It’s not a winner-take-all game, at least in the context of a single match in a 30-game season. But Friday’s LouCity-New York Red Bulls II meeting could mean plenty in the United Soccer League’s title race and playoff picture.
A win for either side would clinch a spot in the playoffs, plus position for a USL Eastern Conference championship. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
LouCity: 13-3-8 (47 points) in 24 games; 1st in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings.
New York Red Bulls II: 14-3-5 (47 points) in 22 games; 1st in the USL’s East.
Saturday’s game will air, as with other LouCity games, live on Youtube.
Vote for LouCity’s Modelo Man of the Match starting at the 75th minute of Sunday’s game on Twitter.
- LouCity looking to solve Red Bulls’ puzzle
- Know the foe: New York Red Bulls II
- Specials on tap for watch party at Boombozz
- Audio: O’Connor previews Friday’s showdown
- Coach looking for faster starts from LouCity
- Club to ‘keep fighting to the end’ for USL title
USL title race heats up: LouCity is perhaps in a must-win situation Friday to remain in contention for a regular-season Eastern Conference championship and No. 1 postseason seed. The Red Bulls II have tallied just as many points as Louisville — 47 — but have a pair of games in hand. After visiting New York, Louisville will have five matches remaining to gather results.
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.
League honors Paco Craig: The rookie defender was named to the USL Team of the Week’s Bench this week after equalizing for LouCity in the 85th minute of last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos. Craig, one of three Louisville players out of Georgia’s Division II Young Harris, made his first start in June and has since established himself as a force on the back line.
Guy Abend’s assist: The midfielder recorded his first assist of the season on Paco Craig’s goal. After Ben Newnam banged a free kick off the right post, Abend centered the ball with a header, allowing Craig to finish the chance. Abend has also scored four goals this year, ranking third on LouCity’s roster behind Chandler Hoffman and George Davis IV.
Technology in play: In collaboration with Major League Soccer and the International Football Association Board, Video Assistant Referee technology will be used at the Red Bulls II’s remaining home games this season. USL president Jake Edwards said “the use of the VAR system will help referees make sure that clear and obvious errors are omitted from the game, boosting the integrity of the sport in the future.”
Stats leaders: USL Midseason MVP Chandler Hoffman (14 goals) and Midseason Rookie of the Year Kyle Smith (six 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.
Catch your breath: Coach James O’Connor’s rookies haven’t played through the grind of a 30-game season, and lately the coach has taken to resting them and others down the stretch of the regular season. Two games back, Cameron Lancaster made the start at striker in place of Chandler Hoffman, while four games back Kyle Smith didn’t see the field until stoppage time. The rookie Smith has logged the most minutes on LouCity’s roster this season.
Caution counts: Three Louisville City FC players — defender Ben Newnam, central midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo and winger George Davis IV — have been issued four yellow cards this season and are one away from being suspended by the USL for accumulation. LouCity’s Aodhan Quinn, Guy Abend and Sean Reynolds have already sat out a game and have eligibility back.
The streak: LouCity went into its July 23 game at FC Cincinnati riding a string of 17 straight games 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.