Match Recap – Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City – 06/05/2022
After a few matches below expectations, the Tulsa match was a palette cleanser, hopefully signifying a return to form. It would, however, be a tough ask, as Louisville City’s next match was set to be a big one. The return to Tampa (technically, St Petersburg) to take on the Rowdies. The hosts were operating on short rest, so that was in City’s favor, but Tampa did end up getting an extra day (the trip from Tulsa to St Petersburg must have been longer than I thought). While the Rowdies haven’t been perfect this season, they have certainly done enough to warrant respect. Would LouCity get revenge for the 2020 and 2020 Eastern Conference Finals losses, or would the yellow and green continue to haunt the club?
The lineup for this one is largely what you’d expect, minus the absence of Josh Wynder and the exclusion of Manny Perez. Cameron Lancaster, who earned his first start in the previous match, started on the bench in favor of Wilson Harris. Given Harris’ form this season, it’s not a shock for him to still get some of the starts over Cam (especially if Cam is still being carefully managed to not reaggravate his injury). They were lined up in the familiar 4-3-3/4-2-3-1.
This match began with a very frightening moment. Vying for a loose ball in the box, Kyle Morton dove to try and beat the oncoming attacker. Morton and the Rowdies’ attacker collided full force, leaving Morton motionless on the ground. Play was stopped and after several scary minutes, Morton walked off the pitch with the support of the training staff. Backup keeper Danny Faundez entered the match for Morton, making his first LouCity appearance.
At 25’, the Rowdies found a dangerous shot in the box that was deflected just wide of the far post by Wes Charpie. About ten minutes later, a TBR corner kick sailed to the far post, where a charging attacker narrowly missed connecting with the ball. Big missed opportunity. At 39’ was arguably Louisville’s biggest chance of the night. A foul resulting in a free-kick was quickly taken and Harris found himself one-on-one with the keeper. He took a shot on goal but it rolled narrowly wide of the net. At 42’, the Tampa press in LouCity’s final third resulted in a turnover. Charpie was on the attacker now in possession and made light contact, which made him hit the deck and draw a penalty. The PK was taken and converted, giving the hosts a lead right before the half. A very controversial and frustrating moment for the boys in purple. The half, however, was not over. Due to Morton’s injury, there were seven minutes of added time. At 45’+3, a great passing sequence by Tampa in City’s box resulted in a close shot Faundez did well to get in front of. Faundez again was forced to make another great save at 45’+5. The score remained 1-0 when the halftime whistle blew.
The second half, unfortunately, offered little in the way of excitement. A handful of subs were made including Cam and Matiti Mushagalusa in at the start of the half, Niall McCabe and Ray Serrano in at 74’, and Napo Matsoso entering the match at 88’, however, there were next to no threatening opportunities from either side. City had 65% possession in the second half but only had three off-target shots to show for it. One of the more boring halves of LouCity soccer in quite some time. The Rowdies were able to hang on to their 1-0 lead and claim victory in front of their home crowd.
By The Numbers
The stat that summarizes this match the best is that Louisville City only took five shots and ZERO were on target. Very uncharacteristic for the normally dangerous team. Props to Tampa for containing the attack. Tampa, conversely, took 12 shots with four on target. Interestingly, only one off-target shot was taken in the second half. They were content with holding down the 1-0 score line. As alluded to above, City beat Tampa in possession (60% for the full match) but not much was done with that time on the ball as seen with Louisville’s paltry 0.42 xG. The PK may have been very questionable, but Tampa, with an xG of 2.37, clearly deserved the win.
Player Of The Match
It may have been an ugly match (more on that shortly), but Danny Faundez’s performance is worthy of praise. You couldn’t have asked for more from Danny in that match. When his number was called, he was ready to go, making a number of big stops. The hosts could have easily earned a more lopsided score line if it were not for his efforts.
I hate to keep referencing back to the Monterey match, but much like that one; we saw a shockingly flat Louisville City side. While Morton’s injury certainly rattled the team, it would be a stretch to blame the loss and performance on the moment. Tampa had answers for everything Louisville tried and not even talent of the bench could crack the code. LouCity had only one serious chance, and it was off a cheeky quick start. It’s part of the game, but it is disappointing that was the only way the squad could create a big chance.
As usual, Coach Danny Cruz put it best; “I thought the first half was extremely poor for the group. Pretty much every aspect of it was really disappointing. We didn’t create enough on both sides of the ball. It’s a terrible result but more frustrating because of the performance, not necessarily the result.” Losing to the Rowdies is one thing, but it was another to do so in that fashion. If Tulsa was one step forward, this match was one step back. “The game (was) very frustrating,” said captain Paolo DelPiccolo. “It’s not the standard that we hold ourselves to. It’s something that, quite honestly, is just not good enough. For us, it’s very disappointing”
It seems like the perfect timing for a bye week. Louisville now has a few matches’ worth of game tape that can be reviewed to try and see what can be done to get the squad back to where they were at the start of the season. The talent is there. Coach Cruz has made repeated mentions of mentality in most of his post-match interviews. This bye week can serve as the perfect opportunity to not only deep time the tactics and individual performances but also a chance for everyone to step back, clear their heads, and reset. When struggling to solve a problem, sometimes the best thing you can do is step away for a bit. Perhaps this bye week will allow everyone that opportunity.
With all that said, my faith in this squad is unshaken. It’s a long season. There are still many matches to play and many opportunities for the team to continue to learn and grow. Every loss and every subpar performance gives them an opportunity to refine their approach. Better they do that now rather than in the postseason. These guys want to win arguably more than the fans want them to win, and I have confidence they will leave no stone unturned looking for the solution.
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