Match Recap: Saint Louis FC vs Louisville City – 08/29/2020
Coming off a BIG win against Indy Eleven on Wednesday, Louisville City hit the road for the first time since March (before ‘rona kicked into high gear) to take on our favorite frenemies, St Louis FC. Having had the luxury of staying put since the restart, an away test appeared as if it could cause a little disruption in the positive momentum Lou City had been building up. St Louis, who was lucky to not play on Wednesday, was just bumped to third in Group E with City’s win and were eager to snag a home win to put them back in a playoff spot. They did earn three points in the previous 2020 meeting between these two clubs. Although they are unable to have supporters at the match, St Louis wants to end the final chapters of the Kings Cup on a high note.
Lou City rolled out the 4-3-3, as expected. What wasn’t expected was some of the personnel changes that were made. A winning formula has seemingly been discovered, however, tactical considerations and fixture congestion may have led to a few tweaks. Napo Matsoso and Oscar Jimenez were left on the bench and Pat McMahon missed out on the eighteen altogether. In their places were Brain Ownby, Jonathan Gomez, and Akil Watts. Also notable was the return of Abdou Mbacke Thiam to the eighteen. After a few poor performances early on, he had been MIA for a while. St Louis did not hold back and deployed what appeared to be their best eleven which included Kyle Greig, Russell Cicerone, Todd Wharton, and Wal Fall.
The match began with a moment bigger than the sport. Both teams knelt, in silence, for seven minutes in representation for the number of times Jacob Blake was shot during yet another instance of police brutality. Even the broadcast went silent. It was a powerful moment that forced the viewer to reflect upon the issues facing our country. Two rival teams united for one cause.
Upon the conclusion of the impactful statement made by the players, the game commenced and it did not take long for the action to begin. At 10’, Cameron Lancaster made a terrific shot off a volley sent into the box by JoGo. Had that not been dealt with by the keeper, it would have been a spectacular goal. Ben Lundt managed to stop a dangerous header coming off a STL corner kick at 16’. Early in this match, St Louis controlled the tempo and kept the ball in the Louisville half. It was a bit uncharacteristic to see City having to play into the opponent’s game. They did, however, seem to find their aggression and normal attacking selves around the 24’ mark. At 30’, Ownby sent a long cross into the box which found the head of Sean Totsch and it was put into the net. It was a wonderful treat getting to see Totsch bag a goal. He has been fantastic all season. Well deserved. You love to see it!
Out of the subsequent hydration break, Lou City was losing the possession battle, having only had the ball 32% of the time. This is strange given the team’s history of dominating possession but, thankfully, that is not a stat that wins games in itself. At 35’, Watts made a great tackle that helped to slow a St Louis counter-attack. Momentum began to build in Louisville City’s favor. They were beginning to get more comfortable in unusual surroundings. Lou City found themselves in a dangerous position at 45’ when a cross made it into the box to the feet of Cicerone, however, he was unable to test Lundt with the ball. Two minutes of stoppage passed and Morados went into the locker rooms leading the match.
Halfway through the encounter, Sean Totsch was looking great with a goal on the board and a player rating of 7.7. Ownby, who provided the assist, was not looking half bad, earning himself a rating of 7.3. City’s possession percent did increase but only up to 37%. Both squads were passing well; St Louis had an 86% pass completion rate and Louisville was at 82%. City was also managing to keep their shot selection in a much better spot than it was earlier in the 2020 campaign. They had four total shots with two being on target. Resuming play, STL’s Mour Samb created a dangerous moment at 47’ when he worked the ball into the box but was unable to get a shot off. St Louis kept the pressure on with a threatening cross in the box at 53’. The first yellow of the night was awarded to Totsch at 54’ for a poor tackle on Fall. Watts had a moment of magic at 58’ when he opted to take the ball past several St Louis players into the box. He tested the keeper with a shot but it was blocked. It was a nice attempt and exciting to see a young defender create an attacking opportunity of his own. At 61’, Cicerone managed to take a low, quick shot about 20 yards out that was stopped by a diving Lundt. Unfortunately, at 64’, STL struck back. A well-placed, long pass by Fall put Samb one on one with Lundt. Ben was unable to stop the shot and the home team tallied up their first goal of the night. A slightly controversial moment happened at 66’ when the STL keeper knocked over Ownby fighting for a loose ball in the box. The ref waved it off, however, upon replay, it was a decision that could have gone either way. With VAR still many, many years away for the USL, it was not something that could be altered after the protest was waved away. The first substitution of the match occurred at 69’ with Napo coming on for Paolo DelPiccolo. With this switch, Napo returned to his more traditional midfield role. At 73’, it was a scary instance when Totsch was dispossessed which lead to a STL cross and a near header into the goal. That stoppage of play led to Cicerone being subbed out for former Lou City player, Kadeem Dacres. A minute later, Wharton was carded and the second hydration break of the night was called.
City’s possession had continued to creep up (42%) and the teams shot selection maintained (eight shots with four on target). After play resumed, a frightening moment happened at 74’ when Totsch and a STL’s Jeremy Gagnn-Lapare had a very hard collision. Both players went down and a nice sized cut began to bleed on Totsch’s head. The stoppage resulted in Totsch, as well as Cam and Antoine Hoppenot, coming off for Thiam, Jimmy Ockford, and Luke Spencer. These subs signaled Coach Hackworth’s desire to break the deadlock and secure a win. Time began to dwindle as the back and forth battle persisted. JoGo made a great interception to stop the STL attack at 87’ but time was running out. Seven minutes of stoppage was added, however, no one was able to create an opportunity with the remaining time.
Neither side will be satisfied with the result but Lou City has to be the team that has come out slightly better in the exchange. While they did not get the points needed to inch closer towards challenging Indy for first, they did retain second while playing away from home. St Louis’ statistics were slightly better in most categories. Totsch, JoGo, and Watts all played well having earned player ratings of 7.8, 7.0, and 7.2. Totsch earned man of the match (and rightfully so). Cam and Hoppenot were fairly quiet on the night. I didn’t love seeing Napo left out of the eleven. Based on his recent play, he could have added that extra attacking edge that could have maybe broke the deadlock. I did appreciate that Abdou Mbacke Thiam got to see the pitch again, albeit for a restricted period and to limited impact..
This draw and a Sporting Kansas win elsewhere keeps the Group E standings close. Only six points are separating the top from the bottom of the group. FiveThirtyEight are still favoring Indy and Lou City to survive the group with a 93% and a 71% chance to make the postseason. St Louis and Sporting KC will meet on Friday, so City will know what’s at stake in the group when they take on Indy at Lucas Oil Stadium. We may be avoiding losses but things are not getting any less stressful. Let’s see if Lou City can start to pull away sooner than later!