It doesn’t get much bigger in the early part of the season than a rematch of the previous year’s final. Louisville City gets a shot at a little redemption against San Antonio as the defending champs make their first visit to Lynn Family Stadium. LouCity secured a morale-boosting win over Detroit, but how would the boys in purple fare against the squad that ended their 2022 season on a sour note?
Before we get to the match itself, it’s important to note the context surrounding the match. Louisville became one of the latest cities hit with gun violence. Less than a week prior, five died at the iconic Old National Bank building just minutes from the stadium. Soccer Holdings held a blood drive before the match (that was completely filled) and Estopinal End sported banners calling for an end to gun violence. If you are able, I encourage you to give back to the community, whether that be via blood donations or fundraising to assist those impacted by this senseless act of violence.
With Jorge Gonzalez downgraded to questionable, Matiti Mushagalusa returned to the starting eleven along with all the starters from the previous match in the standard 4-3-3. This includes Oliver Semmle in goal who appears to have earned the honors of GK1. Also of note is Cameron Lancaster’s return to the bench to backup Wilson Harris.
This highly anticipated rematch began with Louisville on the back foot. Only 4’ into the match, SA fired off a shot from the center of the box that forced a diving one-handed save by the rookie Semmle. Matiti took a crack at goal at ’12 that the opposing keeper fell on. The back and forths continued, but it was the home team that appears to have the slight edge early on. That edge translated into a tangible lead with a goal from Wilson Harris at 23’. Matiti whipped a cross into the box that Harris headed over the keeper’s reach and into the far corner of the goal.
Harris was given another big opportunity towards the end of the half off a cross from Brian Ownby, but his shot flew wide. The half ended as a 1-0 lead for the good guys. Both teams were finding a few shots, but both did well to limit true scoring opportunities (0.23 xG for LouCity to 0.19 for SA at the break).
The 2nd half was more favorable to the visitors, with seven shots taken to just one for Louisville. Of those seven shots, only one was on target and the defending champs only accumulated roughly 0.50 more to their xG total for the match. Oscar Jimenez entered the match for Manny Perez at the start of the half followed by Cam came in for Harris at 65’ and Elijah Wynder for Paolo DelPiccolo at 79’. These reinforcements helped to fend off the growing desperation of SA. Threatening shots were registered in the five added minutes of stoppage, but the home team weathered the storm to earn a huge three points.
By The Numbers
Statistically, this was an odd game. LouCity loves possession (6th) while SA avoids it (22nd), yet in this match they out-possessed the home team 51% to 49%. While the possession wasn’t totally lopsided, the passes add to the oddity. San Antonio had a whopping 65% of their accurate passes in Louisville’s half, all while LOU passed at a low 61% success rate. Morados’ attacking woes continued only registering four shots (two on target) with 0.18 xG but the one goal they did find was thankfully enough. They may have allowed 11 shots, but two were only on target and they only faced an xG against of 0.70. An all-around strange statistical match, but that is what you get when you face a quality opponent with such a unique style.
Player Of The Match
It takes a total team performance to secure a win over a top opponent like SA, but I believe that Josh Wynder put on an outing worth highlighting. The hopefully soon-to-be-capped USMNT player was rock solid in defense. And given the time San Antonio was given on the ball, they needed that reliability. He won the most duels (11) and was the most fouled in the match. It was the type of outing that shows why he has gotten a senior team call-up and is all but set for a $1.5 million European move. Enjoy watching him play as our time with him is running out.
The beautiful weather combined with an exciting matchup, offered a good distraction for the community from the pain of the shooting earlier in the week. The fact it was a win made it that much more welcomed of a reprieve. After the match, Coach Danny Cruz praised the backline for their defensive efforts, Harris’ pressure, and the home atmosphere. PDP echoed Coach Cruz’s praise of LFS. “I’ll also say the atmosphere here’s incredible. It makes a difference. We talked about it in the press before the season started — home-field advantage — and it is an advantage.” The fans really helped to make it a memorable occasion from a full stadium wave to the waving of cellphone lights. However, what was most interesting was Coach Cruz’s comments on tactics. Louisville City played a very different game than they normally do. They wanted the opposition to have the ball to make them uncomfortable, and it showed in the match statistics. An odd match for LouCity, but it earned them a needed win.
It appears that the team has fully shaken off whatever caused the losses to ELP and SAC. Still plenty of opportunity for this team to improve. However, they are much more reminiscent of the title contenders we have come to expect. With that said, there is still a lot of work ahead. Teams like the Charleston Battery and the Birmingham Legion are threatening Louisville’s superiority over the East. A win over the defending champs is great, but they will need to keep stringing together results. We may have hit some bumps early, but optimism should be high heading forward.