It has been 254 days since I last wrote a ‘Preview’ article for PSN. We had the post-Hounds defeat USL Playoffs, then the offseason, the pre-season, the first two weeks of the 2020 USL season, and then… four months of quarantine.
And when the new attenuated USL schedule was announced it was kind of bizarre that the Hounds were slated to play Louisville City. They were the last team the Hounds faced 8 months and 11 days ago. In case I need to refresh your memory, the lavender boys outlasted the Hounds at Highmark with a 2-1 win. The game wasn’t decided until a 118th-minute goal from Paolo DiPiccolo ended the Hounds post-season playoff run. LouCity would go on to beat Indy Eleven in the Conference Finals on November 9 and advance to the USL Championship… uh … Championship game, where they were beaten 3-1 by Real Monarchs SLC.
In the offseason, there was some turnover, but not as much as you come to expect in the USL. Clearly LCFC coach John Hackworth likes the foundation that this team has built. In a shortened season, having a cohesive unit that knows each other is probably a good thing.
Louisville were fortunate enough to get to play a match way back in March, before the universe imploded, and earned a 1-0 win over North Carolina FC, which gives us a small sense of how they might line up against the Hounds on Sunday.
Let’s just take a look at the Starting XI for Louisville in November 2019 versus March 2020.
Circled in yellow are the new squad members for Louisville. At the back you’ll notice Ben Lundt in at goal instead of Chris Hubbard – both are on the roster, both played more than 10 games in 2019, so either one could start the opener. Louisville kept both their outside backs but brought on a pair of USL veterans in Wesley Charpie (formerly of Memphis 901 FC) and Jimmy Ockford (formerly of Nashville SC). Former centerback Paco Craig has moved on to English League One side Wycombe Wanderers. Ah USL defenders; you come and go, you come and go.*
Both CBs are capable and experienced, so Louisville should continue to be solid defending team in 2020. They conceded 41 goals in 2019, pegging them a solid but unspectacular 6th in USL’s Eastern conference.
In midfield, Napo Matsoso, Brian Ownby, Devon ‘Speedy’ Williams and Oscar Jimenez are all back. One of City’s biggest offseason acquisitions for 2020 is 31-year-old MLS and USL veteran Corben Bone. The physical midfielder with excellent swivel-vision was part of FC Cincinnati’s ascension to MLS in 2019, and after Cincy posted a dismal 6-22-6 record, he was jettisoned in their rebuild effort.
The other big signing for this year is Cameron Lancaster, the 2018 USL Golden Boot winner with Louisville. He was acquired by Nashville for their final USL year in 2019, and then loaned back to Louisville for 2020: which is pretty good for Lancaster, since Nashville were unfortunately forced to pull out of the ‘MLS is Back’ tournament due to 10 players on the squad testing positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the tournament. Lancaster is a dynamic, talented, and well-rounded striker that bursts into spaces well, poaches in front of goal well, and shoots from range well. There were some injuries in 2019, and Lancaster fell to being the second-choice striker behind the electric Daniel Rios, so look for 2020 to be a ‘comeback’ year for Lancaster. He scored Louisville’s goal in their season opener in March.
Here’s what I said about Louisville back in November 2019:
The main thing to know about Louisville City is that they essentially play what is known as ‘Total Football’ – any player in any starting position will drift into a different spot, and their teammate will fill or overload as needed. Bob Lilley described it thusly: “Louisville interchanges better than most teams. They will interchange. They won’t play in fixed positions.”
Check the pre-game lineup and where players are supposedly supposed to be on the pitch. During the game, you might see somebody pop up in a spot and say to yourself ‘Hey! He’s not supposed to be there!’ Exactly. Total Football.
Lilley added, “They typically like to break you down in that space between the midfielders and the defenders and gain momentum and run through you by sending multiple runners.”
“They’re pretty crafty.”
Their March lineup was something like a 4-3-3. In attack, Bone and Williams will likely hold the ball centrally while Matsoso will likely play a bit more forward as a creative midfielder. I expect that will push Speedy Williams and Oscar Jimenez up higher when Louisville is surging forward across the center stripe.
It is also worthy to note that this match will the inaugural game for Louisville’s all-new soccer-specific stadium, Lynn Family Stadium, and will be played in front of up to 5,000 fans, LouCity will likely come into this game with a sense of purpose and desire to deliver an exciting and memorable game. Louisville’s stadium is perhaps the best facility in USL history – I was planning to take a road trip there this season just to marvel at the new facility – before the pandemic hit (oh well, maybe next year.) The stadium certainly raises the bar for USL teams going forward, and might even make MLS take notice of what’s happening in Kentucky and put them in consideration for an expansion team somewhere down the road.
Last Week’s Starting Lineup
Date: Sunday, July 12, 2020
Time: 5 p.m. EST
Location: Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, KY
Live Updates: PittsburghSoccerNow.com; Twitter at @pghsoccernow, @RiverhoundsSC and #LOUvPIT
— — — — — — — — —