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  • Writer's pictureBenton

Match Recap – San Diego Loyal vs Louisville City – 04/16/2022

Photo Credit: San Diego Loyal

After the routing of Loudoun, the boys in purple hopped on a cross-country flight to San Diego, where their next opponent awaited them. The Loyal have had a great start to the 2022 season and as things stood at the moment, SDvLOU appeared to be a clash of two teams destined to make deep runs in the playoffs. The league’s top offense in the Loyal and the top defense in Louisville City. A big test for both teams with all the makings of an instant classic.


Most stat websites are showing LouCity’s formation as a 4-1-4-1, however, it appeared to be the team’s trademark 4-3-3. The fluidity of the system this season has seemingly tricked the systems producing the lineup formations. With Amadou Dia absent from the lineup after exiting LDNvLOU in discomfort, Sean Totsch entered the mix. All other positions remained the same as the previous match and it appears to be Coach Danny Cruz’s top selections for each role.

First Half

Louisville City wasted little time making a splash on the west coast. At 4’, the San Diego Loyal intercepted a LouCity pass at the top of their own box. Unfortunately for them, they did not have solid possession of the first touch, and Wilson Harris took advantage of that. He swiped the ball, juked around the last defender in the box and around the charging keeper, and rolled the ball into the net for an early goal for the visitors.

The fun didn’t last for Morados. At 13’, the Loyal snuck behind Louisville’s backline, resulting in a scrambling Sean Totsch earning a yellow and granting the home team a PK for his efforts to try to stymie the attack. It was odd to see City’s defense get exposed like that, however; there might have been a missed offsides call on the play. I’ll let you be the judge.

The Loyal made the most of their time at the PK spot and leveled the game 1-1. A few minutes later, Brian Ownby showed off his speed by stealing a pass in the Loyal’s box and firing off a shot that their keeper was able to deflect away. At 25’, Jorge Gonzalez had an open header opportunity, but the ball sailed wide. Louisville appeared to be the slightly better team during the tightly contested first half. That edge showed itself in the dying minutes of the half. In five minutes of stoppage, City took a corner. The Loyal’s GK got his hands on the ball but was unable to bring it in. Wes Charpie took advantage of this blunder and hammered the ball through traffic into the net for LouCity’s second of the night. It’s always nice to enter halftime with a lead, especially when the final goal is right before the whistle.

Second Half

Not to be outdone by the first half, the second half kept the dramatics coming. At 48’, a handball gave LouCity a freekick just outside of the Loyal’s box. The freekick was deflected off the wall, however; the ball went off the outstretched arm of a defender and a PK was awarded to Louisville. It was Totsch who lined up at the spot and took the penalty. With expert poise, the defender drained it to put his team up 3-1.

The Loyal quickly struck back. At 53’, a long pass downfield resulted in a one-on-one tussle for the ball in which the San Diego attacker won. He took a well-placed angled shot from the side of the box that got past Kyle Morton. City was still up but the home team was right back within one. Disaster struck again only a few minutes later. The Loyal was looking to play the ball quickly into City’s half. Totsch, who was in a position to get beat on the quick counterattack, pulled the attacker down. He was awarded his second yellow of the night and sent off. Louisville City was now down to ten men with plenty of match left to play. At 61’, LouCity made their first subs sending in Jan Erik Leinhos (his USL debut) and Niall McCabe for Paolo DelPiccolo and Corben Bone. Roughly ten minutes later, Ian Soler and Napo Matsoso came on and relieved Harris and Jorge. The next twist in this wild match occurred at 82’. Morton lobbed a long kick into mid-field where Ownby was waiting to receive it. Using his trademark speed, he left the defenders trailing. With limited options, one defender opted to push him down in the box. The referee went straight to the red card and awarded the penalty. It was now a ten-on-ten affair with LouCity granted an opportunity to widen their lead. McCabe went to the spot and did just that. 4-2 Louisville City.

The SD Loyal wasn’t ready to give up. One minute into stoppage, the Loyal had some dangerous movement in City’s box which resulted in a close shot Morton was able to deflect away. In the 94’ minutes, Morton blasted the ball into the Loyal’s final third. The defender on-ball did not immediately realize that Ownby was honing in on the ball as he was allowing it to bounce to the keeper at the box’s edge. Ownby hit it off course to keep it out of the GK’s hands. The keeper tried to tackle Ownby, but he got by and easily slotted the ball into the net to seal City’s victory with their 5th goal.

By The Numbers

The multiple red cards skew the numbers a bit, but here is what we’ve got. The Loyal ended up out-possessing Louisville. However, LouCity did have the edge 54% to 46% in the first half, when both teams had eleven men. Shots/shots on target weren’t as impacted, interestingly enough. City has 16 shots with seven on target all match compared to SD’s 14 shots and five on target with the vast majority of the home teams occurring in the 2nd half where they were up a man for most of it (12/4 in the 2nd). Louisville did have the xG edge 3.28 to 2.15, but it was a wild match, so take it with a grain of salt. SofaScore’s attack momentum (below with the peaks representing “the pressure of a team throughout the match”) is probably the most interesting piece from the match. It does well to showcase how dominant LouCity was in this match until the wheels fell off with Totsch’s red card. Despite that, Morados still walked out with a silly 5-2 win.

Shots, Assists, Key Passes, and Heat Map

Player Of The Match

Brian Ownby. One goal, one unofficial assist drawing a PK, and the most duels won in the match (10). His full impact isn’t even clearly quantified in the numbers. He is a workhorse and uses his speed to cause havoc for the opposition. This is the second time in this short season that he has been able to remain a legitimate offensive threat despite his team being a man down. Ownby had a phenomenal 2021, and he looks like he wants 2022 to be even better.

Full-Time Thoughts

You can call this match a lot of things, but “boring” isn’t one of them. It was an absolute barnburner and an instant classic that lived up to the hype. There was quite literally a full moon, and it gave us a LouCity game we won’t soon forget. Lots of stressful moments for both the home and away fans. A match that would have even gotten a neutral fan worked up. Post-match, Coach Cruz stated, “When you look at two teams that clearly didn’t like one another tonight — a lot of flying tackles, a lot of goals, a lot of bite from everybody on that field — these are the games you want your players playing in. It certainly felt like a playoff game tonight.” The boys in purple certainly left it all on the pitch. There were highs and lows, but ultimately City prevailed in their toughest challenge this season. “I spoke to the players on the field afterward, which I never do. I was really, really proud of the fight from the group, especially after going down a man.”

Beating the top of the west and the most potent offense sent a statement to the rest of the league. If you didn’t already recognize Louisville City as the powerhouse they are, you do now. LouCity is unbeaten through seven games, the longest stretch to open a USL Championship campaign for a club that has twice lifted a trophy at season’s end. At 5-0-2, their 17 points are best across the league, in which LouCity is the final undefeated club left. FiveThirtyEight now has LouCity with the highest percentage to make the final (30%) and to win it (16%). John Morrissey has bumped City up to number one on his power rankings. LouCity fans have known this, but now we have the huge win to back it up.

“Obviously it’s early in the season, but Danny’s instilled from the beginning that we want to win everything we try for,” Brian Ownby said. “That’s practice — you’ll see these guys getting after each other — and that translates to the game. I think sometimes practice is harder than a game. That’s what’s so great about this team. It translates to these Saturday nights. It’s still early, but we’re off on the right foot.” File that under things you like to hear. It’s becoming clear this team has all the makings to be special. The question now is “Can they keep it up?” Can Coach Cruz keep them grounded and continue set them up for success tactically? Can the squad stay healthy? Will the team’s depth counterbalance any eventually slumps in play from our top performers? There are a lot of uncontrollable factors, but as far as things that can be controlled, Louisville City is doing nearly everything right. If they keep it up, they could be playing late into the year.

Parting Thoughts

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