Coach Cruz and the boys found redemption against Tulsa last Saturday to make it four straight wins. While their play has not been perfect, the list of things to complain about is comfortably short. Next Sunday, LouCity will have to leave the comfort of Lynn Family Stadium to take on the OKC Energy. Louisville City won the previous two matchups 3-1 and 2-1, both of which were at home. With the season over halfway completed, fringe playoff teams like the Energy will have it all to play for.
Overall, OKC is a fairly average team. Their 1.2 goals conceded per match (13th) (1.2 xGA) and 5 clean sheets (8th) aren’t exactly jaw-dropping and their 4.2 shots on target per match (16th) and 1.1 goals per match (26th) (1.2 xGF) are underwhelming. According to the “good-lucky” matrix (data as of 08/10/2021), they are a little more “bad” than they are “unlucky”. As of this writing, they are 6th in the Central Division, close behind Indy, Tulsa, and ATL2. However, they have played in more matches than all by ATL. FiveThirtyEight only has them at a 22% chance to make the playoffs but that is up from the 9% they were at on 05/30/2021. They recently lost to Indy and drew with ATL, so that didn’t exactly help their cause.
As far as key players go, we could talk about the likes of Frank López, Robert Coronado, Conor Donovan, or Aidan Daniels, but really, only Villyan Bijev is worth the time to dig into. He is no Hadji Barry, but he is doing his damndest to be the next best thing. He leads his team in several categories, including goals (9), assists (3), shots on target per match (1.2), and big chances created (4). He is tied for 5th in the golden boot race and tied for 11th for total shots in the league. He is averaging a 7.26 player rating, only second to Coronado (7.46). The Bulgarian is having quite the season.
FiveThirtyEight says that LouCity has a 46% chance to win the Sunday-night showdown and a 27% chance that Bijev and the home team wrangle up all three points. City has beaten them twice already and has been mowing through the competition. Provided that they are keeping their nose to the grindstone and take each opponent seriously, there is little reason to believe they would lose a matchup like this.
The Bigger Picture
Given that the regular season is already over half over, it’s important to step back and take a look at where things are and appear to be heading. City holds a great position in the Central Division. Louisville is a full six points ahead of Birmingham, with everyone else far behind. It would take some bad head-to-head matches with the Legion and a few other dropped points along the way to drop out of that top spot. Theirs to lose. Regardless, their place in the playoffs is all but official. With a >99% chance, according to FiveThirtyEight, they will have a post-season. A regular-season championship is a little less assured. Phoenix and El Paso are 2 and 1 point behind LouCity currently, but each has a game in hand. FiveThirtyEight thinks it's Phoenix’s to lose, but it’s tight. All Morados can do is control what they can control, and that is winning the matches they participate in. Looking beyond the playoff berth and potentially winning the regular season, LouCity has the 2nd greatest chance to both make (31%) and win (16%) the final (according to, you guessed it, FiveThirtyEight). Phoenix wins out there too (39% and 26%). Phoenix Rising, El Paso Locomotive, and even the Tampa Bay Rowdies are all teams to check on periodically if you are looking ahead to some of the challenges that City may be facing later.
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