Courtesy of Connor Cunningham
The Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest all comes down to this.
It will be a winner-take-all meeting between Louisville City FC and the Indy Eleven, with a 7:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Carroll Stadium potentially deciding a 2021 LIPAFC series currently knotted at 1-1-1.
A win for LouCity would continue a dominant run over rivals from the north since Indy joined the USL Championship. It would also serve as a critical three points following a midweek loss at Memphis 901 FC.
LouCity enters at 16-6-7, sitting on 55 points — one fewer than Central Division leader Birmingham Legion FC — with three games to go.
Indy Eleven, meanwhile, is looking to win its first season LIPAFC series since moving to the league in 2018. The boys in blue are also starting down a nearly impossible scenario to make the playoffs, needing all of its nine potential remaining points and help from those higher on the table to qualify.
Previously this season, Indy Eleven defeated LouCity 2-1 on May 29 at Lynn Family Stadium before the sides played to a thrilling 3-3 draw on June 26. The series shifted to Carroll Stadium on Sept. 18 for a 2-0 LouCity victory.
After Saturday, LouCity hosts Memphis on Oct. 23 and travels to Birmingham for an Oct. 30 season finale that could determine a Central Division champion and No. 1 playoff seed.
Here's more of what to watch for this Saturday…
Head coach Danny Cruz says...
“We spoke the last few days about being tuned in from the 35th minute to the 45th minute, so that’s unacceptable," he said of Wednesday's defeat in Memphis. "I felt a few guys fell asleep in the moment, and that’s certainly an issue we need to solve. Ultimately, it’s not good enough.”
• For Starting XI and in-game updates, follow @loucityfc on Twitter and Louisville City FC on Facebook. Also find us at louisvillecityfc on Instagram. Live stats can be found at LouCity.com/match-center.
• Tune in locally on WBKI/TheCW, stream via ESPN+ or listen to Jeff Greer and Casey Whitfield's radio call on 93.9 The Ville.
Notes to know
The race is on: Whereas LouCity dropped points in its midweek contest, Birmingham scored twice in the second half to defeat Austin Bold and move back atop the Central Division table. Both clubs have clinched a top-two finish and home opener to their respective playoff runs. But the better-seeded squad could set itself up for more postseason success.
Playoff scenarios: Depending on whether it finishes first or second in the Central, LouCity would host the Atlantic Division’s No. 4 or 3 seed, respectively. The clubs occupying those spots are currently Miami FC and Charlotte Independence. Clubs with higher point totals host ensuing rounds with the Tampa Bay Rowdies on 61 points with the Eastern Conference’s best record.
Finding consistency: Congested scheduling has all season led coach Danny Cruz to mix up his starting groups. From here on out, though, there are no more midweek games. Wednesday night’s lineup featured five changes as major players such as Corben Bone and Brian Ownby rested following a weekend win. How quickly LouCity settles on its best 11 will be key.
JoGo returns: As for another important player out Wednesday, 18-year-old defender Jonathan Gomez is back from international duty with the U-20 Mexican National Team. The outside back appeared in games over the last week in Spain, where coincidentally he’s headed after the USL Championship season on a transfer to La Liga’s Real Sociedad.
Defensive lapses: It was a first half ending all too familiar to the boys in purple as LouCity conceded a third stoppage time goal in as many games. The club is without a clean sheet since the last time it visited t the Indy Eleven and has allowed eight goals over its last five games. Yet, outside of Wednesday evening, LouCity has gotten results, previously going seven straight games unbeaten.
Can't stop PdP: Team captain Paolo DelPiccolo has redefined himself this season, scoring LouCity’s lone goal in Memphis to make it four over the last three games. In all, he’s bagged a career-high nine goals as a walking example of getting in the right place at the right time. In Memphis, he took advantage of a grounded Oscar Jimenez corner to flick in a shot and complete a set piece straight off the training ground.
Abdou in the XI: Abdou Thiam, a super sub who assisted an equalizing goal last weekend in LouCity’s comeback win over Sporting KC II, earned his first start of the season the following Wednesday in Memphis. Thiam went 71 minutes, his longest bit of playing time since suffering a broken leg in the 2021 preseason, while trying three shots and making a key pass.