Louisville City are the team to beat in USL. Although their recent run of form – three consecutive ties in USL play – saw Louisville City fall out of the number one spot in the Eastern Conference, that’s due to their deep run in the US Open Cup, a competition that the team is clearly taking quite seriously. LCFC have four USOC wins, including victories over the New England Revolution and a win last week over Nashville SC that have propelled them to the quarterfinals, the farthest of any team in USL. That effort clearly is a strain on this team: Louisville’s match tonight will be their fourth battle in 13 days. The squad has been rotated a fair bit, which perhaps explains the draws, but they’ve still gotten results all year long and will be at home, where their record this season in USL play is an undefeated 5-0-1.
Formation and Tactics
Coach James O’Connor has Louisville play in a 4-2-3-1 that is enhanced by their home turf. The team plays on a baseball field, which means that the field is a little shorter and a lot narrower – a typical soccer field usually plays at 115 yards by 75 yards, but soccer fields played at baseball parks like Yankee Stadium usually come out at 110 x 70, and rumors abound that Yankee is actually 68 yards wide. I couldn’t find Slugger Field’s soccer dimensions, but it is narrow, and the turf quality on one end (the part that overlays the infield dirt) is bumpy and poor, causing a disadvantage to the attacking team.
Louisville really can do it all. Their goalkeeper, Greg Ranjitsingh, is one of the better distributors out of the back, both long and short passes. They move the ball well and they have pace at both wings with Brian Ownby on the right and Devon ‘Speedy’ Williams on the left. They preferred to dribble at their Saturday opponent, North Carolina FC rather than go over the top, but I saw them lump it and chase earlier in the season when they played Nashville SC. Their striker in this match, Ilija Ilic, can create in the box all by himself if you don’t pounce and close him down, and midfield number 10 Niall McCabe, an unheralded Irishman who played Division II NCAA ball and NPSL soccer with Chattanooga before joining Louisville in 2015 is really clear and decisive with his passes, and his through-ball touch in this last match at times was impeccable.
Having conceded only 12 goals this year, their defense is clearly impressive. Of USL’s 33 teams, only Orange County, Nashville, and Pittsburgh have been better defensively. That said, in their last 3 league matches, Louisville has given up 5 goals, so perhaps they’re hitting a bumpy patch.
Other than the players I’ve mentioned, Louisville has their leading scorer Cameron Lancaster. Lancaster is the answer to this trivia question: what USL player made his professional debut by coming on for Emanuel Adebayor and scoring a game-winning goal for Tottenham Hotspur in stoppage time? Well, that’s impressive. Lancaster was cut by Spurs in 2014, and since then he has 18 goals for Louisville City, including 6 this year. He didn’t play last Saturday with a shoulder injury, and he’s listed as questionable for the game against Pittsburgh. Paolo Delpicollo is one of two defensive midfielders and the captain. He’s fast, passes well, and does the tackling dirty work too. In central defense, Sean Totsch and Paco Craig are tall and mobile and unrelenting. The team looks like they could compete at the MLS level, a point emphasized by their Open Cup results. Nobody should be upset if the Riverhounds are only capable of managing a draw in this match.
In their last five matches, including US Open Cup, Louisville City FC has 3 wins and 2 draws.