The second match in the trilogy of the River Cities Cup is all set for Saturday night. As the ESPN 3 game of the week, these two clubs at the top of the Eastern Conference are put at the forefront of premier matches this season. Louisville City (10-1-4, 34 points) sit at the top of both the Eastern Conference and the league overall in both points and goals, having not lost since Week 2. They will put their league leading 13 match unbeaten streak on the line as they welcome their rivals to the north along the Ohio River, FC Cincinnati (8-2-3, 27 points), who are on an unbeaten streak of their own, currently at nine matches. FCC will be looking to reverse the result from the last fixture, which saw Louisville take a 3-2 road victory in a packed Nippert Stadium.
With both sides looking for momentum headed into July, this match has all the makings of a thriller.
Offenses: The Unstoppable Force
For Louisville, their offense begins and ends with Chandler Hoffman - responsible for a third of Louisville's 30 goals this season. Hoffman already made his mark in the last match between these two sides, scoring a hat trick during Louisville's 3-2 win back in April. Up the river, FC Cincinnati has had one of the most explosive offenses in the Eastern Conference, led by Sean Okoli, who has scored four goals in his past five appearances. Both Hoffman and Okoli are among the top five USL goal scorers this season. Will either player be able to add to their growing goal tally?
Defenses: The Immovable Object
Both clubs rank in the top ten of fewest goals allowed in the league. FC Cincinnati has only given up three goals and have posted two clean sheets in their last five games. On the other side, Louisville has maintained its defensive prowess all season, posting shutouts in seven of their fifteen matches. In goal for FC Cincinnati, Mitch Hildebrandt has been a wall, sitting in the top five in USL for both saves and minutes played. At the other end of the pitch for Louisville, Gregory Ranjitsingh has one of the best Goals Against Averages in the league at 0.76 GAA. Who will be able to break the deadlocked defenses?
Rankings: Playoff Preview?
While Louisville sits comfortably atop both the table and our weekly Power Rankings, a loss for the home side could shift the momentum in the East. Louisville has consistently been the ranking leader throughout the recent weeks, reaching new highs with each new week, and a win Saturday could cement their spot as the East's best team. FC Cincinnati has been at the heels of the leaders all season, and a win on Saturday can move them into second in both the table and Power Rankings. The result at Louisville Slugger Field will have big implications on the table and our rankings headed into the season's second stanza.
This is lining up to be one of the season's best - and most crucial - matches to watch. With either side as favorites to win the championship, we could be in for an early preview of the Eastern Conference final. If you are looking for stellar offenses and stout defenses with playoff implications for both clubs, this match is for you.
What are your score predictions for Louisville City v FC Cincinnati? Will this be a rematch come playoff time? Let us know in the comments below!