Newcomer Wilson Harris netted a 70th-minute goal, and that was enough for Louisville City FC to ring in its new season Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Atlanta United 2 in front of 8,318 frigid fans at Lynn Family Stadium.
Harris, the Man of the Match in his LouCity debut, converted a left-footed strike from the edge of the area that trickled in off the gloves of Atlanta goalkeeper Vicente Reyes. The assist went to substitute Enoch Mushagalusa, who played the last two seasons with Harris at Sporting KC II before also signing with LouCity this winter.
The victory marks the third straight season-opening win for LouCity and the second consecutive in an opener against Atlanta United 2.
“It was a tough game against a tough opponent. They’re going to win games this year,” said LouCity head coach Danny Cruz. “Overall, it’s three points at home, and I’m really proud how we started the year.”
The score line didn’t quite reflect how much City dominated, with 23 shots totaled to Atlanta’s 6. Seventeen of those City tries came from inside the box with Harris, Jorge Gonzalez, Paolo DelPiccolo and Corben Bone all coming close to scoring before Harris finally broke through.
The match was not without a nervous moment. Atlanta fullback Aiden McFadden thought he pushed the visitors ahead in the 66th minute after tapping in a rebound off the post, but the linesman ruled him offside.
Harris’s game-winner followed minutes later when LouCity’s press yielded a turnover high up the pitch. New signing Ray Serrano, who came on with Mushagalusa in the 59th minute, corralled the ball in traffic about 40 yards from goal and immediately played in Mushagalusa. With Harris running in behind him, Mushagalusa laid off a perfectly-weighted ball in Harris’s path.
Harris took a touch before lacing the strike that won the match, wheeling away in debut delight to celebrate with the fans in the corner of the waterfront supporters’ zone.
“The most important thing for us was to stay patient and trust our game like we’ve been doing in all of preseason,” Harris said. “We just had to wait for our moment and capitalize on it, and we did. The guys did a great job holding it down and getting the clean sheet. I’m just really happy to get my first (in my) debut.”
The clean sheet was particularly pleasing for Cruz, who had high praise for new City No. 1 Kyle Morton. The 27-year-old goalkeeper made a fantastic reaction save on 22 minutes after an incisive Atlanta United 2 break cleared Jackson Conway for a shot from 20 yards.
Center back Josh Wynder, who turns 17 years old in May, anchored City’s back line and showed why he is such a highly-rated LouCity Academy product. Two other offseason signings, left back Amadou Dia and right back Manny Perez, played well in defense as well as getting forward.
City almost took the lead numerous times in the first half. Gonzalez rifled a shot right at Reyes after a fluid counterattack from the boys in purple in the 19th minute. Six minutes later, DelPiccolo’s free header was tipped just around the post by Reyes.
Bone, in the 38th minute, forced another good save from Reyes with a one-timer 12 yards out. And LouCity nearly found the go-ahead goal on the ensuing corner, requiring a goal-line clearance from McFadden.
The next step for City, Cruz said, is capitalizing on its chance creation and putting games away. Mushagalusa almost did that in the 85th minute, as did Harris in the 89th, but both shots fizzed past the far post.
Cruz said he was optimistic “that we have so much room for growth. Tonight was a win – an important win – but there’s a lot to improve on still. As everybody continues to get on the same page and we have all the cylinders firing, I walk away from this game very excited about what this season holds.”
Game Summary: Louisville City FC vs. Miami FC
Date: March 12, 2022
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Weather: 26 degrees, windy
Man of the Match: Wilson Harris, Louisville City FC
Louisville City FC (0, 1, 1)
Miami FC (0, 0, 0)
Louisville City FC:
70’ Wilson Harris (Enoch Mushagalusa)
Louisville City FC: 1 – Kyle Morton; 15 – Manny Perez, 6 – Wes Charpie (82’ 4 – Sean Totsch), 66 – Josh Wynder, 3 – Amadou Dia; 12 – Tyler Gibson, 13 – Corben Bone, 36 – Paolo DelPiccolo (59’ 77 – Enoch Mushagalusa); 10 – Brian Ownby (59’ 21 – Ray Serrano), 9 – Jorge Gonzalez (90’ 7 – Napo Matsoso), 14 – Wilson Harris
Subs not used: 18 – Danny Faundez; 32 – Ian Soler, 8 – Carlos Moguel, Jr.
Head Coach: Danny Cruz
Atlanta United 2: 23 – Vicente Reyes; 2 – Aiden McFadden, 39 – Noah Cobb, 40 – Mathieu Brick (87’ 46 – Grant Howard), 33 – Mikey Ambrose; 35 – Efrain Morales, 14 – Robbie Mertz, 29 – Nick Firmino (71’ 34 – Brendan Lambe); 11 – David Mejia, 36 – Jackson Conway (71’ 41 – Luke Brennan), 31 – Erik Centeno (62’ 37 – Jonathan Villal)
Subs not used: 25 – Justin Garces; 10 – Darwin Matheus, 8 – Ajani Fortune
Head Coach: Jack Collison
Stats Summary: Louisville City FC / Atlanta United 2
Shots: 23 / 6
Shots on Goal: 6 / 1
Possession: 49.9% / 50.1%
Fouls: 17 / 10
Offside: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 6 / 2
Louisville City: 57’ – Wilson Harris (yellow)
Louisville City: 64’ – Josh Wynder (yellow)
Atlanta United 2: 69’ – Mathieu Brick (yellow)
Referee: Melvin Rivas