In a rematch of last year’s USL Eastern Conference championship game, Louisville City FC took all three points June 18 against the Rochester Rhinos. The clubs meet again Saturday, this time with LouCity looking to maintain first place and the Rhinos aiming to remain in the playoff race.
Here’s what to watch for at Slugger Field with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
LouCity: 13-3-7 (46 points) in 23 games; 1st in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings.
Rochester Rhinos: 9-5-8 (35 points) in 22 games; 6th in the USL’s East.
Saturday’s game will air, as with other LouCity games, live on Youtube, with play-by-play from Jim Wombwell and color commentary by Adrian Parrish, director of coach and player development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. Local CBS affiliate WLKY will re-air the game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Vote for LouCity’s Modelo Man of the Match starting at the 75th minute of Sunday’s game on Twitter.
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Scoreboard watching: LouCity could go into Saturday out of first place depending on the result of Friday night’s New York Red Bulls II-Orlando City B game at Red Bull Arena. Three points for a win would put Louisville back in front, and a point for a draw would mean, at worst, a tie for the USL’s Eastern Conference lead. The Red Bulls maintain games in hand with the two teams set to meet Aug. 19.
What’s at stake: The top eight teams from both USL conferences advance to single-elimination playoffs, up from six a year ago. The stronger the regular-season record, the higher chance of hosting postseason games. Better-seeded teams get priority during their run, meaning a first-place LouCity could play as many as four extra games at Slugger.
Quick turnaround: LouCity played the Harrisburg City Islanders to a 1-1 draw Wednesday at Slugger Field, but going just two days between games is nothing new for the club. It last happened in June, when after a 1-0 Saturday road win over Rochester the guys in purple returned to play Toronto FC II on a Tuesday at Slugger, notching a 4-1 win.
Tune in: WLKY, LouCity’s TV partner, will show a full replay of the Rochester game at 1 p.m. Sunday, marking the latest local broadcast for the pro soccer club. The CBS affiliate showed live LouCity’s July 23 rivalry game at Cincinnati, and WLKY sister sation MeTV aired an April 27 game against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
The streak: LouCity went into the FC Cincinnati game riding a string of 17 straight unbeaten, five off the USL record set by the 2013 Richmond Kickers. While the roll ended, the club has tallied only three losses this season and remains in contention for a USL title. LouCity’s previous franchise-best undefeated streak was six games in 2015.
Current form: Since the streak ended, LouCity is 1-1-1, with the loss to Orlando City B, the only one of those three on the top half of the Eastern Conference table. Louisville has out-shot those opponents a combined 41-22 but failed to fully capitalize on the chances. Perhaps looking to break through, coach James O’Connor started Cameron Lancaster at forward against Harrisburg.
Stats leaders: USL Midseason MVP Chandler Hoffman (14 goals) and Midseason Rookie of the Year Kyle Smith (6 assists) are both one off the league lead in their respective categories. Hoffman is chasing the LA Galaxy II’s Jack McBean, who has 15 goals, while the right back Smith is one assist from equaling Sacramento Republic FC’s Daniel Barrera.
Golden Boot chase: Hoffman is in position to lead the USL in scoring a year after Matt Fondy scored 22 goals in 28 games for LouCity. It was reported this week that McBean will join English side Coventry City on a six-month loan, effectively counting him out of the race for the Golden Boot should Hoffman convert two more chances. Saint Louis FC Irvin Herrera and FC Cincinnati’s Sean Okoli are tied for third in scoring with 11 goals apiece.
Davis IV hits stride: Midfielder George Davis IV, who scored six goals in 23 appearances last season for the Richmond Kickers, is one away from equaling that output at LouCity. The University of Kentucky product scored both goals last Friday in a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds before named to the USL Team of the Week. Dating back to 2011, Davis IV scored seven goals in a season for the Dayton Dutch Lions.
Stalwart returns: Since missing more than a month’s worth of games, midfielder Kadeem Dacres is back to playing significant time on the right side of the field. While the effort hasn’t shown up on the stat sheet — he’s without a goal or assist since April 27 — one of LouCity’s leading scorers from a season ago has led a number of attacks and showcased skill with the ball at his feet.