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Expert Predictions – USL Championship Final

By Staff, 11/14/19, 10:00AM EST


All signs point toward a LouCity victory on Sunday, but who do our experts see lifting the trophy?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 2019 USL Championship Final has arrived as Louisville City FC plays host to Real Monarchs SLC on Sunday night at Lynn Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2 | ESPN Deportes).

While we’ve seen what odds has given on the matchup between the two-time defending champion LouCity and the Western Conference champion Monarchs, we’ve also asked our three experts – The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter and’s John Arlia and Nicholas Murray – to weigh in on who they think will lift the trophy on Sunday night.

Agree or disagree with their picks? Let us know on Twitter (@USLChampionship).

Louisville City FC
November 17
7:30 PM ET
Real Monarchs SLC
Nicholas Murray
Louisville City FC 2, Real Monarchs SLC 1
“History hasn’t been kind to visiting sides in the USL Championship Final, and while there’s a lot to like about what Real Monarchs SLC bring to the table in talent and experience, it’s hard to overlook Louisville’s postseason pedigree when it comes to Sunday’s first meeting between the clubs.

And, what’s more, this isn’t just a postseason thing. After the calendar has turned to August 1 over the past four seasons, LouCity has racked up a record across the regular season and postseason of 43-7-15 with a +82-goal differential. This year alone that record is 12-1-3 with 37 goals for and 17 goals against.

So, it happens again. Brian Ownby scores his first USL Championship Final goal inside the first 15 minutes for the earliest goal in Championship Final history, and Antoine Hoppenot adds a second early in the second half to give the hosts a comfortable lead. The Monarchs pull one back through Maikel Chang inside the final 20 minutes, but the hosts hold on to lift the silverware for an unprecedented third time.”
Jeff Rueter
The Athletic
Louisville City FC 3, Real Monarchs SLC 1
“It's worth appreciating how unlikely this matchup looked ahead of the USL Championship postseason. Both four-seeds had pretty difficult paths to the final. For Louisville, it meant hosting a dangerous Tampa Bay Rowdies side, going on the road to knock off a previously impenetrable Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC defense, and clawing back in stoppage time to overcome hosting Indy Eleven. Real's Conference Final may have been easier against No. 6 seed El Paso Locomotive FC, but beating presumptive postseason favorite Phoenix Rising FC at their friendly confine was going to be far from easy. It's a final that showcases two clubs that have gone about their construction in very different ways. It should be a well-balanced contest.

From an outsider perspective, Tuesday saw Louisville go from relying on home-field advantage for an edge to being an overwhelming favorite. Why? The late-match antics of Monarchs attacker Douglas Martínez, who earned a suspension for the Championship Final by headbutting and open-hand slapping El Paso Locomotive FC opponents. That act of losing his cool results in his team entering Sunday without its most dangerous attacker. For a Louisville side that hasn't allowed more than a single goal in each of their first three playoff matchups, their defensive scouting has gotten easier than expected (if I had to guess who scores for Real, it's Jack Blake via free kick). I think John Hackworth could be on the verge of a three-peat — and with a new stadium on the horizon, who knows how long their reign could endure.”
John Arlia
Real Monarchs SLC 1, Louisville City FC 0
“Well, the moment of truth has finally arrived.

You may or may not know (if you’re a Louisville City FC fan you definitely know) that I wrote a column in February saying that the two-time defending champs would not complete a three-peat in 2019. As we now know, Head Coach John Hackworth’s side is just 90 minutes (or maybe more) away from proving me spectacularly wrong.

And not only that, but LouCity has plenty going in its favor heading into Sunday night’s affair. Louisville has never lost on its home turf in the USL Championship Playoffs and is riding an 11-game winning streak in the postseason overall dating back to 2017. It has also the honor of hosting the USL Championship Final at Lynn Stadium, which bodes well given that the home team has lifted the trophy on all eight of the game’s previous occasions.

The Monarchs have defied the odds before, going on the road to knock off Regular Season Title-Winner Phoenix Rising FC in the Western Conference Semifinals, but they will be without leading scorer Douglas Martinez this time around through suspension. Everything points toward a third straight title for Louisville, but soccer is never that straightforward. Finals are even less so. The Monarchs withstand a first-half surge from the hosts and Jack Blake’s second-half tally is enough to give the side its first title.”

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