Match Recap – Louisville City vs San Diego Loyal – 05/22/2021
Coming off a second bye week, the boys in purple were back in action at home against unfamiliar opposition. Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal made the long cross-country trip to Lynn Family Stadium to try to find their first win of the season. Coach Danny Cruz, who took over beginning last match after John Hackworth’s sudden departure, was also in search of his first win as gaffer. While still limited to 7,652 due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was a special buzz in the air generated by this unique matchup.
Louisville City Lineup
With a new boss comes new tactical approaches. LouCity sported a 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Tyler Gibson get his first start of the campaign. New signing, Kyle Greig, found his way into the eighteen along with academy product, Carlos Moguel Jr. Noticeably absent was Brian Ownby who received a two-game suspension after the match for an incident against Birmingham. Oscar Jimenez was also out and will probably be out for the foreseeable future as he is nursing an injury.
The match started off with a scary moment for the home team fans. Keeper Chris Hubbard kept the ball in his possession too long and his errant pass was recovered by the SD attack. Thankfully, they squandered that opportunity with a wildly inaccurate shot. Only a few minutes later, City was on the offensive. A cross from Jonathan Gomez aimed at Cameron Lancaster was narrowly intercepted before Cam could take possession and shoot. At 16’, a well-placed Loyal shot sent Hubbard diving to make a save. In the first fifteen to twenty minutes uncharacteristically saw Louisville more so on the back foot. San Diego, a possession-oriented team, was able to play their game and maintain early control.
As the match settled, City was able to exert more influence on the match and flip the script. Paolo DelPiccolo found an aerial cross with his head at 22’ but his goal attempt was deflected out. For the next few minutes, LouCity kept the pressure on with some dangerous possession inside and around the box, however, could not find a quality shooting opportunity. Ten minutes later, Cam hammered in a shot on target that was deflected out and almost saw PDP with the rebound. Not long after, JoGo got a crack at goal with a shot that was just a tad off target. Drama ensued in the dying minutes of the first half as a penalty kick was awarded to City after Napo Matsoso was taken down in the box. Louisville’s prolific goal-scorer, Cam, lined up and took the shot. It was blocked but the rebound conveniently found Cam who put it in the back of the net for his first goal of the season. A fortunate turn of events for City to end the half on.
The second half picked up where the first left off with City mostly in control over the match but SD still putting up a respectable fight. Just five minutes into the half, Napo received a yellow card on what appeared to be a rather weak challenge. The ensuing free-kick was launched into City’s box and headed over the crossbar into Scouse’s House. PDP had himself another close call at 55’ sending in a cross-shot that narrowly missed the near side of the goal. In an effort to mix things up, San Diego made three substitutions between the sixtieth and seventieth minutes followed by City’s first switch bringing in Antoine Hoppenot for Napo at 71’. Following the substitution action, eager to extend the lead, City sent in a cross to the SD box which Cam found with his head, but he could not put it on target. That would be the last notable moment for him as he was shortly after subbed off for the new signing, Greig. PDP also came off for Akil Watts.
The dying minutes of the match was when the magic moment occurred. Watts received a cross from Hoppenot on a breakaway but took his first touch too hard. He narrowly beat the charging keeper for the loose ball and in the collision between the two, the ball went airborne. Greig and a defender both leaped for the ball. Neither got a head to it but Greig, whose body swung around from the collusion, stuck out his outstretched leg and had it roll down into the goal. A bizarre yet exciting goal. It was a meaningful one for Greig. Not only was it a goal on his debut but it was an accumulation of his hard work that he put in while faced with an uncertain future after the folding of his former club. After the match, Greig stated, “It’s been a really trialing five months for me and my family. To feel like you’re being forced into retirement a little bit when no one wants you and then this club and Danny giving me a chance to continue my career, especially for this club, made this a really special night for me.” It was a particularly special goal he won’t soon forget.
Upset by how Greig’s goal transpired, Coach Donovan was arguing with the referees. He was outside the coaches’ box and refused to get in. This earned him a red card. Insult to injury and not what this struggling team needed. In the following added time, SD found themselves a goal after a long-range shot bounced in off the underside of the crossbar but it was a goal that wouldn’t change the outcome. To quote Eric Crawford, “By halftime, (Landon) Donovan had lost his blazer. By the end of regulation, he had lost his head. And by the end of stoppage time, he and San Diego had lost the game, 2-1.”
By The Numbers
The San Diego Loyal is a team that likes to be in possession and control a match, much like LouCity. In the end, it was Louisville that won out. Morados had 60% possession and almost twice as many shots (half of which were on target). In the visual to the right, you can see the number of key passes (yellow) and crosses (green) show how much more dominant that Louisville (gold) was than SD Loyal (black). The majority of LouCity's player's average positions were in the SD half (below field visual). All this shows in the expected goals; City’s xG was 4.12 compared to San Diego’s 0.57. It could have been a much more lopsided affair.
What a fantastic match. Coach Danny Cruz secured his first win in charge with a memorable win over a west coast opponent. Post-match, Niall McCabe said, “We know that it is a difficult position to be put. Danny is super professional in what he goes through to make sure that we are prepared. It makes our jobs easy when we walk out there on nights like tonight. When someone cares that much, it makes you want to give back. I am glad for Danny to get that win. For all the lads in there, it meant a lot.” There were a lot of positive take-aways from the match. City’s defense remains solid. Pat McMahon quietly had an excellent game. The midfield continued to be the reliable machine it has been for years even without Speedy. And attacking opportunities and goals continue to come from various contributors. There is always a lot of uncertainty with a coaching change but thankfully this squad has been set up for success to manage through that adversity. So long as injuries don’t continue to pile up, this team will make another successful run at another championship.
We got an update picture of JoGo with Landon Donovan!