It’s only preseason, but… Louisville City FC kicked off its competitive year with an eye-opening performance Saturday, drawing Major League Soccer’s Austin FC by a 2-2 score at Q2 Stadium in Texas.
Austin, which starts its regular season March 2, entered with the fitness from two other friendlies; the Verde and Black tied the Philadelphia Union prior to beating reigning MLS Supporters’ Shield winner FC Cincinnati. LouCity, meanwhile, made this game its first of 2024 in the run up to a March 16 USL Championship season opener.
Austin’s starting group went 60 minutes Saturday before making way. Coach Danny Cruz fully rotated his squad in 45-minute shifts, mixing a number of new signings with the roster’s returning core. After the 90-minute mark, City brought on a number of youth academy standouts as the clubs scrimmaged another half hour.
“I thought, overall, it was an excellent exercise for us,” Cruz said. “Our intensity and our mentality for the entire 90 minutes was right where we wanted it to be. I think for sure we’re seeing the group come together in a great way. We put ourselves in a position to win the game and overall are really, really happy with the performance.”
LouCity and Austin FC traded chances early, with Owen Damm missing wide left from inside the box seconds before the hosts scored their opening goal at the other end.
Later in the first half, Wilson Harris got behind the Austin defense to equalize in the 28th minute. And after a bevy of other City opportunities, Brian Ownby gave the visitors the lead when finishing a 51st-minute counter attack.
Austin FC drew back level with Valentin Noel’s 80th-minute goal on a shot launched from well beyond the box. It hammered off the post and in.
“What you want to see is growth from the group from day one to where we are now,” Cruz said. “And did the group excel on the objectives that we had for this game? That was our defensive shape, our mentality in the press, looking to be on the front foot, winning our 1-v-1 battles — and we checked all those boxes.
“The players certainly left everything on the field for their 45 minutes, which is what we’ve talked about wanting to see this year.”
Harris played as part of a first half lineup that included offseason signings Jake Morris, Arturo Ordóñez and Adrien Perez. Ownby’s second half group featured Damian Las – a youth international goalkeeper loaned just this week from Austin to Louisville – along with Taylor Davila, Sam Gleadle, Tola Showunmi and Baxter Hurt, an academy standout who attends Kentucky Country Day.
In addition to the goals, Morris – signed from MLS’ Columbus Crew — struck a 33rd-minute free kick from distance that forced an Austin FC save. Ray Serrano missed wide right after LouCity turned over Austin in the final third in the 38th minute. And leading into Ownby’s go-ahead strike, Austin’s goalkeeper just beat Jorge Gonzalez to a shot in the box.
LouCity will continue preseason play with a stint in Arizona, where the boys in purple will see USL Championship rivals El Paso Locomotive FC and Sacramento Republic FC. Coincidentally, City’s regular season opens at El Paso.
2024 Louisville City FC Preseason Schedule
Feb. 3 at Austin FC (D, 2-2)
Feb. 7 vs. El Paso Locomotive FC
Feb. 11 vs. Sacramento Republic FC
Feb. 15 at St. Louis CITY SC
Feb. 18 vs. Lexington SC
March 1 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
March 9 vs. One Knoxville SC