Following a disappointing loss to Memphis 901, Louisville City lost control of the battle for first in the East. While they no longer were in the driver’s seat, it would be critical for them to control what they can control. And that is to maximize points from the remainder of the schedule. First up, Rio Grande Valley. The unfamiliar foe had a lot going for them; home field, no Tyler Gibson, and no Corben Bone. On the flip side, their playoff fate is less than secure and they need the points arguably more than Louisville. Two desperate teams, but only one could earn the three points both needed. Who wanted it more?
There were quite a few players unavailable for this match. Gibson and Bone were out due to their bad behavior in the last match. Brian Ownby, who was out last match as a precaution, was out again as he was not 100% good to go. Jorge Gonzalez was out due to injury and is not expected back this season. Napo Matsoso was also out of action. On the flip side, Cameron Lancaster was upgraded to questionable, heading into the match and made the eighteen, and Josh Wynder was back with the group after his time with the USMYNT. Due to all the roster caveats, Coach Danny Cruz leveraged a back three, seeing the remaining familiar faces in some unfamiliar roles. Manny Perez and Amadou Dia flexed up to the mid and Matiti Mushagalusa paired up top with Wilson Harris. Carlos Moguel earned a start alongside Paolo DelPiccolo in the midfield. Also of note, Sebastian Sanchez, an academy product, was included on the bench.
Louisville City had early control over the match, but it was RGV who had the first opportunity. A good buildup at 8’ allowed for RGV to get off an open shot that thankfully was off target. LouCity got their defense in order and contained the opposition’s pressure upon their possession of the missed shot rescued from rolling out. City’s first big opportunity came at 23’ when Manny Perez made a run towards the right side of the goal and sent in a low cross. No attacker was close enough to convert it to a shot but Amadou Dia was on the other side to send it back centrally to Matiti Mushagalusa, but the RGV defense was able to clear it before he could register a shot. Only a minute later, LouCity sent a cross flying into the box and Paolo DelPiccolo took to the air and headed it goalbound. Unfortunately, his header was slightly off target and the ball crashed off the top crossbar. Two close calls, one after another. LouCity found their goal at 33’. PDP intercepted a pass coming from the RGV keeper and lofted it to Wilson Harris, whose perfect header arched into the goal right below the crossbar. Perfectly placed. Dia registered a close shot off an RGV turnover in their final third in the first half’s stoppage time, but beyond that, both teams’ defenses were limiting opportunities in the latter portions of the half. 1-0 LouCity at the half.
Harris wasted little time in the second half looking for his second goal. At 49’, he fired off a shot that was only kept out by a diving save from RGV’s keeper. The home team nearly had one of their own at 60’ with a cross to the far post, but the diving kick attempt was slightly off target. It would have been a tough ask for Kyle Morton to stop that one should the attacker’s foot have made contact with it. Following that sequence, Ian Soler entered the match for Josh Wynder, who had found himself receiving treatment from the staff several times throughout the match. PDP nearly made it a 2-0 match at 69’ when he took a shot at the top of the box, totally unmarked, and the keeper’s mishandling of the ball almost allowed for it to cross the line. RGV had a close call of their own at 75’ with a shot sailing narrowly wide off a corner kick sequence. Following that, Carlos Moguel and PDP exited the match for Elijah Wynder and Oscar Jimenez. At 87’, Cameron Lancaster made his long-awaited return to action coming in for Matiti. Following that, a beat-up Soler was taken out for Sebastian Sanchez, making his LouCity debut. Sanchez joins the likes of the Wynder brothers, Moguel, Owen Damm, and Hunter Sekelsky, having left the academy and now seeing professional minutes. In the final few seconds of the match, RGV sent a desperate shot through the traffic of the LouCity defense. Morton made a phenomenal kick save to preserve his clean sheet and his team’s win. “It’s just one of those instinct plays,” Morton said after the match. “...Luckily, my leg was in the right place at the right time.” Three points secured for Morados on the road!
By The Numbers
Louisville led in shots 12 (five on target) to 10 (two on target), however, most of those were lacking in quality. LouCity won out in the expected goals (xG) department, but both teams were under one. This was very much a playoff type of match. A chess match on the pitch with limited scoring opportunities. One data point that stuck out was the boys in purple passing percentage. They accrued a 69% accurate pass percentage, a rather low percentage for this squad. Over 62% of those accurate passes were in the opposition’s half compared to RGV’s 41%. All in all, Louisville city was the better team, but it wasn’t by a large margin.
Player Of The Match
The absences of Niall McCabe, Tyler Gibson, and Corben Bone gave Paolo DelPiccolo an opportunity to step up, and he did just that. Beyond serving as captain, he made an assist, had two very close scoring opportunities, and helped guide his team through this rather unique matchup. He is an insanely intelligent player who does the little things very well, and it was much needed on the night with all the absences and oddities. Honorable mention goes to Manny Perez, who had a great match, particularly in the first half. He has been a big problem for defenses lately!
It was not the ideal scenario heading into this match. The boys were on the road against an unfamiliar foe who, like LouCity, could really use the points. Mix in the absence of several regulars and you have a nerve-wracking affair for fans of Morados. Thankfully, despite the adversity, the team executed. Everyone stepped up and reverting to a back three (which has had very mixed results this season) a much-needed win was earned. “We changed our shape. We’ve had a lot of injuries and suspensions, obviously. To go out there and do exactly as we’ve worked on all week was fantastic,” Coach Cruz said. “I thought the intensity and mentality from the group was exactly where it needed to be.” It was a tight race for first in the East and they did what they could do. Thankfully, some results outside of their control also went their way. We got a little help from Paco Craig and Speedy Williams down in Miami, who earned a late win against Memphis, putting Louisville back in control of their own destiny.
Louisville City is now at 20 wins and 66 points, tying the club record set in 2018 for each category. With two games to go, both will likely be broken. On top of that, Kyle Morton broke Greg Ranjitsingh’s shutout record. All in all, a good night in the office. My optimism has largely rebounded to pre-Memphis loss levels. With two matches to go (both at home), it’s looking like LouCity will get to enter the post-season with positive vibes (and maybe time off to recuperate during the first round).
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