Next Match – Orange County SC vs Louisville City – 03/11/2023
Coming off a historic 2022 season, Louisville City has bolstered their roster with the likes of Dylan Mares and Rasmus Thellufsen and has their eyes set on a third star in 2023. Coach Danny Cruz’s tone following the preseason matches has largely been positive, but now it’s time to take that play into the regular season where the results count. To begin the campaign, the boys in purple are taking a cross-country road trip to California to take on 2021 champs, Orange County SC.
While the East/West crossover was not as robust as it is in 2023, LouCity did actually play OC last season at home, however, it was a bit of a down year for them. Their numbers had them comfortably in the bad and unlucky category. John Morrissey (USLTactics) predicted an 8th-place finish in the West this season but FiveThirtyEight has them as the 4th best in the West with an 81% chance to make the playoffs (which they missed last season). While Louisville’s roster has been stable (one of the storylines of 2023), OC’s saw a number of changes. The solid staples they kept along with the newcomers could make them more of a challenge than last year.
Players to watch include Milan Iloski, Daniel Pedersen, and newcomer Andrew Fox. Iloski was the Golden Boot winner with 22 goals. What more needs to be said? It’s not too farfetched to think a stronger team around him may make him even better, so let’s hope he gets off to a slow start this season. The Dane, Pedersen, owned the 2nd best player rating for his team in 2022 and placed 3rd for assists with three. The intangible plus of him being a piece of continuity on the team gives him just a little more value as well. And finally, there is the former El Paso man, Fox. A former teammate of LouCity’s Mares, Fox had the Locomotives 5th best player rating at 6.98. He was one of OC’s bigger offseason acquisitions, so a lot of weight will be on his shoulder to help his new team. It’s also worth noting that one of their new forwards, Emil Nielsen, was teammates with LouCity’s Thellufsen at Lyngby in Denmark!
While Orange County has home-field advantage for this opening match, the USL Championship runners-up have been given the edge with a 41% chance to win to OC’s 32% chance. Louisville is somewhat of a known entity, but Orange County made a number of changes, so don’t rule them out by any stretch of the imagination. The element of tactical surprise could be a difference-maker given the lack of film on the 2023 version of this team.
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