Match Recap –New York Red Bulls 2 vs Louisville City – 03/23/2022
Starting the season 2-0 after wins over Atlanta United 2 and Miami FC, Louisville City hit the road for their first away match of the season. LouCity was off to New York (actually NJ) to take on NY Red Bulls 2. These two teams have faced off in years past in some competitive playoff matches, however, this was much lower stakes. Time has not been good to the Baby Bulls as their final tour in the USL will likely have them on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for City though as they were operating on short rest and outside the safety of Lynn Family Stadium. Would those factors derail Louisville’s early momentum?
Having just played days earlier, it was expected the team’s depth would be leveraged. Wes Charpie was given a break as fan-favorite made his season debut. Matiti Mushagalusa and Ray Serrano had made substitute appearances in the previous match, however, they were given the start in this one, allowing Brain Ownby and Jorge Gonzalez to take a little rest. Jorge was not featured in the 18. He did appear to take a bit of a knock late in the previous match. No official word on if he sustained a lasting injury. The team’s formation appears to continue to trick the stat-keeping systems. It was listed as a 4-2-3-1 but watching the match, you could see it was the 4-3-3 they have been using. The players' average positions appear to support this over the 4-2-3-1 (perhaps a case for a 4-1-4-1). I’m suspecting this to be the result of increased positional flexibility. NYRB2, for what it’s worth, deployed a 4-2-3-1, which is a variation from the 4-3-3 they used in their previous matches.
Louisville City dominated possession in the early stages of this match (a trend that would continue throughout the match). At 15’, Corben Bone found the first decent chance of the match with an angled shot that was slightly off target. It only took a few more minutes of pressure for City to find their first goal. A one-two sequence between Matiti and Paolo DelPiccolo resulted in Matiti making a cross in front of the net to Ray, who was able to kick the ball in the net after it had gotten tangled in the defender’s legs. Not the prettiest goal, but it put LouCity up and gave Ray his first goal. Post-match, PDP raved on Ray, stating, “We’ve seen his performances, and they speak for themselves. But for me, a big part of it is always how someone is in the locker room — how they act and integrate with the group. He’s been nothing short of incredible in the locker room. He’s a guy that everyone wants to be next to at lunch and talk with and enjoy. Then you get on the field and he does the same thing. He works hard. He does exactly what’s asked of him and more. I can’t speak highly enough of Ray.”
Down, but not out, the Red Bulls ramped up the intensity. An NYRB2 attacker made a cross to his open teammate in the box at 26’. However, the LouCity defensive pressure forced an off-target shot attempt. Misfortune befell upon Louisville City a few minutes later when a hard challenge to Tyler Gibson left him on the ground clutching his left ankle. He left the pitch and was shortly replaced by Napo Matsoso. At 32’, the Baby Bulls nearly found their first goal with a lobbed shot that forced Kyle Morton to tip the ball over the crossbar to preserve his perfect start to the season. Five minutes later, Morton came off his line to impede the progress of a charging attacker. The attacker lost possession and was recovered by a supporting RB attacker. That attacker's shot, thankfully, went above the crossbar thanks to the defensive pressure of Totsch. The last quality chance of the half was another shot by Ray at 43’. His attempt at the far post forced a diving fingertip save out of the NY keeper. When halftime hit, Morados was up 1-0.
The second half began with a number of close calls. The action began at 49’ when Ray found two chances. The first one, Ray put a heavy touch on the ball, allowing the defender to intervene. Had he kept possession, it would have been a wide-open chance at goal. The second was moments later when Matiti had gotten possession and crossed it to Ray right in front of the net however Ray couldn’t quite connect with the pass to poke it in. At 50’, Wilson Harris got in on the fun with a shot of his own, but it flew slightly over the crossbar. A minute later was a questionable no-call from the referee when Matiti was fouled in the box with possession. Morton, sensing danger at 55’, made a great snag of the ball, intercepting a cross from the Red Bulls. Seven minutes later is when things got spicy. A hard collision occurred in the box with a NY player and Morton, who was left on the ground clutching his head. A heated LouCity squad surrounded the referee and a little scuffle occurred between the boys in purple and the Baby Bulls. The RB player involved in the collision was carded along with PDP and Morton, who both had a number of thoughts to share with the referee. Reinforcements arrived for Louisville at 66’. Carlos Moguel, Wes, and Ownby all came in for Ray, Josh Wynder, and Matiti. Ownby, not wanting to miss out on the fun, took a near-post shot at 74’ but it sailed just wide of the net. At 81’, Ownby showed off his agility by driving the ball across the top of the box before crossing to Napo at the far post, whose shot ended up not finding the back of the net. NYRB2 sacrificed their chances at a comeback around 87’. Wilson, on a breakaway, was pulled down by his shoulder by a desperate defender. Denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Straight red card.
Wilson made the most of the opportunity. He took the freekick and put it in the top corner of the net. An outstanding freekick that would have made Cameron Lancaster proud.
With the game in City’s control, Coach Danny Cruz put in Ian Soler for Bone to see out added time. It was his debut for Louisville City. Not much added time was needed, and the ref blew the whistle, with LouCity securing their third straight shutout win. 2-0 good guys!
By The Numbers
City’s attack was what one would have expected entering the match. 12 total shots, six on target, and three big chances created. Their xG was only 1.79, but they got two goals and kept the shutout so not really that important. Speaking of a shutout, how about that performance on the defensive side!? “We talked before this game about the importance of a shutout,” Coach Cruz said after the match. “We know we have the quality to score goals week in and week out, but what we want to make sure is the pressure is for 90 minutes, not for 60. We want to make sure the defensive effort is collective from our (No.) 9 all the way to our goalkeeper.” Defense has been a regular focus of his this season and the message appears to have gotten through to the squad. If there is one downside to this match (numbers-wise, that is) it is the possession/passing. Yes, LouCity dominated possession, however, 180 of the 286 accurate passes were in their own half. That is not exactly where you want the ball. For what its worth, it did get a little better in the second half (check out the heat map). And their accurate pass percentage was a suboptimal 67%. Quite a drop from the 81% from last match. It didn’t hurt them here, but I’m sure they would all rather have better quality of possession and a better pass success rate going forward.
Player Of The Match
Gotta go with Ray Serrano here! The 19-year-old was looking very dangerous in his first start. His goal wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but they all count the same at the end of the day. He had a few other chances in the match and overall, really looked like a guy who could be a regular starter. Ownby will have his work cut out for him in practice to continue to show why he should be the go-to!
Entering this match, it wasn’t exactly the Baby Bulls that had me nervous, but the fact it was a road match and a match on short rest. Coach Cruz tapped into his roster depth and assuaged my concerns. “It’s been an excellent three games, but we’re nowhere near where I believe we can be,” said Coach Cruz. “I think the players would tell you the same thing, which is excellent. It means we have room for growth.” It was an exciting win and kept up the phenomenal momentum of the early season. This is extra important heading into a rivalry match against Indy Eleven. They may have had a rough 2021 and a slow start this season, but anything can happen. No one wants the first loss, or even draw, to happen against them. Let’s hope Coach Cruz has a gameplan that will send them home empty-handed!
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? Might I suggest The Tifos of Louisville City, Louisville City’s Pathway To The Pros, Louisville City's Preparations For The Future, What Are Expected Goals (xG)?, or What Are Goals Added (G+)?.
Have a friend just getting into LouCity soccer? Be sure to send them the Introduction To Louisville City link to give them a point of reference to learn about the club and league.
Be sure to check out the Vamos Morados Podcast featuring me, Benton, and Zach Allen-Kelly. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Audible, and Spotify. Everything you need to listen can be found on the Podcast page. Subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!