Match Recap – Louisville City vs Phoenix Rising – 07/20/2022
It was a quick turnaround after Louisville City’s match in Memphis before they were due to host the inaugural USL Summer Showcase. League leaders swarmed Louisville for their midyear meetings to be capped off with an anticipated rematch of LouCity and Phoenix Rising. Phoenix had been struggling this season but with a week and a half of rest, they came to Kentucky with a point to try and prove and an old score to settle.
Cameron Lancaster was again ruled out along with Amadou Dia whose red card in Memphis kept him out of the mix against his former club. On the bright side, both Wilson Harris and Jorge Gonzalez (who picked up a knock in the previous match) were both featured in the starting 18. The only changes seen from the last match were Manny Perez starting on the back line and Paolo DelPiccolo getting the start over Corben Bone. Managing minutes on the short turnaround was likely a major factor. Same 4-3-3 we have become accustomed to.
Like many high-stakes matches, the start was slow as the teams felt each other out. The first big chance was created by a run from Brian Ownby at 26’ where he hit a point blank shot to the near post that the Phoenix keeper (remember Ben Lundt?) stopped but didn’t secure. A defender kicked it out for a City corner. At 30’, the visitors found an opportunity of their own off a shot from the top of the box that Kyle Morton made a diving deflection save on. Less than ten minutes later, PHX again created a chance. This time off a long diagonal pass across the field. The lone attacker took a hard shot at the far post but it was tipped wide. Even from the start of this match, LouCity was looking sluggish and it was clear there was still a hangover from the battle in TN this past weekend. Both teams entered the locker room 0-0 at the half.
Corben bone came in for Tyler Gibson to start the half. Only a few minutes into the second half, a mistouch by Manny resulted in a phenomenal shooting opportunity for Phoenix Rising, however, the shot attempt was botched and the ball rolled harmlessly away from the goal. Approaching the 60’, Jorge Gonzalez and Wilson Harris entered the fray for PDP and Matiti Mushagalusa. Both were an instant impact on the team's attack and nearly found a goal from a Jorge cross to Wilson barely failed to connect in front of the net. Jorge again was a threat with a shot at the top of the box at 64’ that went wide. Napo Matsoso relieved an exhausted Ownby at 71’ followed by Wes Charpie coming off for Oscar Jimenez at 81’. The final stretch of the match saw a flurry of offense from LouCity including a great strike by Napo to the corner of the goal that was headed out at 84’, a Harris shot to the far posted tipped out at 86’, and a shot from Manny that rolled wide of the far post in added time (of which there was TEN due to a number of instances of PHX players hitting the deck and staying down). The match grew in intensity with both squads getting their licks in but ultimately the showcase ended in a nil-nil draw.
By The Numbers
For the first time at home and the 4th time this season, an opponent got the better of LouCity in terms of xG. Interestingly enough, the visitors earned 1.31 xG in the match right in line with their away average of 1.32 xGF/G. Louisville city on the other hand had averaged 2.33 xGF/G at home but only got 1.22 xG. Phoenix had the slight edge in the first half with Louisville having the stronger second half (we have been more of a second-half team). City dominated both halves in terms of possession with over 60% each half. On-target shots were close; 3 to 2 in the first favoring PRFC and 4 to 1 in the second with the home team tallying more. Phoenix’s defense who has struggled this season did just enough to keep the generally lethal Morados attack from scoring. On the flip side, City kept Phoenix notably below their 17.39 shots per game average and just below their 11.59 shots per goal average. Good defensive outings for both teams.
Player Of The Match
Despite the draw, there were several notable performances. The one I’d like to highlight is Niall McCabe. He earned a respectable player rating of 7.1, created two chances, and passed at an 84% success rate. Sure, those numbers are all fine and dandy but his non-numerical contributions and his ability to go FULL SPEED all 90 was what earned him these honors in my book. He was quick to share his thoughts on the subpar officiating, did well managing the midfield against PHX’s midfield led by star player and former LouCity man, Aodhan Quinn, and continued at full speed for the entire match. That’s leaving out the sweltering heat and short rest. Many of his peers from the last match were subbed out but he was able to keep going through it all.
You’re selling this team short if you’re upset about a draw to the 11th-place team in the west. Both teams had to deal with the heat but only LouCity had the challenge of short rest of a wild and physical match only a few days earlier. Phoenix Rising had a week and a half to rest and prepare for this nationally televised match. Generally, Coach Danny Cruz strays away from external excuses (even when warranted), however, he cited those as big factors (I encourage you to listen). And kudos to him for doing so. The LouCity play wasn’t perfect but they gave it all they could. "The guys left everything they could physically out on the field,” he stated after the match. It’s also hard to look past the rhythm disruptions caused by the frequent PHX players going down.
Did we all want to get a win on ESPN2? Absolutely, but given the conditions a draw is far from the end of the world. To quote Coach John Calipari, we are every teams’ Super Bowl. Were the team to beat and they are always going to give us their best shot. Phoenix has a historic grudge to go along with that. All that aside, the visitors came ready for a tough battle and kept Louisville from scoring, which is no easy feat. Props to them for that. For them, earning a point was a big win and a momentum boost they desperately needed. For City, they can take away some lessons learned and hold their head up high knowing how they performed through all the recent adversity. Many joked about this match leading up but it thankfully ended up being a competitive contest between two the league's biggest clubs.
The boys in purple now have a little time for some R&R before they take on El Paso on the road. A much-deserved rest for the squad before they get back to their winning ways. VAMOS MORADOS!
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!