By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Among the USL’s 2015 expansion sides, Louisville City FC ultimately had the most successful run. City advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, led the league in scoring and also thrived in the stands and community. The bar has been set incredibly high for Louisville Head Coach James O’Connor’s side as the team was on the fringe of heading to its first USL Championship. One major absence will be 2015 USL MVP and single-season goals record holder Matt Fondy, but Louisville has a well-rounded club that in theory should put the team back in position to make another run in the postseason for 2016.
Head Coach: James O’Connor
Stadium: Louisville Slugger Field
2015 results: 14-6-6 record; 2nd in Eastern Conference
2015 postseason: 2-0 OT win vs. Charleston in East Semifinals; 1-0 loss vs. Rochester in East Final
Goalkeeper: Last season the offense captured most of the headlines, but Louisville also delivered defensively. Returning No. 1 Scott Goodwin and backup Greg Ranjitsingh both are back to lead a team that posted eight shutouts and allowed only 34 goals in 28 regular-season games in 2015. Seven of those clean sheets occurred in the first 16 games of last season, proving that Goodwin and Co. could rival the best defensive units in the USL.
Defense: The back line will be a mixed bag of last year’s team and some new faces. Conor Shanosky and Enrique Montano were both staples of the 2015 squad and are returning this season. With 2015 USL Defender of the Year Bryan Burke out of the picture this season, some other multidimensional players will need to pick up the slack. Louisville brought in a player with strong USL experience and a cup of coffee with Major League Soccer in Ben Newnam. His 2015 included a stint with the Colorado Rapids before spending the rest of the year with the Charlotte Independence (11 games) and Pittsburgh Riverhounds (6 games). Newnam also helped the Charlotte Eagles advance to the 2013 USL Championship, where his side fell short against O’Connor’s Orlando City in the final.
Midfield: Louisville’s midfield was dynamic to begin with, and somehow the team appears to be even deeper in this area. Magnus Rasmussen has headed this group, coming off an eight-goal, four-assist campaign last year. Kadeem Dacres, Aodhan Quinn and Niall McCabe all are returning starters, but there is plenty of competition beyond them. Three-time USL All-League selection George Davis IV, who spent the past two years with the Richmond Kickers, is one of the most seasoned USL veterans in the business. The former Kentucky Wildcat easily strengthens Louisville’s attack. Another collegiate local joining the fray is University of Louisville alum Paolo DelPiccolo who logged significant minutes with the Charlotte Independence last year and Arizona United SC the year before.
Forward: Louisville begins its second season without Matt Fondy and his USL-record 22 regular-season goals from 2015. Whether or not there is cause for concern, City seems to have answered the bell with some new attacking potential. Former MLS forward Chandler Hoffman has already proven he is capable of living up to the responsibility. In 2014 he led the LA Galaxy II with 13 goals in only 17 games. Then last year, the Dynamo loaned him to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, where he added some offensive jolt to the tune of four goals in 10 matches. Elsewhere, forward Ilija Ilic returns to the club, having played a reserve role last year for the bulk of his 19 appearances.
Strengths: Louisville’s attack and versatility will continue to define this team, and the organization appears to have done some strong work in overcoming a couple key personnel losses during the offseason. Newcomers Davis and Hoffman in particular could have breakout seasons with this type of supporting cast. The likelihood of someone stepping up to put together the goal-scoring numbers that Fondy had in 2015 would be unrealistic and premature to speculate, but in the grand scheme of things, O’Connor’s well-rounded club doesn’t necessarily need that one player to target. With a good returning corps overall, Louisville is in good shape to battle for the top of the Eastern Conference once again.
Weaknesses: If there could be a small caveat to last year’s team, it was the final stretch of the regular season in which Louisville lost four of its final five games. First place was almost a lost cause with Rochester’s dominance, but City’s security of the No. 2 seed was nearly in jeopardy. Most every team will go through some difficult stretches, and Louisville was able to overcome this setback with a big overtime win against Charleston in the USL Playoffs. As long as Louisville maintains the consistency it exuded for the majority of the season heading into this year’s campaign, this side should be a title threat to reckon with.
Key number: 21 – Louisville’s plus-21 goal differential was second in the USL behind only the champion Rochester Rhinos (plus-25).
Noteworthy matchups: The defending USL champion Rochester Rhinos host Louisville at Sahlen’s Stadium on June 18 for the first time since eliminating City in the Eastern Conference Final. Also not to be missed is Louisville’s first match against 2016 expansion side FC Cincinnati on April 16 at Cincy’s Nippert Stadium to kick off the River Cities Cup. With Saint Louis FC moving to the Western Conference this season, there will be two conference crossover matches on May 14 at Slugger Field and Sept. 17 at World Wide Technology Soccer Park.
Coach’s view: “I’ve said this many times – I’m not too bothered where they come from, as long as we’re scoring goals.” – James O’Connor
Current roster (updated: March 15, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Scott Goodwin, Greg Ranjitsingh
Defenders: Paco Craig, Enrique Montano, Tarek Morad, Ben Newnam, Sean Reynolds, Conor Shanosky, Jonghyun Son
Midfielders: Guy Abend, Kadeem Dacres, George Davis IV, Paolo DelPiccolo, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Andrew Lubhan, Niall McCabe, Aodhan Quinn, Magnus Rasmussen, Kyle Smith
Forwards: Kenny Doublette, Chandler Hoffman, Ilija Ilic, Cameron Lancaster