LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The folk wisdom is this: If you get thrown off the horse, get right back on and go forward. Unfortunately, the folk wisdom doesn’t say anything about what to do if the horse kicks you by an 8-goal margin over back-to-back games.
Might as well get back at it. At least, that’s the feeling of the Louisville City Football Club, which will get right back onto the pitch for a U.S. Open Cup match against Lexington SC of USL League One at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Lynn Family Stadium.
It will come just days after the most lopsided defeat in club history, a stunning 5-0 setback at Sacramento on Saturday, which followed a 3-0 loss to El Paso in LouCity’s home opener a week prior.
Losing is one thing. But the manner of the consecutive shutouts — conceding twice the number of goals in two games that they gave up in the entire first two months of last season — has left many around the club looking for answers. Picked as a prohibitive USL favorite with a league-record number of returning players, this team did not figure to be a candidate for the kind of early-season wobbles it now is experiencing.
But the heavy travel schedule, along with some injury and availability issues, have contributed to an early crisis of confidence.
"It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for sure," Louisville coach Danny Cruz said before the club’s training on Tuesday morning. "But there's no panic from myself, from the staff, from the players. It's just making sure that, you know, we get our confidence back, we're confident in what we're trying to do. Definitely uncharacteristic, and not making any excuses for it. It's, it's been a difficult few weeks with the travel and trying to get guys healthy. But at the end of the day, we fell way below expectations on the weekend. And we're excited about the opportunity to get a game as quick as we can here after a result like that. ... If we had played at home on Saturday, it would have been more ideal."
"It’s good for us to have a quick turnaround," star defender Josh Wynder said. "I think we can come out here Wednesday and hopefully get the win and start another long run of wins."
Nothing, however, can be taken for granted, not after conceding eight goals in two games.
Cruz said the club has reviewed its performances, but noted that the issues were a bit different in each loss.
"We didn't do a good job of pressing against Sacramento," Cruz said. "We went, but we were late. So, the mentality was not good enough. I thought that, more importantly, when you're late in those moments against quality teams, they're able to pick you apart. And you saw that against Sacramento over and over again. Against El Paso, I thought we did a really poor job with the ball. And that led to some issues defensively. But teams are continuing to do what we expect them to do, which is exploit the ball going long. We're a high-pressing team. But we have to go at the right moment so that the spacing doesn't get as big between, from the front to the back. So different reasons, I think, for both losses, but we have to be better winning our duels in the backline. We haven't done a good enough job of that."
Personnel issues have been a bit of a factor. Wes Charpie, a key component of the club’s back line, has yet to play this season because of injury. Others had been out at various times, though the injured list was down to just two players when LouCity traveled to Sacramento.
"We went through a course last year where we lost a couple games," Cruz said. "And we went on a 10-game, 11-game run from there. These bumps in the road happen during the season. This just happened earlier than, obviously, any of us wanted, on the back of three long trips to California. But at the end of the day, the group is still special, the group still is confident in what we're trying to do. It's just making sure that we respond. We have to get guys healthy, too. That's one of the biggest things. I have two center backs healthy at the moment. And again, it's not about the quality of the individual. It's when you have people challenging for positions, it ultimately makes everybody better. And right now, we haven't had the ability to do that at all this season with regard to the back line. We've played with, I think now, three different pairings out of the four games. And that's not ideal when you're looking at trying to get guys on the same page and some new players who are looking at new tendencies. So, there's some things that we looked at after the game against Sacramento. And it's the same things we looked at after El Paso as well as Orange County and Monterey. I don't I don't stray from that process."
US OPEN CUP NOTES:
LouCity FC is 13-6 in Lamar Hunt US Open Club play. The competition allows clubs from all levels of US soccer to compete for a single championship. Louisville’s deepest run in the tournament came in 2018, when it reached the quarterfinals, beating the New England Revolution of MLS before losing to the Chicago Fire.
Lexington SC, a new expansion side, is only two games into its history, looking to establish a winning side at the USL’s third division level. The club also sponsors a women’s club, an academy and is looking to build a soccer-specific stadium and training facility.
Wednesday’s meeting between the clubs is a second-round game in the Open Cup. Tickets for the game remain available by visiting LouCity.com/tickets or calling 502-LOU-CITY during regular business hours. Those who can’t make it can tune into streaming coverage on B/R Football’s YouTube channel or listen live on ESPN Louisville’s 680/105.7.
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