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THE MORNING TEA – LouCity’s Resiliency Being Put to Test

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 07/31/20, 7:30AM EDT

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Rowdies, Battery square off for first in Group H; Charlotte’s Miller brings entrepreneurship to schools

Before a look ahead at a big game tonight at Al Lang Stadium, a look back at another tough night at Lynn Family Stadium for LouCity. Here’s your Morning Tea for Friday.

 

THE BIG STORY

When the USL Championship unveiled the regionalized divisions for the league’s new season structure this month, one of the biggest talking points was which two teams out of Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC would emerge from Group E.

And, if we’re being honest, it looked like STLFC might have suffered a tough break in being placed alongside both 2019 Eastern Conference Finalists.

Now, though?

While there’s still a way to go before the two teams that are going to be part of the postseason is determined, LouCity has dug itself an early hole that could be difficult to get back out from.

Wednesday night’s 2-1 defeat to Sporting Kansas City II was the latest setback for the three-time defending Eastern Conference title-holder, with a late goal by Wilson Harris sending the visitors to their first win of the season. More concerningly, aside from some flashes of brilliance including Cameron Lancaster’s outstanding first-half free kick, Louisville simply didn’t have the magic we’ve come to expect from them.

“We didn’t play our game, and in the first half you could tell we were tentative,” LouCity Head Coach John Hackworth said. “After a real good start, for whatever reason, we played really conservative. We’re a team that doesn’t play backwards a lot, and we went backwards a lot tonight. We didn’t take guys on one-versus-one when we could have. We didn’t attack them the way that we should have.

“The biggest thing from that is that I don’t like the reactions from the whole group. It’s not collective. If you look at this team last year, a lot of the same guys, we would go down a goal, no problem. There was an answer. There was a feeling. There was a belief that you could see. It was the exact opposite after that goal. It’s a mistake, and it’s a mistake that we can all live with. It’s how you react to those that are most important.”

Finding a response to adversity has been a hallmark of Louisville’s since it arrived in the league, one that has been perpetuated during Hackworth’s tenure. Back-to-back defeats have happened previously, sure, but until Wednesday night there had been no prior instances where City suffered three losses in four league games under the former Philadelphia Union boss.

That run of form has left Louisville facing an uphill climb, with Indy currently sporting the best record in the league and a nine-point lead over LouCity in the standings, and Saint Louis three points ahead with a game in hand after its victory against Indy on Sunday evening.

If you believe in fivethirtyeight.com’s statistical modeling, LouCity has gone from a 72 percent chance to reach the playoffs before the season resumption to a 25 percent chance today.

With more than a week to recuperate before the club’s first meeting with rival Indy in the first of four LIPAFC’s this season on August 8, rebuilding the team’s confidence will be Hackworth’s priority.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it, but it’s my responsibility and we’ll get it right,” said Hackworth. “But it doesn’t look how we feel on a daily basis, and that’s the strangest thing to me. Especially for you guys who have come out to training and see what we look like, we’ll have to try and identify it and go back to drawing board and fix it.”

 

TONIGHT'S ACTION

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Charleston Battery

(2-0-2)
Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Al Lang Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor:TBR Wins 51% | Draw 27% | CHS Wins 22%
(2-1-0)
Group H
The Gist: First place in Group H is on the line when the Rowdies play host to the Battery in Friday night’s lone Championship game. Tampa Bay currently sits on top of the group but has recorded back-to-back draws after a 1-1 result on the road against Birmingham Legion FC last Saturday night. The Battery sit two points back and are coming off an impressive 3-0 victory against Atlanta United 2 that earned the side its first win at the Patriot’s Point Soccer Complex. With both Atlanta and Miami struggling so far this campaign, a victory for either side would be a positive step toward not only the postseason, but also top spot in the group.
 

THE SOCIAL CIRCLE

 

THE USL LOWDOWN

- Charlotte Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller is using his entrepreneurial business skills to bring the Young Investors Society’s financial literacy program to low-income schools in the area. Miller spoke with the Charlotte Post’s Ashley Mahoney about implementing the programs and overseeing corporate sponsorship and donations for fundraising events.

- The Tampa Bay Rowdies have a chance to cement their lead at the top of Group H with victory against the Charleston Battery on Friday night, but Head Coach Neill Collins told local reporters the frequency of games between all four teams in the group means ground can be gained back if early meetings don’t go to play.

- Ansu Kanneh became the youngest signing in Phoenix Rising history earlier this month, but the 14-year-old has that opportunity thanks to a process known colloquially as the “green card lottery.” The Arizona Republic’s Briar Napier has more on how Kanneh and his family found their way from Africa to the United States several years ago.

- Veteran Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC forward Steevan Dos Santos has been working his way back from injury in recent weeks, but the work-rate the Cape Verde forward brings combined with his eye for goal have the Hounds anticipating an uptick in attacking production once he gets back to 100 percent.

- Former U.S. Women’s National Team player Angela Hucles – who in February was introduced as a strategic consultant to the USL on women’s soccer – is also part of the ownership group of the new National Women’s Soccer League club Angel City FC. The Undefeated’s Sean Hurd spoke with the two-time Olympic champion about her involvement in the project.

- El Paso Locomotive FC’s Andrew Fox is among the more notable two-way defenders in the league, with his ability to contribute in attack a valuable asset to the side. The English fullback spoke with the El Paso Times’ Bret Bloomquist about his role, and his path to professional soccer in the United States.

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