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  • Writer's pictureBenton

Match Recap – Louisville City vs Rhode Island FC – 06/22/2024

Photo Credit: Caleb Bowlin

Memorable for all the wrong reasons. The midweek win over PIT should have marked another opportunity for Louisville City to string together some positive results heading into the back half of the season. Rhode Island, the USLC’s sole new organization (NC has been around for a while), sat outside the playoff picture with just one win to their name heading into Lynn Family Stadium. What transpired in the match left all observers scratching their heads.

“It’s one you take on the chin for sure,” remarked Coach Danny Cruz after the shocking 5-2 loss. Things seemed to largely be going LouCity’s way until RI scored their first. An audacious long-ranged shot that perfectly nailed the upper corner of the post. Nothing Damien Las or anyone else could have done. The second the visitors secured before the end of the half was more so on the preventable side. “First half, we controlled the game, created more chances, but the games are won or lost in the box,” commented Taylor Davila. Both the stats and the eye test support this. RI’s goals happened very abruptly.

Things escalated in the second half. Morados’ desperation was palpable. Rhode Island endured an onslaught of 16 shots with the boys in purple maintaining 70%. An uncharacteristically high rate this season with their current style of play. Coach Cruz felt the match was salvageable and went for it. “I know that it obviously looks ugly at 5-2, but at the end of the day, I take responsibility. When we were down the way that we were down, I pushed, I changed the tactics to throw everything we could at them. I genuinely believed we would come back and win this game up until the final whistle blew.” While it didn’t pan out, I commend the faith in his squad. It would have been easy to take a more conservative approach to try to possibly squeeze out a draw. Louisville City’s increased pressure on the gas gave RI just enough opportunity to pour it on in what is easily their biggest win in their short history.

This match was an anomaly for several reasons. First, Lynn Family Stadium has been a fortress in 2024. It’s been the site of several 5 goal affairs. But even Helms Deep was breached. Another obvious standout fact from this match was who these teams were heading into it. This 2024 LouCity squad has put up historic numbers and has for the most part been marching through the league. Meanwhile, RI has struggled. Understandable being a brand new team. With that said, they do deserve a lot of credit. While their point total may not be very high, they have managed to keep losses at a minimum. Draws can be annoying (see the beginning of Racing’s 2024 season), however, that should be seen as a positive for the new kids on the block. Finding ways to hang in a match is worth something. One point, in these cases. They are better than their table standing. Former BHM assistant, Khano Smith, deserves a lot of credit for what he is putting together in the northeast. It wouldn’t be shocking if they are a comfortable playoff team within the next few seasons. The final fact that made this such a strange one was the expected goals (xG) total. 2.94 to 1.86 in favor of Louisville. Our boys of Butchertown not only had a big volume of shots but of enough quality to have, theoretically, gotten more out of the match than they did. And to compound this, the visitors managed to score notably more than they generated by this measure. Single match xG should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s another fact that made this one feel so baffling.

“There is no good way to lose. It’s not like we played bad, and that hurts,” Davila said after the match. The squad didn’t light the world on fire with their play, but they also didn’t play poorly enough to warrant *that*. Rhode Island came in with an effective game plan. Unlike most other teams, they were not afraid to leverage the width of LFS. They were also patient. I don’t believe they set out to play a classic counter style, but Louisville’s aggression made their play somewhat appear that way at times. They also seemed to have a coordinated effort to get under the home team’s skin. This happens every match to some extent, but they hit the right nerves throughout the match. The accumulation of these seemingly small factors gave them enough of an opening to slay a giant. And they took those openings. If this match was replayed another nine times, it probably would not have ended this way, but this was that 1/10 match.

Now the focus turns to the response. Like the aftermath of the TBR loss, LouCity needs to show resilience. Focus on the next opponent and accept the loss as the one-off that it is. This could perhaps even be spun into a positive. The team had largely been on cruise control. Maybe a shocking loss stokes the flames in a way nothing else could. Perhaps it could become a welcomed momentum-builder entering the second half of the season. Time will tell, but we could look back at this one as a necessary evil if it can help the team hit new heights moving forward. That’s my glass-half-full take at least.

Parting Thoughts

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