Louisville City FC media day focuses on team building, weatherin - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville City FC media day focuses on team building, weathering pre-season woes

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From left to right: Bryan Burke, Juan Guzman, James O'Connor, Amanda Duffy, Conor Shanosky, Matt Fondy. From left to right: Bryan Burke, Juan Guzman, James O'Connor, Amanda Duffy, Conor Shanosky, Matt Fondy.
A look inside the nearly-finished locker rooms in the main concourse at Louisville Slugger Field. A look inside the nearly-finished locker rooms in the main concourse at Louisville Slugger Field.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – As Louisville City FC works through its weather-hampered preseason, coach James O'Connor, general manager Amanda Duffy and several players met with the media Monday.

The players, Conor Shanosky, Matt Fondy, Bryan Burke and Juan Guzman discussed the impact of cold weather on pre-season training and what they're looking forward to as the pro soccer franchise makes its debut. Several primary themes emerged.

Finalizing the roster

A notable gap on the roster thus far is the goalkeeper. Though there have been some bodies in goal in training photos and videos released by the club, they've been mum as to who will fill the role.

Rumors have swirled around the possibility that one of Orlando City's four keepers might find his way to town. Their abundance of talent at that position certainly could mean Louisville City is hoping for one of them.

“We'll have 18 of our own (players) - maybe 19 - then we'll have probably four players from Orlando,” O'Connor explained.

Meanwhile, MLS is going through new CBA negotiations and could be looking at a possible work stoppage from the players.

Nonetheless, O'Connor said he's going ahead with his plans for building a roster.

“We're waiting on the CBA - of course there's potential for a strike - there's a lot we're waiting on,” O'Connor said.

There are obviously players who have been at training but are waiting on approval, though O'Connor says some spots are still yet to be filled.

“We've had some players come in on trial and we're constantly looking,” he said.

He stressed that he wants to makes sure he takes his time to find the right players for his roster.

Building a team

O'Connor has had the opportunity to build his team from the ground up, with a blank slate.

When asked what he set out to find in building that team, O'Connor said it was simple.

“I have a philosophy. and I look for players that fit into that philosophy,” O'Connor said. “We like to play possession-based football. The outline formation is 4-2-3-1.”

The 4-2-3-1 means there will be four defenders, two defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders and one striker.

O'Connor said he wants to play a high press, and the formation leaves a lot of room for flexibility in each role on the field.

The formation with flexible midfielders and wing-backs is conducive to building plays from the back and can involve a lot of overlapping runs by wing-backs and midfielders.

“We're on the same page, where the players understand that game and each position has specific criteria,” O'Connor said. “That's why we've taken so much time to make sure we got the right players.”

Indeed, O'Connor said he's been eyeing most of these guys for a long time. He's been familiar with their game and has been hoping to bring them together.

The players spoke about getting along well and instantly bonding. Of the four players present at media day, all had connections to one another.

“The soccer community is pretty small,” Burke said. “It's not hard to get to know these guys.”

When asked what he hopes to bring to the new team aside from his goal-scoring ability, Fondy spoke simply of bringing the team together.

“I'm a friendly guy. I hope to bring a positive attitude to the team,” Fondy said. “It's a good group, and hopefully we'll have a good product on the field.”

“I'm really excited with the players we have here,” O'Connor said.

Getting outside

The statement from O'Connor was simple.

“We haven't been able to get outside and do some proper work.”

Preseason training has been forced indoors for the past two weeks due to weather, and the team's first two preseason exhibitions have been cancelled due to unplayable fields – while Tuesday's exhibition against Indiana University has been moved into the indoor football training facility on campus.

O'Connor said the focus in the past two weeks has been on fitness and getting to know one another. And the players understand that.

“Preseason is all about getting fit and getting to know each other.” Fondy said. “It's a combination of getting into the gym and getting your touches in.”

“That's one thing James reiterated [in the preseason] was we need to come in fit.” Burke echoed. “I haven't seen anyone falling behind.”

Developing players

As a new coach builds a new franchise, there's no track record or past-season results to look back at. So what does a coach say to sell a player on his vision?

O'Connor says he focuses on player development.

“I want to make sure individually these lads get better,” he said. “We will do individual programs with each of these players.”

For O'Connor, building a team also means building players and getting them where they want to be.

Guzman brings a few years' experience as a hometown hero for the Charlotte Eagles and said moving to Louisville City was a natural decision.

“I'm very excited about this new town and a new opportunity,” Guzman said. “I really enjoyed [playing at Charlotte] but I thought it was time to look for a new challenge.”

Burke comes to Louisville with experience playing with O'Connor at Orlando City. He was among many players from Orlando's USL side who weren't re-signed to the new MLS team.

“It leaves a sour taste in everyone's mouth,” Burke said, when asked about being left off the roster. “Everyone wants to play in MLS … but it just fuels the fire to get back to the MLS.”

Several of Louisville City's players have MLS experience, and O'Connor has spoken of the talent he sees in all of his signings.

USL teams certainly try to distance themselves from a ‘farm league' label - which really isn't all that accurate - but the player sharing agreements are certainly a perk for players and player development has to be key in bringing in talent for coaches like O'Connor.

Preparing for kick off

“I think we're going to be a hard-working team and a team that's going to look to play good soccer and be fun to watch,” Shanosky said.

O'Connor has pledged to play a high press game and the team is hoping to bring high intensity soccer to a dedicated fan base this summer.

“Playing a possession game and playing out of the back is something that suits me as a defender,” Shanosky said. “[We're looking to be] a hard-working, honest team. And hopefully it ends up going well for us.”

When asked what casual soccer fans could look forward to this summer, O'Connor said he doesn't feel the need to explain.

“I'd rather just let our football do the talking.” O'Connor said. “I'd invite everyone to buy a ticket and come out and watch us play.”

The schedule includes 14 home games, and the team is hoping to add at least one more. Louisville City is slated to enter the US Open Cup in April, and Duffy said the club hopes to host at least one round of that tournament.

The major hurdle for that is a Bats game on the same day as Louisville City's first US Open Cup match, meaning the club will have to find another venue for that game.

“We need to find a facility, but we certainly want to host at least one round,” Duffy said.

Meanwhile, the team unveiled their nearly-complete locker rooms at media day and said they are continuing to work on the training grounds at Thurman Hutchins Park.

The team will have two training fields there, but that progress has also been held back by weather recently.

“Still a little ways to go, but we're very close,” Duffy said.

With 27 days to go before the season-opening clash against Saint Louis FC, lots of things are still up in the air. But the club seems confident it will all fall into place in time.

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