Match Recap – Orange County SC vs Louisville City – 03/11/2023
The long wait is finally over. Louisville City soccer is back. The core of the 2022 squad remained intact, with only a few new faces brought in to complement the team and help propel them to the next level. With a full preseason under their belts, it was time to start the march through the regular season. First up is Orange County SC. This is a foe that made a number of offseason adjustments and would own the benefits of having home-field advantage in this first match.
A few injuries and an excused absence trimmed down the list of available players for Coach Danny Cruz to select from in this first match. The absence of Wilson Harris meant that Cameron Lancaster got the nod up top with Brian Ownby and Matiti Mushagalusa to his left and right. Newcomer Rasmus Thellufsen earned his first start in purple alongside Tyler Gibson and Niall McCabe (who sported the captain’s armband). Amadou Dia and Manny Perez started as outside backs alongside Sean Totsch and Jordan Scarlett. A healthy Kyle Morton earned the start between the sticks. While other formations have been explored in the preseason (a story to watch this year), the boys in purple lined up in their favorite 4-3-3 to start this season.
Louisville City, hungry for redemption after losing in the 2022 Finals, quickly found their way onto the scoresheet. Niall McCabe sent the ball to the back of the net with a header in the fourth minute to put the visitors ahead 1-0.
OCSC looked to level the score at 10’ with an angled shot from a crowd of players in the box, but Kyle Morton deflected the attempt away. Only two minutes later, Matiti Mushagalusa made a run down the left flank, dished it off to Ownby who had drifted centrally right outside the box, and unleashed a shot that bounced off the post. At 19’, OC escaped disaster with a questionable no-call on a handball. An agitated Cameron Lancaster earned himself a yellow when play stopped for his reaction to the lack of a call. Ownby had a good look at 29’ with a header from Mushagalusa, but not enough power was behind it to challenge the keeper. An OC freekick into the box ended with a dangerous shot at 34’ that Morton was able to keep out of the net with a deflection. The home team found their goal at 40’ when an offensive push down the pitch saw them get numbers past the LouCity midfield with a counterattack and a well-placed shot to the top left corner outside of Morton’s reach. The 1-1 scoreline would hold through the remainder of the half.
A motivated LouCity recaptured the lead ten minutes into the second half. Ownby passed over to Cam in the box, who slotted it past the keeper for his first goal in 2023. 2-1 Morados.
LouCity gave up a dangerous turnover at 67’ in their own third. The OC striker had a good look on goal, but Totsch got in between the shot and goal and put it out of play. The ensuing corner gave OC a shot opportunity that went just wide. Carlos Moguel and Paolo DelPiccolo entered the match for Tyler Gibson and Niall McCabe at 71’. Dylan Mares and Elijah Wynder came into the match for Ownby and Cam 12 minutes later to help see out the match. Morton helped preserve his team’s lead with an 85’ minute save. This was almost immediately followed up by an OC shot that rocked the crossbar. A fortunate break for the visitors. Manny Perez exited the match for Oscar Jimenez at 88’. Right after, Matiti took a difficult angled shot past the keeper to put the boys in purple up 3-1 and put the game out of reach. Three points for Moraods.
By The Numbers
The 3-1 scoreline doesn’t fully do justice to the challenge LouCity faced with OC. City had the slight possession lead but the home side outshot Morados 14 to 8 (4 to 3 for shots on target) and Louisville suffered a rare loss in the xG category 1.18 to 0.98. Much of their earned xG came from their late-match push to get something from their home opener. The boys in purple were thankfully able to hold on. A relatively inconsequential xG difference, but still noteworthy nonetheless.
Player Of The Match
Not to downplay the many great performances of the evening, but Brian Ownby was unquestionably the man of the match. He earned two assists and rocked the woodwork with a shot on his way to a game-high 8.9 player rating. Ownby was all over the pitch and an undeniable game-changer. He even fought through injury. “Brian had a massive gash on his foot. His cleat was broken. The fact that he was able to finish the game, it shows his mentality,” Coach Cruz stated after the match. It’s far too early to start chatting about yearly accolades, but Ownby didn’t waste any time in beginning to build his 2023 resume.
All things considered; Coach Cruz was happy with his team’s first outing of the season. “I do think it’s a result we should be really, really proud of with the travel, against a good opponent, with the time change.” Niall McCabe echoed those sentiments, “We’re away from home and on the west coast, there’s the time zone and other factors involved. To come here and get three goals on the road and a win, it’s a great start to the season.” However, it wasn’t a perfect match. “We’ll certainly look at the tape,” Coach Cruz stated. “There are areas where we need to improve. I already said that to the group right after the game.”
Several players picked right back up from where they left off last season. Dia and Perez were influential on both sides of the ball. Niall reiterated why he has been a staple of this team since year one. And Matiti showed that is still very much a threat to opposing defenses. Scarlett seemed to seamlessly fit into the backline helping to fill a Josh Wynder-sized void and Thellufsen showed promise, albeit lacking much time on the ball. With that said, Coach Cruz voiced his confidence in the Dane after a strong preseason. “I certainly believe that he is going to be an important piece to the group this season.”
Although we are very much dealing with a small sample size, it was a great showing from the reigning champs of the East. The first few matches are a great opportunity to get settled in and set a tone for the whole season. You can’t ask for much more, starting with a road win. As the format of the league continues to evolve in a positive direction to bring the East and West closer together, it will become more and more important to be able to overcome the challenges of cross-country travel. The team’s away-heavy preseason appears to have paid off in this first one. But, a long season still awaits the boys in purple. Let’s just hope this early win is a sign of things to come!
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