Preview: What to Watch for with LouCity vs. Saint Louis FC
Heading into the weekend, just nine points separate Indy Eleven (22), Louisville City FC (20), Saint Louis FC (18) and Sporting KC II (13) from top to bottom in the USL Championship's Group E.
Only two of those clubs advance to the playoffs, however, making all five remaining LouCity games of the utmost importance in an especially close playoff race. Next up is a 7:30 p.m. Saturday visit from Saint Louis FC to Lynn Family Stadium.
According to USL stats, LouCity does have an 85% chance of making it to the postseason while on a six-game unbeaten streak that saw the boys in purple briefly reach the top of the table. But Saint Louis FC has proven a stubborn opponent as the only club within the group LouCity hasn't beaten in 2020.
The Kings' Cup rival - in its last season before the franchise makes way for Major League Soccer begins play in St. Louis in 2023 - defeated LouCity by a 1-0 score on July 18 at Lynn Family Stadium before the sides played to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 29 in Missouri.
Coach John Hackworth says...
"We're hyper focused on just making sure we continue to perform well and get the results, because if we don't do that, we won't be talking about playoffs. There's nothing to talk about. So we need to make sure Saint Louis, who sits two points behind us - we have to separate from them. We have the chance to do that Saturday night...We're still in the race with each other the whole way, and I don't think this will get sorted out until the very last game."
LouCity: The scoreline reads a 3-1 win last time out for LouCity, which defeated another of its regional rivals, Indy Eleven, with relative ease. That's a result that would have been much more lopsided given just a bit more finishing touch from attacking midfielder Antoine Hoppenot, who twice put himself in situations where he just had the keeper to beat in order to score. Hoppenot also completed 88.9% of his passes - all in Indy's half of the field - to help set up other scoring chances.
Saint Louis FC: Veteran forward Kyle Greig continues to be a key piece in the Saint Louis FC attack, last time out getting his side on the board in the 54th minute of a 3-2 win over Sporting KC II. A 30-year-old in his third season with the club, Greig also headed an 83rd-minute pass ahead to teammate Kadeem Dacres for the third - and what wound up to be game-winning - goal. Greig is one off the team lead with three goals on the season, that despite missing the season restart coinciding with the birth of his son.
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 (The CW)/ESPN+ streaming call: Mike Watts (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
Tracking Group F: Group E will match with Group F to open the postseason next month when respective No. 1 seeds play the 2s from both pods. So, who's on pace to be the playoff competition? If LouCity winds up with the No. 1 seed, that's Hartford Athletic (6-2-1, 19 points) who have claimed points in four of their last five games. Group E's No. 2 seed is on pace to match up with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (8-3-1, 25 points) - last year's regular-season Eastern Conference winner.
Back home: The USL Board of Governors allowed unbalanced scheduling at the USL's restart, and by nature of LouCity's plan to host fans at Lynn Family Stadium, the club wound up opening the facility with eight straight home games. After two away dates, the boys are back Saturday. So far, the club is 4-3-1 in its new digs with attendance averaging 4,850, well short of its 15,304 capacity due to limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matsoso's the man: University of Kentucky product Napo Matsoso continues to be a revelation since switching from central midfield to the right wing coinciding with LouCity's winning streak. He's scored three goals and assisted two others, including a 44th-minute goal last Saturday that put LouCity up 3-0 on the road in an eventual 3-1 win over Indy Eleven.
Shutout spree: LouCity goalkeeper Ben Lundt is tied for second in the USL with his four clean sheets, continuing to come up big in the select spots where he's called upon with 21 saves made. Two of those shutouts have come during LouCity's unbeaten run, with LouCity averaging .66 goals against per game. In the process, goal differential on the season - a potential tiebreaker at season's end - has climbed to +6, best in Group E.
Magic number: While forward Cameron Lancaster continues to pace LouCity's scoring with five goals on the season, a trio of midfielders have added depth to the attack. Each of Devon "Speedy" Williams, Corben Bone and Matsoso scored in the first half of the Indy Eleven victory, increasing their 2020 totals to three goals apiece. Midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo and defender Sean Totsch have also hit the back of the net once this year.
Bone's unbreakable: Having moved to LouCity this season from MLS' FC Cincinnati, Bone, a 31-year-old veteran from Texas, began to find his groove when registering a brace in a 4-1 win Aug. 19 over Sporting KC II. He was back on the USL's Team of the Week this week. In addition to the goal, Bone tallied two key passes, completed 23 of 29 passes overall, won 5 of 7 duels and 4 of 5 tackles in the Indy win.
Images from this story
Louisville City FC forward Cameron Lancaster with possession vs. Saint Louis FC
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