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After ‘uncharacteristic’ display, LouCity aiming for response in Sacramento

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/30/23, 1:51PM EDT


Defeat to El Paso was departure during Cruz’s tenure, side set to return multiple key players this weekend

Louisville City FC Head Coach Danny Cruz has been pleased by his side's response to its first defeat of the season last weekend and believes his side can take victory on the road at Sacramento Republic FC this Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Phot

How uncharacteristic was Louisville City FC’s loss to El Paso Locomotive FC?

Well, consider this; since Head Coach Danny Cruz was appointed to his current post almost two years ago, it was the first time in 74 regular season and playoff games that the side had lost in the USL Championship by a three-goal margin.

“You know, that hasn't happened in my time here,” Cruz told reporters this week. “Not even close to a performance like that, in my opinion. And, you know, we have to make sure that we respond.”

It wasn’t the most goals that LouCity had conceded in a game during Cruz’s tenure. That came last season in a topsy-turvy 4-3 defeat against the LA Galaxy II on the road in California that saw LouCity concede big chances to its hosts but still end the night with a 22-6 advantage in shots.

By contrast with the fight the side showed to try and earn a result on the road that night, the display Louisville delivered before the highest home opener crowd in club history of 10,881 at Lynn Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon was a shadow of the side that had won its first two games of this campaign.

“It looked like just as a group, as a whole, the energy just wasn't necessarily there,” said LouCity defender Oscar Jimenez. “And I don’t know if that had to do with how the play was going, and especially the times the goals came and how they came – there were mistakes, so that’s always like a punch to the gut.

“But then I thought in the second half we came out with an idea, we’re going to win this game, and then we got a third goal scored on us and it’s the same thing. The body language of the group, the energy, instead of uplifting it kind of just kind of sank us.”

Louisville City FC defender Oscar Jimenez acknowledged a 'lack of energy' in the side's performance last Saturday against El Paso Locomotive FC that saw LouCity fall for the first time this season. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

All the side’s shortcomings last outing have been addressed this week by Cruz and his players, with the side aiming to get back to the sort of performances that have been the standard during the club’s history. LouCity will need to be at its best on Saturday, too, as it heads back to California for a third time already this season for a clash with Sacramento Republic FC in one of the early season’s marquee contests.

Both clubs entered this season as prospective title contenders. Sacramento has looked the part in an undefeated start to the season that has seen Head Coach Mark Briggs’ side take seven points from three games after a 1-0 victory against fellow Western Conference contender San Diego Loyal SC last Saturday. The game will mark the second meeting between the teams as Cruz and Briggs are reunited again on the sideline, with LouCity’s boss having been an assistant to Sacramento’s when both were at Real Monarchs SLC five years ago.

LouCity took a 3-1 victory against a Republic FC side that rested numerous starters in advance of its 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final against Orlando City SC a few days later. As big a test as the visitors are expecting, Cruz is confident with what he’s seen this week the side is capable of claiming a result.

“They’re going to be a team that is difficult to break down, a team that doesn’t concede a lot of goals,” said Cruz. “But again, when I look at the group that I have, and I look at the quality of training so far this week, I’m confident that we can go there and get three points.”

Louisville City FC forward Wilson Harris, who was the club's leading goalscorer a season ago, could be available for selection for the first time this season against Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville Cit

LouCity is set to be buoyed by some key returnees to the lineup. Not only will winger Brian Ownby – who notched one goal and two assists already this season – return from suspension and center back Joshua Wynder from international duty, but Cruz is expecting forward Wilson Harris – who scored against Sacramento last season – and midfielder Jorge Gonzalez to both be available, with winger Ray Serrano also a possibility to return.

“These are all guys that are going to help push us, so we have decisions to make on the weekend,” said Cruz. “Ultimately, as I’ve said before, despite the result [last] weekend, I believe in everybody in the locker room. We’ve gone through injuries before at this club, and we’ve come out of it ahead. So, we want to make sure that most importantly the group understands what’s happened but reacts the right way.”

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