Eastern Conference Showdown as New York Comes to LouCity
New York Red Bulls II, currently at the top of the Eastern Conference table, will square off against two-time defending champion Louisville City FC Saturday night at Slugger Field in Louisville, Ky.
It'll be the top-ranked team the East vs. the hottest team in the East in a battle that could have huge playoff implications.
"We have our hands full with New York coming to town," Louisville City coach John Hackworth said. "They have been excellent all year long. They are really a difficult team to play against and they are so good at transition."
New York was the first team in the East to clinch a playoff spot, earning three points in a win over Charlotte Friday night. At 56 points, New York currently leads the East along with Indy Eleven (56, Tampa Bay (53), Nashville (51) and Pittsburgh (51). Louisville City caught North Carolina FC at 47 points with its win over Hartford Athletic Saturday.
"We have said it all year long regardless of where we are in the standings that we feel we are as good as anyone else in this league, if not better," Hackworth said. "And that's exactly what we plan to do this week. This gives us the best opportunity to do what we say we are going to do, and then if we win we have the right to make that claim."
Louisville City is the only team in the East which is unbeaten in the last five matches as the Boys in Purple are currently riding a seven-game unbeaten streak. After losing on July 28, Louisville City reeled off four straight wins, then a pair of draws, and then a win Saturday at Hartford.
The last time Louisville City faced New York Red Bulls II, the Red Bulls got a goal in the 83' from 18-year old phenom Mathias Jorgensen to win 1-0 at Montclair State in New Jersey. Jorgensen is now on the 30-man active roster for the Red Bulls.
These two teams have tremendous history as Louisville City and New York Red Bulls II have been two of the strongest clubs in the USL in its modern era.
Louisville City beat NYRBII 5-1 in the Eastern final last year before beating Phoenix Rising 1-0 in the final. In 2017, LouCity beat New York on penalty kicks (4-3) during LouCity's path to the 2017 USL Cup. In 2016, the two teams met in the Eastern Conference final and the top-seeded Red Bulls advanced on penalty kicks (4-3) after a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation and extra time.
"It's a little bit of a chess match for both of us," Hackworth explained. "We want to control things more and we want to dictate the tempo. They are okay with a team doing that, but they want to catch you in turnovers and counter off of you. It's an interesting matchup for us, and at this point, we feel good about the way we are playing, but we know we have one of the best teams coming into town."
Saturday's match is LouCity's Hispanic Heritage Night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by WBKI locally, ESPN+ streaming nationally and YouTube internationally. The radio broadcast will be on 1080 WKJK.
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