Match Recap – Louisville City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies – 08/13/2022
Following a convincing win over the Charleston Battery, Louisville City was faced with arguably their biggest regular season match to date. Between the previous three losses to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the current 1st and 2nd standings of the two clubs in the East, and the #FillTheFam push, it’s hard to imagine a bigger night for Louisville that isn’t the playoffs. A win would put LouCity four points clear atop the East while a loss would see the boys in purple lose their narrow lead to the Rowdies. Could Coach Danny Cruz and the gang rise to the occasion?
With Josh Wynder and Cameron Lancaster still out, it was a similar lineup as we have seen in previous matches. However, there were some noteworthy differences. First, Niall McCabe, while listed in the graphic, was a late scratch and Corben Bone was slotted in the opening. At this time, all that was shared is that it was injury related. The second big difference was the decision to start Wilson Harris on the bench. Ray Serrano made his way into the starting lineup in his place. Given the notoriously flexible system used by the Rowdies coach Neil Collins, this was certainly a tactical choice by Coach Cruz to try to catch the opposition off-guard.
It was Ray Serrano who found the first chance of the evening within the first ten minutes. A pass from Matiti Mushagalusa allowed him an opportunity to take an angled shot, but it was off target and rolled wide of the far post. At 20’, Jorge Gonzalez took a good shot that was deflected off target. Despite these being the only real threatening moments of the first half, LouCity was firmly in control. The Rowdies were generating little to no offense and were forced to weather the home team’s offensive storm. The technical combination of Manny Perez and Ray Serrano on the right-hand flank was particularly problematic. Unfortunately, it was still an even 0-0 score line at the half.
Within the first few minutes of the second half, Brian Ownby nearly found the difference maker with a well-timed chip shot, but it had just a bit too much on it and flew narrowly over the crossbar. A great strike from Jorge at 60’ barely missed hitting the top right corner of the net. Following that, Wilson Harris and Napo Matsoso entered the fray for Matiti and Bone. It didn’t take long for Wilson to make a difference. At 63’, he bullied a defender off the ball and earned LouCity their long-awaited goal. An outstanding individual effort to create the opportunity from nothing. This poetically happened right as the record attendance of 14,673 was being announced. About five minutes later, a sneaky shot by Ownby was claimed by the keeper at the near post. This sequence was immediately followed by the Rowdies’ best chance of the night. A long ball over the top from the keeper was played into City’s box where a near post shot was attempted but it was narrowly off target. The proceeding 20 minutes of the match saw the Rowdies play a bit more offensively than they had been, however, nothing seriously threatening. Oscar Jimenez and Paolo DelPiccolo came in the final few minutes to help see out the 1-0 win.
By The Numbers
The stats of this match did not look like 1 vs 2. The visitors had a paltry 38% possession with ZERO shots on target. What an incredible defensive effort by LouCity. Not to be totally outclassed, the Rowdies to their credit did limit City to two on-target shots. While Tampa Bay has a reputable defense, LouCity’s control over the match gave them the time and space to find opportunities. City’s defense, meanwhile, allowed almost no offensive production for yellow and green. The sub-one xGs for both squads really showcase how much of a defensive grind the match was. While the match did not live up to Louisville’s 2.18 GF/G average, it ended close to the Rowdies’ 1.17 GA/A average.
Player Of The Match
While the defensive efforts of the group were certainly a highlight, it was the individual effort of the super sub, Wilson Harris, that made the difference on the night. His solo effort to press the defender earned the lone goal that helped earn LouCity all three points on the night. It was a clever move for Coach Cruz to deploy him against a defense with an hour already under their belts. Wilson will not soon be forgetting that enormous goal.
You can not overstate how big of a win that was for Louisville City. In a 1 vs 2 matchup against the Rowdies in front of a record crowd (#FillTheFam), the boys delivered and put themselves four points clear in front in the race for the Eastern Conference crown. With perfect weather and an extra amped crowd, it was the type of match that will not be soon forgotten by anyone in attendance. It was an instant classic. “We are extremely thankful for the support. I can honestly say without that crowd tonight, the end of the game gets a little bit more difficult.” Coach Cruz shared after the match. Sean Totsch commented that “Nights like tonight, we feel invincible.” Wilson Harris echoed their thoughts on the atmosphere. “You could feel that energy. I was waiting for my moment. I really wanted to be on the field. I couldn’t have written a better script, to be honest.”
With that win, Louisville has jumped up to a 42% to make the USL Finals and a 27% chance to win it. That is up from 37% and 23% before the match. While San Antonio currently leads the race for the regular season crown, it is still close and Louisville certainly has a shot at winning the lone honor that has eluded them. While not all factors will be in their control (praying for SA to drop some points), this is a special LouCity squad. So long as Coach Cruz can keep them performing to their max abilities, the sky is the limit.
Be sure to check out my assessment of LouCity's performance the first half of the season (How's It Going Pt. 2) as well as my feature on Josh Wynder!
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? I suggest the following:
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