Year Founded: 2015
2016 record, place in Conference standings: 17-4-9, 2nd place in Eastern Conference
2016 playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals
Key additions: Richard Ballard, Sean Russell, Luke Spencer, Devon “Speedy” Williams,
Key departures: Kadeem Dacres, Scott Goodwin, Chandler Hoffman, Aodhan Quinn, Magnus Rasmussen
Projected/ideal starting XI (4-2-3-1): Greg Ranjitsingh; Kyle Smith, Sean Reynolds, Paco Craig, Oscar Jimenez; Speedy Williams, Paolo DelPiccolo; George Davis IV, Richard Ballard, Niall McCabe; Cameron Lancaster
Two seasons under James O’Connor have ended in the Eastern Conference Finals. With O’Connor and his staff signing a contract extension on Wednesday to keep them at the club through 2020, many will be expecting the club to take the next step. Despite losing the 2015 USL MVP, Matt Fondy, and the 2015 USL Defensive Player of the Year, Bryan Burke, the club was a penalty shootout away from playing for the USL Cup last season. Now, they look to replace another group of very important players, as four starters departed after the 2016 campaign.
After finishing second in the East last season, the challenge has grown with the addition of Tampa Bay, the poaching of two starters by FC Cincinnati, and the returning force that is New York Red Bulls II. As the club hopes to soon announce plans for a soccer-specific stadium, they will try to make Louisville Slugger Field a fortress yet again, with many new faces joining the fold. The pressing 4-2-3-1 system O’Connor deploys will cause teams problems, but it remains to be seen where the goals will come from this season, with the departure of Kadeem Dacres and Chandler Hoffman. If someone does not step up to fill their shoes, it will be tough to repeat the success of the club’s first two seasons.
Why you should watch Louisville City in 2017: After two years of learning the system, much of Louisville City’s defense returns as a cohesive, hardened unit. It remains to be seen if Cameron Lancaster will take over the striker role, or if newcomer Luke Spencer will poach it from him, but the midfield should be well-suited to take the attack to teams every time they take the pitch. Speedy Williams’ addition will add a new dynamic to the attack, and the wide play should continue to make this club an entertaining one to watch, as they look to dominate possession and get crosses into the area. Their pressing style helps keep the match entertaining for fans.
3 players to watch:
Devon “Speedy” Williams: This may be the most important offseason signing ever for Louisville City. The ability of the former NYRBII midfielder to create havoc and break up the attack of opposing teams means that the LCFC midfield can take a few more chances, and should be able to launch quick counter-attacks going forward.
Richard Ballard: The Indiana University product went to high school in Louisville, and now returns home after winning the 2012 NCAA title with the Hoosiers. He performed exceptionally well in an open tryout and was awarded a contract, and his play in the preseason has been nothing short of stellar. He could very well be the replacement for Magnus Rasmussen that the club will badly need.
Sean Reynolds: He will miss Louisville City’s first three matches due to a red card suspension from the Eastern Conference Finals, but he will be one of the most important players for the club’s success. His pace and athleticism saved numerous goals last season, and he will look to improve on what was an impressive 2016 campaign.
The 2017 season will be a success if... the boys in purple can repeat history and have a strong campaign despite losing numerous key players. The loss of Dacres and Quinn to FC Cincinnati leaves a bad taste in the fans’ mouths, but it could end up being addition by subtraction if their replacements are able to perform well while buying into the team mentality. However, it remains to be seen whether this collection of players will be able to consistently score goals from open play, or if they will need to rely on set pieces to get on the scoresheet. That said, anything short of a top-three finish, with the talent both on the pitch and on the touchline, will be a disappointment.
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