Mileage — both minutes on the pitch and the lengths Louisville City FC has traveled to play them — caught up with the boys in purple a bit on Saturday.
But that didn’t prevent LouCity from running its unbeaten streak to a club-record 10 games to open the campaign thanks to a rallying, 1-1 draw against the Charleston Battery.
Forward Enoch “Matiti” Mushagalusa’s 73rd-minute equalizer at Patriots Point Soccer Complex ensured a point for the visitors, capping a week that began the week prior our west with a victory over San Diego Loyal. On Wednesday, the boys in purple also went to extra time and a penalty shootout to defeat St. Louis CITY SC in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play at Lynn Family Stadium.
By the weekend, Danny Cruz was forced into plenty of rotation, rolling out a starting lineup with an average age of 24.9 years old — youngest of his head coaching tenure.
“We had a lot of different ideas with regard to managing the minutes for this game,” Cruz said. “It was obviously a hot day here as well, which was something new for us. But I think you could tell the difference from a physical standpoint between them and us as the game went on. I felt like we were still going at a heavy pace. We were still putting everything into it and getting chances in the final third.
“Some of that is the ability to make seven changes from the game on Wednesday…To make that many changes and still create enough opportunities to win the game, for me, is pretty impressive.”
Charleston gave LouCity just its second deficit in 2022, moving ahead on a defensive miscue in the 32nd minute. The boys in purple turned it over in their own final third, and a fortunate deflection bounded straight to Mauro Cichero for a shot from the center of the box.
But as with the other time City has trailed this year — last month against Indy Eleven — they leveled the score later to register a result. Saturday’s draw improved the boys in purple to 5-0-3 in USL Championship play. Their 18 points are five clear of second place in the Eastern Conference.
“It was a tough game coming out with a mistake, but we bounced back,” Mushagalusa said. “I’m just happy how we handled this week with the U.S. Open Cup game and the coach trusting us.”
Academy product Carlos Moguel and offseason signing Jan-Erik Leinhos received their first USL Championship starts Saturday. However, rotation saw star outside back Manny Perez rested, while top goal producers Brian Ownby and Wilson Harris were available only as second half subs.
LouCity pushed for its equalizer out of the half as Ownby (46th minute) and Harris (64th minute) entered. It was movement from Ownby on the right side to Bone in the middle and — finally — Mushagalusa on the left that led to the tying strike — also Mushagalusa’s first club goal.
“When those guys came in, the game really changed,” Mushagalusa said. “We had more speed and more weapons up top. We were combining well.”
The visitors wound up out-shooting Charleston, 17-12, and numbered 32 touches in the Battery’s box, continuing to threaten deep into stoppage time. A Wes Charpie shot in the box marked the last of goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky’s 5 saves on the evening at the final whistle.
“We’ve gotten results in different ways now,” Cruz said. “It’s not easy to go down a goal on the road in the heat. But at the same time, I made it very clear to them at half that I’d better see the same belief out of them when the half starts that I honestly had for most of the game. I genuinely believed we were going to win the game.”
At least for a week, LouCity will get a break in its congested scheduling. A 1 vs. 2 Eastern Conference showdown is on tap April 30 at Lynn Family Stadium with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC visiting for a 7:30 p.m. opening whistle.
Game Summary: Charleston Battery vs. Louisville City FC
Date: April 23, 2022
Venue: Patriots Point Soccer Complex
Kickoff: 5 p.m.
Weather: 74 degrees, sunny
Man of the Match: Enoch Mushagalusa
Charleston Battery (1, 0, 1)
Louisville City FC (0, 1, 1)
Charleston Battery: 32’ Mauro Cichero
Louisville City FC: 73’ Enoch Mushagalusa (Corben Bone)
Charleston Battery: 1 — Joe Kuzminsky, 13 — Matt Sheldon, 23 — Preston Kilwien, 5 — Leland Archer, 8 — Dominic Oduro (61’ 14 — Shak Adams), 2 — Benji Etienne (22’ 27 — Tristan Weber), 15 — Joseph Schmidt, 12 — Geobel Perez (71’ 10 — Romario Piggott), 7 — Andrew Booth, 24 — Mauro Cichero (61’ 18 — Emmanuel Johnson), 17 — Aidan Apodaca
Subs not used: 30 — Huge Fauroux, 3 — Patrick Hogan
Head Coach: Conor Casey
Louisville City FC: 1 — Kyle Morton, 3 — Amadou Dia, 32 — Ian Soler, 6 — Wes Charpie, 39 — Jan-Erik Leinhos, 8 — Carlos Moguel Jr. (75’ 11 — Niall McCabe), 36 — Paolo DelPiccolo (64’ 14 — Wilson Harris), 7 — Napo Matsoso (64’ 13 — Corben Bone), 21 — Ray Serrano (46’ 10 — Brian Ownby), 9 — Jorge Gonzalez (86’ 12 — Tyler Gibson), 77 — Enoch Mushagalusa
Subs not used: 24 – Parker Siegfried
Head Coach: Danny Cruz
Stats Summary: Charleston Battery / Louisville City FC
Shots: 12 / 17
Shots on Goal: 4 / 6
Possession: 37.1% / 62.9%
Fouls: 16 / 17
Offside: 4 / 8
Corner Kicks: 5 / 5
Charleston Battery: 34’ Tristan Weber (yellow)
Louisville City FC: 59’ Paolo DelPiccolo (yellow)
Louisville City FC: 66’ Enoch Mushagalusa (yellow)
Charleston Battery: 71’ Aidan Apodaca (yellow)
Louisville City FC: 80’ Ian Soler (yellow)
Referee: Gabriele Giusti