Match Recap: Louisville City vs Saint Louis FC – 09/12/2020
After two matches on the road, Louisville City found themselves back in the comfort of Lynn Family Stadium for another critical Group E matchup. After a questionable win by Indy Eleven over Sporting Kansas City, the outcome of Saturday’s match against Saint Louis would determine if City could jump back into first or fall into third. Saint Louis has proven to be a worth adversary to Louisville City this weekend, having served Morados a loss at home and a draw back in STL. With the regular season (as regular as this season can be) winding down, every point was needed in this installment of the Kings’ Cup.
Coach Hackworth made a few personnel and tactical changes. Wes Charpie earned a start on the backline replacing Pat McMahon. Pat was out getting married while Luke Spencer welcomed a little one into his family! While they draw the formation out as a 4-3-3 in the team-provided graphic (and a 4-1-4-1 on FotMob), they tried out something new. Hackworth stated, "We rolled out Danny Cruz’s favorite formation finally. He’s been talking to me for years about trying to play a 3-5-2 and it just felt like tonight was the time.” This change saw Cameron Lancaster and Antione Hoppenot paired up together at the top. I’m a big fan of the staff’s willingness to experiment with player roles and formations. "Me and Cam have been working really well together at practice, so we wanted to see if we could isolate their two center backs.” Hoppenot said on the tactical change. It’s a short week as City will head back to Indy on Wednesday, but it appears that did not factor too heavily into the starting eleven selection.
From the start of the match, Lou City took the driver’s seat and never relinquished control. A Napo cross at 9’ nearly became the first goal of the night, but Corben Bone could not convert. At 24’, Hoppenot had an excellent shot on goal that was deflected out by the keeper. He would not be denied for long. With one touch, Hoppenot put the ball in the top right corner of the net off a pass from Speedy Williams at 28’. By the ensuing hydration break, Louisville was already leading the possession battle 65% to 35% and also leading in shots six to two. Sean Totsch earned his 8th yellow card of the season at 39’. One more, and he will have to serve an accumulation suspension. At 44’, Hoppenot again found himself in a goal-scoring position, but he selflessly dished it over to Cam, who put it over the keeper's head. After four minutes of stoppage time, the teams headed to the locker room for the half. Saint Louis looked lost and had no answers for the hungry Lou City offensive. City had leveraged a lot of long successful passes to work the ball downfield and create chances (ten by halftime).
Early in the second half, it looked like it was going to be more of the same. Louisville City was still proving to be the more dominant team. Napo had himself a nice moment at 50’ when we made a great solo run past several defenders into the box, but unfortunately his shot was off target. Trying to salvage something from the match, Saint Louis subbed in three players. This did not make much of a difference as at 66’ both Cam and Oscar Jimenez nearly scored on back to back low cross shots. Totsch showcased some of his skill at 70’ with some brilliant ball work around two defenders. He has been having an outstanding season and you love to see him continue to create exceptional moments like this. Two more STL subs made their way into the match at 71’ shortly followed by Lou City’s first changes of the night. At 73’, Jason Johnson and Brian Ownby made their way in replacing Cam and Hoppenot. This was not only very appropriate given the lead, but it also serves as an opportunity to save their legs a bit for Wednesday. More Lou City personnel changes occurred at 81’ with Jimmy Ockford and Akil Watts coming in for Totsch and Paolo DelPiccolo. This was followed up shortly by Jonathan Gomez replacing Speedy at 86’. Hack’s creative testing continued late in the match as Oscar and Akil, traditionally on the backline, were put into the midfield. Saint Louis did have one particularly noteworthy opportunity at 87’ when they had a player one on one with Ben Lundt but the shot the ball above the net. Five minutes of stoppage time was added to the one-sided affair. With no time remaining, at 95’, Ownby sent a cross into the box to JJ who put the ball past the keeper for his first goal for the club. It was a fantastic way to end the match. Many fans, myself included, have been clamoring to see more on Johnson and we got our wish.
The good times keep on coming for City. Antione Hoppenot had one of his best performances for the team and earned man of the match honors. In his 74 minutes played, Hoppenot had one goal, one assist (which could have been his brace if he were more greedy), and a player rating of 8.4. Speedy also had a great outing. He had one assist, 70 passes (most of the match) with a 97% pass success rate! Outstanding work by the midfield staple. And let’s not forget to give credit to Ben Lundt for the clean sheet. While he did not have a ton to worry about (only two on-target shots), Lundt continues to be reliable between the sticks and is now 2nd in the league with five clean sheets.
Louisville City ended the night with 65% possession, 20 shots (six on target), and a pass success rate of 87%. Saint Louis, meanwhile, only had 35% possession, eight shots (two on target), and 73% pass success. No matter how you slice it, Lou City owned that game. Their performance made the previous loss and draw to STL look like a fluke. It was reminiscent of a top-six Premier League team taking on a squad trying to fight their way out of the relegation zone. Perhaps a harsh comparison, but they had very few positive takeaways from the night.
That win propelled City back to the top for Group E and brought them up to a 97% chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. With how this team is performing, I have all the confidence in the world that we will have a postseason. They have been on fire. With the squad’s depth and talent, they could make quite the playoff run. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves as there is still work to be done. It’s back to Indy on Wednesday to battle for 1st and then a non-Group E matchup against Memphis 901 at Lynn Family Stadium!