Preview: What to Watch for with LouCity vs. Memphis
It's time to do some scoreboard watching.
Louisville City FC hosts a beleaguered Memphis 901 FC side at 7:30 p.m. Saturday inside Lynn Family Stadium, though attention will also naturally turn to Saint Louis FC's 8 p.m. kickoff against Sporting KC II.
A LouCity victory paired with a Saint Louis FC draw or loss would make the boys in purple the first club from the USL Championship's Group E to clinch a playoff spot. A LouCity draw, however, leaves work to do, allowing Saint Louis FC to remain mathematically eligible for the postseason.
Regardless of Saturday's results, the boys in purple remain well positioned in the bigger picture at 8-3-2, good for 26 points. They've ridden an eight-game unbeaten streak to sit four points clear of second-place Indy Eleven with three games to go - and LouCity hasn't looked better since the USL restarted play than now.
Over its last three outings, the club has out-scored its closest pursuers in the standings a combined 8-1, most recently defeating Indy Eleven on Wednesday by a 2-0 score.
Memphis 901 FC is another story. The second-year side is notable given legendary goalkeeper Tim Howard - in addition to serving as minority owner and sporting director - also exited retirement earlier this year to join the club's roster. Howard has started six games this season, splitting time between the posts with Jimmy Hague.
Earlier this week, Howard also took part in a tough decision for Memphis 901 FC to dismiss coach Tim Mulqueen. The club went 11-11-24 during Mulqueen's tenure and has since handed the reins to assistant coach Ben Pirmann. The interim boss previously spent six seasons as head coach of Detroit City FC and eight years at his alma mater, Michigan State.
Saturday's visitors are at 2-6-4 on the season, good for 10 points. As LouCity seeks to clinch its postseason spot, it may simultaneously eliminate Memphis 901 FC, which hails from Group G.
Coach John Hackworth says...
"We're not in a position where we can take our foot off the gas, so we need to continue to build. We have good momentum. We're on a good streak right now. It's important to secure first place in this division because of the playoff implications. There's no rest for the weary right now. We believe in all of our players and have a lot of depth, so there's going to be some difficult choices. Really, it's about evaluating and seeing how guys recover. If you look at how guys recovered from Saturday to (Wednesday), that alone, was a big emphasis for us and we're really proud of how our players did that."
LouCity: Defender Sean Totsch has solidified himself as one of the league's top center backs this season while starting 11 games and logging just short of 1,000 minutes. A bullying force at the back, Totsch is also walking a bit of a fine line having been shown his sixth yellow card of the season Wednesday in Indianapolis. Totsch will have to play it safe down the stretch, as an eight caution would sideline him for a game on accumulation. Luckily, the slate is wiped clean for the playoffs.
Memphis: 901 FC's scoring is spread equally with four players having hit the back of the net a team-leading three times apiece. Among them is the familiar forward Brandon Allen. The 26-year-old from New Jersey has been a frequent foe of the boys in purple dating back to his time with New York Red Bulls II, with which he won the USL title in 2016. Allen, who has also gone on to score in stints with the Bethlehem Steel, Nashville SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, has tried a team-high 16 shots in 12 appearances this season.
For Starting XI and in-game updates, follow @loucityfc on Twitter and Louisville City FC on Facebook . Also find us at louisvillecityfc on Instagram .
On the WBKI-TV (The CW)/ESPN+ streaming call: Josh Eastern (play by play) and Devon Kerr (color).
And for AM 1080 WKJK on the radio: Clay Ables (play by play) and Jeff Greer (color).
Notes to know
Playing percentages: According to FiveThirtyEight.com , LouCity has a better than 99% chance of qualifying for the postseason. Conversation could soon turn to the top seed. As of now, there's a 93% chance of finishing atop Group E and the opportunity to put more pressure on Indy Eleven this weekend. With a LouCity win Saturday, the Eleven would be in a must-win situation when they return Wednesday to keep pace.
Tracking Group F: No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from the USL's Group E and Group F will converge to open the single-elimination playoffs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (9-3-1, 28 points) was the first USL Eastern Conference club to guarantee itself a postseason bid while trending toward top-seeded status. Hartford Athletic (7-3-1, 22 points) posted a midweek victory to move 10 points ahead of New York Red Bulls II in third.
By the numbers: Exiting Wednesday's Indy win, a foursome of LouCity's 2020 statistical leaders continued moving up the ranks. Goalkeeper Ben Lundt posted his sixth shutout (tied for the USL lead); forward Antoine Hoppenot registered his fifth assist (tied for fourth in the league); midfielder Devon "Speedy" Williams ran his pass attempts total to 763 (fifth); and striker Cameron Lancaster netted his seventh goal (tied for ninth).
Bone's big birthday: Midfielder Corben Bone said Wednesday's exclamation point of a goal in the 76th minute at Indy wasn't the first time he's scored a goal as a professional on his birthday. But the newly turned 32-year-old did more than just hit the back of the net in a 2-0 rivalry win. According to Opta stats, Bone led LouCity with three key passes as he completed 71% of his 28 such chances in the opponent's half.
Back in the team: Just one player in LouCity's lineup Wednesday night had fully fresh legs. Pat McMahon certainly made the most of them. Away from the team last weekend to celebrate marriage with his wife, Brianna, McMahon hopped right back in to lead his side in passes (50), completed passes (39) and passes in the opponent's half of the pitch (34) as the boys in purple defeated rival Indy Eleven.
A streaking side: LouCity's run of eight games without a loss is hardly unprecedented in club history. Last season, coach John Hackworth's team went from August to early October unbeaten, totaling 10 games. A 10-game unbeaten streak also closed out the 2018 championship run. And going back to 2016, then under James O'Connor, the club went 17 straight games undefeated from April to mid-July.
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Louisville City FC midfielder Napo Matsoso
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