After a tiring stretch of matches concluding with a draw at Charleston, Louisville City was set to take part in a clash of the titans. First versus second in the Eastern Conference. It’s not unusual for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to be hovering at the top of the conference. They played spoiler for City’s inaugural Lynn Family Stadium match in 2020. Would they be the ones to end LouCity’s unbeaten streak, or would Louisville send a message to the league and send the Hounds packing?
After missing the previous match due to suspension, Sean Totsch returned to the starting eleven. Manny Perez, Corben Bone, Tyler Gibson, Wilson Harris, and Brian Ownby all also started after having come off the bench in Charleston or being omitted altogether. These were players who saw significant minutes in the previous matches and their rest and subsequent return to the starting lineup for this big one was expected. While the player composition is that of LouCity’s traditional 4-3-3, it appears their shape for this one was more reflective of a 3-5-2. While this may sound big on its surface, the flexibility of play from this 2022 Louisville team can really blur the lines between the 4-3-3 and the 3-5-2. It can make it a challenge for the opposition to plan and manage against.
After an initial ten minutes period of both teams feeling each other out, it was the Riverhounds who found the first threatening shot opportunity. Running towards the end line on City’s left-hand flank, a sneak shot was taken that forced Kyle Morton to leap and deflect the shot out. At 20’, a back pass from the Pittsburgh goalkeeper resulted in Matiti Mushagalusa in possession in the final third with numbers forward. He tapped it over to Amadou Dia in the box, who subsequently sent in a beautiful cross towards the far post that was poked in past the keeper by Wilson Harris for Louisville’s first goal of the evening.
Almost 20 minutes later, LouCity found their second goal. In possession and keeping the pressure on, some beautiful team passing from Bone, Paolo DelPiccolo, and Harris resulted in Matiti in possession at the top of the box at 39’. Harris’ movement away from Matiti right before the pass drew away the defender closest to Matiti, leaving him unmarked. He took the most of that opportunity and fired in a shot at the near post and into the back of the net.
The halftime whistle blew, with Morados firmly in control of the match. A performance sure to have earned praise from Coach Danny Cruz at the break.
Although LouCity was up, they were clearly hungry for more. At 62’, a cross came into the box to Harris who didn’t quite get full contact on the great opportunity, resulting in an easy save for the Hound’s keeper. Less than five minutes later, Jorge Gonzalez entered the match for Matiti. Harris again was sniffing out another goal-scoring opportunity at 70’. With defenders scrambling to get in front of his shooting opportunity, he hammered off a shot that the keeper deflected away. The loose ball was tracked down and claimed by the keeper after almost being reclaimed by PDP. Only five minutes later, Bone snuck in between defenders and received a pass from Harris at the top of the box. Bone’s one-on-one shot was deflected away. Another very close call for City. At 77’, PDP and Amadou came off and Niall McCabe and Ian Soler entered the match. Soler was quickly involved as at 80’, he was on the receiving end of some violent conduct from PIT’s Dane Kelly. Those actions earned Kelly a red card. With only ten to go, the Riverhounds were down 2-0, with only ten men to work with. At 86’, Carlos Moguel and Napo Matsoso came on for Ownby and Bone to see out the remained of the match.
By The Numbers
The story of this match is the chance creation, an area that Louisville has been hit or miss on. City created three big chances with ten total shots (six on target). The Riverhounds had zero big chances and six shots, only one of which was on target. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh is known for their stingy defense and had the USL’s all-time goal scorer AND assister. Not to mention, they are currently the second-best the East has to offer. The gap in those numbers is starting to look bigger, isn’t it? The expected goals numbers align with this; 1.83 for Louisville to Pittsburgh’s 0.44.
Player Of The Match
There are great cases for both Matiti Mushagalusa and Wilson Harris, but because I am a contrarian, I need to give Mr. Corben Bone some props here. He made the most key passes (three) and passed at a success rate of 85%. He created a big opportunity for himself later in the match but unfortunately couldn’t convert it into a goal. Numbers aside, he does the little things well and continues to be a critical cog in the LouCity warmachine. He may not have won the fan-voted player of the match accolades, but I call the shots here and award him POTM.
Not only did Louisville beat the 2nd place team in the conference, but they made it look nearly effortless. City never looked like they were going to lose, let alone draw. They were dominant. Pittsburgh was a big test, and they passed with flying colors. Post-match, Coach Cruz stated, “There were stretches there where Pittsburgh wasn’t able to get a sniff out of anything, and it was because of the work the players were doing on the field but also the environment they were having to do it in. So I felt the players gave it everything they could tonight for myself, the fans, the club. This is something we are really happy with.” If you haven’t already realized it, Coach Cruz’s system is working. The style he is going for and the routine for preparing for matches has Louisville on a historic run. So long as this team remains focused, the sky is the limit!
By the way, what an atmosphere! Lynn Family Stadium was rocking!
Have a friend just getting into LouCity soccer? Be sure to send them the Introduction To Louisville City link to give them a point of reference to learn about the club and league.