The First Five – A Quick Glance At The Start Of Louisville City’s 2023 Season
We are a little over two weeks away from the regular season. While that is close, it’s still also too far away for me! I’m eager to see Louisville City take to the pitch again. In preparation for the upcoming season, I took a quick look at the first five matches. To me, this is the period that will set the tone for the season. Will the team live up to the hype or fall short of expectations? How will the team’s play look compared to the past? Are the new signings working? We will have to wait on some of those questions, but we can take a look at what we are up against and take an educated guess on how those play out. And to help me on this season start overview, I’ve gotten the thoughts of the one and only John Morrissey (USLTactics).
03/11/2023 – At Orange County
LouCity begins their season with a two-game stretch out west beginning with 2021 champs, Orange County. OC came to Lynn Family Stadium in 2022 and walked away empty-handed. 2022, however, was not kind to Orange County. They went from winning it all in 2021 to dead last in the West in 2022. 2023 will be about redemption, but John doesn’t have them climbing high with a projected finish of 8th (out of 12). That’s a slight regression from their 7th projection he gave them midway through the offseason. As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight has given the boys in purple a 41% chance to win to OC’s 32%. Perhaps this is my bias showing, but I’d be willing to guess that LouCity’s odds are slightly better than that despite the long road trip and the lack of footage to plan from on the 2023 version of the opposition.
John: Any team with the reigning Golden Boot winner (Milan Iloski, 22 goals) is potentially dangerous, and Orange County has overhauled much of their mistake-prone defense across the board. Colin Shutler will replace league-worst Patrick Rakovsky in net, and the club also projects to start three or four new faces in defense. The changes will pay dividends eventually, but they could also make for a sloppy start to the season while chemistry develops. Outside of an Iloski masterclass, I think Louisville is due for a good result to open the season.
03/18/2023 – Monterey Bay
Louisville will stay out west for their 2nd match of the 2023 season. LouCity played Monterrey last season, and it was one of the more painful losses considering MB’s standing at the time (8th best xPts against LOU). The first-year club ended 2022 12th of 13 clubs but had an improved 2nd half of the campaign. John is projecting the success to continue as he has them coming in 4th in the West. “Their whole roster is back - mostly on multi-year deals - and projects as a defensively stout, counter-heavy 4-4-1-1 grinder.” Roster consistency has been a staple of LouCity’s success and they have seemed to embrace that despite their year-one finish. It’s a 58% chance for LouCity to win, per FiveThirtyEight, with MB at 18%. This one may be closer than they are projecting, however, Louisville will be quite eager to right the wrongs of their first meeting.
John: Monterey started last season disastrously, starting the year with a seven-game road stretch that included six losses. After that point, the expansion side played at a 47-point pace with a net-zero goal difference. Adding Alex Dixon to the attacking line is a big deal, and they won’t be a pushover at Cardinale Stadium. Their counterattacking system is also well-suited to do damage against Louisville.
03/25/2023 – El Paso Locomotive
Finally, home in LFS. The Trains barely missed the playoffs in 2022 and losing to Morados at home didn’t help. John has them sliding to 10th in 2023. “El Paso is a team that could return to home-field form or miss the playoffs in dysfunction, and I wouldn’t be shocked either way.” Total wildcards. Louisville with a 66% chance to win, according to FiveThirtyEight, to El Paso’s 13%. It’s hard to get a result against Louisville at home, so I’m inclined to agree with Nate Silver’s team.
John: El Paso lost starters all over the pitch this winter, and they’re returning just 50% of their minutes played. That share is 91% for Louisville. Pair the roster overhaul with a third manager in three years, and the Locomotive are due for a slow start. If there’s a threat, it comes from Lucho Solignac (16 goals) and Aaron Gomez (seven assists) returning as the starting strikers. They put up five shots on Kyle Morton when these teams met last season.
04/01/2023 – Sacramento Republic
It’s back on the road for the boys in purple to take on the 2022 US Cup darlings at 4th in the West finishers, Sac Republic. Louisville comfortably beat them last September but they did put up the 7th best xG against LOU. However, I think they are better than that outing. John is expecting them to move up a spot to 3rd, stating that “Mark Briggs’ flash rebuild has been fine-tuned this winter.” They could be top-of-the-league contenders. “If the new faces hit, bigger things are on the horizon, and Sacramento has a track record of grinding out results in a cup format.” 41% chance to win for LouCity and 31% for Sac Republic (per FiveThirtyEight). This could likely be Louisville’s first “big test” of 2023. Three points may be a tall ask, despite the team’s strengths.
John: If Sacramento had a hole last season, it was at the striker spot. None of their forwards scored more than seven times last year. They addressed that issue this offseason by signing Russell Cicerone, who scored twice against Louisville for Pittsburgh in the playoffs last year. The good news? Sacramento has the second-hardest schedule to start the season and the fourth-fewest rest days. Louisville is an opponent you plan around, but the Republic could be tired.
04/08/2023 – Detroit City
We end the stretch of the first five matches with one of the USL’s quietest fanbases. Just kidding, they are the living embodiment of this meme template. Jokes aside, they bring the noise. It’s a home match for Louisville City, but I fully expect the swarm of partial owners to travel well and really change the atmosphere. Given their only appearance at LFS was on a Wednesday, this will be their first real chance to travel in full force. You’ve got to respect the passion they bring. Embracing the heel status. A true successor to FC Cincinnati. Morados beat them three times in 2022 (Open Cup, home, away). Will the boys in purple keep the streak alive? The Motor City footballers squeaked in the playoffs at 7th last season and may take a step back to 10th in 2023. While I expect their defense to remain good, their offense is where most are asking questions. FiveThirtyEight is giving Louisville a whopping 71% chance to win to Detroit’s 9%. While LouCity is the better team on paper, you can’t ignore the level of spice we have seen in their previous matchups. Those testy relations may make this one a much closer contest.
John: Detroit had a fairly disastrous winter, losing USL assist leader Antoine Hoppenot to Hartford as well as stalwarts like Deklan Wynne and Pato Botello; they combined for 37 goals and assists. Additionally, Devon Amoo-Mensah, the club’s best centerback, and Ben Morris, a striker signed from Ipswich Town in England, are both going to miss the start of the season with injuries. Le Rouge played Louisville tough last season without ever getting over the hump, and I see that playing out again early in 2023.
With all that said, what will their record be? My prediction is three wins, a draw, and a loss. OC, MB, and El Paso feel like wins to me with Detroit sneaking out with a point at Lynn Family Stadium and a close loss to Sac Republic on the road. The odds all may be logically in Louisville's favor but its not impossible that some points will be dropped along the way. Closing out the five-game stretch with a draw and a loss will go over like a lead balloon with the LouCity faithful with our expectations, but here is to hoping I am wrong. There is no reason why Louisville can’t get points in Sacramento or comfortably put away Detroit. Time will tell.
How do you think the first five will go? Let me know how wrong I am on Twitter or Facebook!
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Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? I suggest the following:
Meet Elijah Wynder: Louisville City FC’s Trailblazing Young Star
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