportunities are. As we enter the mid to later stages of the season, it will be a test to see if they can not only maintain their performance but improve it. What tactical tricks are left to deploy? Can the team close the gaps on any of their weaknesses? As mentioned above, the team is trending well. Now, it is just a matter of maintaining, or better yet, improving, their position. I, for one, am feeling confident about the trajectory of this team. VAMOS MORADOS!
Its Prideraiser time! Make a pledge and help support the Louisville Pride Foundation!
Be sure to check out my assessment of LouCity's start to the season 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.