Match Recap – Preseason Edition: Louisville City vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 04/17/2021
Louisville City soccer is back in front of fans in the bluegrass and it’s all too sweet of a feeling. The off-season always feels far too long for the fans so this match against the Riverhounds is a welcoming signal that the regular season is close. While most of the roster from the previous season had been retained there were several new pieces that fans have yet to see in action. This match served as their introduction to the fan base. Their assimilation into the squad was put to the test against our budding rivals from Pennsylvania. While the match results may not count towards anything, it would serve as a litmus test for how prepared the squad is for the upcoming season. Without further ado, let’s jump into the match.
Louisville City Lineup
The starting eleven for the friendly featured Chris Hubbard between the sticks, the young pair of Akil Watts and Jonathan Gomez, newcomer Tyler Gibson, and the returning Niall McCabe who missed most last season with an injury. For those of you who have been around for a while and know where these players usually play will have found this grouping odd in the traditional 4-3-3 we saw for the majority of last season. A new formation was utilized. Coach Hackworth deployed his team in a back three formation (like we saw once in 2020). It could most accurately be described as a 3-4-1-2 but most wouldn’t argue with you if you called it a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 depending on where you played Paolo DelPiccolo who played high up the pitch (thanks for the discourse on the topic, Patrick).
This one did not take long for the action to get going. Only 2’ into the match, a cross from Brian Ownby was sent into the top right of the net by Oscar Jimenez! Early goals always change a game and thankfully it was in City’s favor. Pittsburgh, however, did not allow this to phase them too badly. About eight minutes later, they set a cross into LouCity’s box that narrowly missed connecting with a charging attacker. That is one that Coach Bob Lilly will be furious about them missing as that really should have been an equalizing goal. Louisville fired right back and earned a corner off the counterattack which was sent into the box and headed just high above the goal by Watts. This back-and-forth aggression continued for roughly another ten minutes before the game settled into a more settled tactical chess match that did not result in many other close chances until towards the end of the half. At 41’, a Riverhounds shot from outside of the box was batted away from goal by Hubbard and the following corner saw Hubbard steal the ball out of the air right before an attacker could head it into the net. The opposition was in the driver’s seat for the remaining few minutes, but City weathered the storm and went into the half with their lead in tacked.
The second half began with Ownby sending a rocket of a shot into the box but it when over the goal. A minute later, Ownby went down after a collision and was then subbed out. He was relieved by the former Cincinnati man, Jimmy McLaughlin. It was at 55’ in which the strangest moment of the match occurred. A PK was called against Louisville for a bit of relatively light jostling for the ball at the edge of the box. I felt it was an astoundingly bad call but I’ll let you be the judge (thanks to Ben Hulsman for sharing the footage).
Thankfully, the veteran Hubbard did not allow for it to impact the scoreline and delivered with a big stop (that ultimately helped him earn Man of the Match honors).
Around 63’, the first substitute actions of the afternoon occurred. Gibson and McCabe were relieved for Corben Bone and Napo Matsoso. The back-and-forth aggression continued with City getting a decent look at 63’ followed by the Riverhounds getting on at 69’. It was Morados’ efforts that would be rewarded at 80’ when a second City goal from Bone would put the match out of reach for the away side. "We recovered the ball in a good area and got it out to Napo,” Bone said post match. “He did the rest, really. It was a fantastic pass. We kind of made eye contact, and he put it exactly where I wanted it. All I had to do was give it a little toe poke and hit the back of the net. Credit to Napo. It was an incredible pass, and he’s given me a few of those, which is why I keep pointing at him.” Napo nearly added insult to injury by almost scoring again three minutes later. In the dying minutes of the match, the young Josh Wynder came into the match for Wes Charpie. It’s always a special moment to see academy products make first-team appearances. He would go on to see out Louisville 2-0 win.
Normally, I’d dive into the numbers but with it being a preseason match they were hard to come by. At least not the depth of numbers I am accustomed to. Thankfully, PR man Jonathan Lintner apparently moonlights as a stat keeper. Based on his numbers, LouCity was fortunate to come out ahead on the scoreboard as the traveling side edged out the boys in purple on shots with City being forced to make more saved. Given the quality of opposition and the fact that some aspects of the game plan could have been experimental (formation? player selection?), it’s not worth getting too lost in the numbers. Relying on the eye test, key takeaways are as follows:
Gibson appears to be fitting in well with the squad. Given his experience and the amount of time he has been training with the squad, we expected this, but nice to see nonetheless.
Akil Watts and JoGo are likely going to be playing bigger roles this season and given they held their own against Pittsburgh, they can likely do it for most other squads we will face this year.
Niall, the Swiss army knife utility player, is healthy and ready to go!
Souahy, McMahon, Matsoso, and Bone all started on the bench. These are starting-caliber players. We have depth and if someone has a slump this season, Coach Hackworth has options.
Ladies and gentlemen, Louisville City soccer is back and looks primed and ready for yet another deep run. VAMOS MORADOS!