Fresh Approach Has Ownby off to a Flying Start
Louisville City FC's head coach and sporting director, John Hackworth, describes Brian Ownby as "the type of athlete who lives on that fine line of optimal fitness and being injured."
Entering his ninth year as a professional, however, Ownby believes he's found the key to a high-impact regular season in a low-impact offseason.
Signs of progress are already evident. The Virginia native registered a first half brace Wednesday when LouCity faced its first bit of outside competition in 2021, a friendly against NCAA Division III Centre College.
"It's funny because this offseason I actually relaxed a lot more," said Ownby, who headed in one goal and creatively looped in another in his 45 minutes on the pitch. "I've started noticing my body as I've gotten older. I'm still fast, but I feel it a lot more in the recovery process.
"So this offseason I didn't run as much. I biked more just to take the stress off the legs and stay fit. I stayed around working with the academy to keep focused on touches and really eliminate all the impact from playing."
A core member of the LouCity's attack since first signing with the club in 2017, Ownby starred at the University of Virginia and played for Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo. But he has also labored through a number of soft tissue injuries and concussions, pushing his body with extreme pace down the wings.
"That's something we've tried really hard to work with him on," Hackworth said. "Last year, it was obviously a weird season, but he was healthy for the most part. We just need to see that again this year, and his goals and assists will go up."
Ownby numbered 1 goal and 5 assists in 18 appearances during a 2020 campaign abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That followed some of his earlier heroics in purple, particularly during the postseason. He bagged three playoff goals in 2017 as LouCity won its first USL Championship title, then added two more in 2018 when the club earned its second star.
Hackworth, whose knowledge on Ownby dates back to coaching him as a U.S. youth international, is gearing the speedster in a way that can see the productivity rise earlier.
"I'd love for Brian to execute in the final third more. I think he can increase his assists and goal scoring production," Hackworth said. "If he just does that in balance of how we play, we'll be tough to beat. We need to expect that from Brian on Day 1 and the very middle of the season through, hopefully, the USL Championship game.
"...He's a dangerous 1-v-1 attacking player, and he has pace. So he stretches an opposing defense. He's really good off the dribble right and left. Anytime the opposing defense has to worry about Brian Ownby, that opens up other players."
Ownby hopes to carry the momentum from Wednesday's performance into the next several weeks as LouCity faces competitions against five Major League Soccer clubs, among them the Dynamo, his former club. Preseason begins with a March 13 trip to play FC Cincinnati.
"It's more just getting off on the right foot," Ownby said. "For me it's a confidence thing. Putting it in the back of the net now, whoever we're playing against, helps that. The main thing is to try to keep it going into the season, so the two goals (Wednesday) are nice. It's a step forward for the next games we play."
Somewhat of a journeyman professional, Ownby was loaned from Houston to the USL's Richmond Kickers and Pittsburgh Riverhounds before fully signing with his home state Kickers in 2015.
Almost five seasons in purple later, Ownby has made Louisville his home. He and his wife, Samm, started their family by adopting and fostering pets, including three cats and a dog. When teammates or coaches leave town, they also tend to ask the Ownbys to watch them.
Adopting four-legged friends has also provided Ownby a mental release from the game.
"You come home and you could've had a crap day on the field, but it's a whole different world to them," Ownby said of his pets. "They're just happy to see you. It really helps compartmentalize soccer and my outside life off the field."
Images from this story
Brian Ownby of Louisville City FC
(EM Dash Photography)
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