Louisville City's GameDay Preview is sponsored by Kroger
CARY, NC - March 9, 2018 -- Louisville City FC opens its 2019 season Saturday in North Carolina, taking on North Carolina FC at the WakeMed Park in Cary. For Louisville City coach John Hackworth, it'll be a familiar foe.
Hackworth and NC FC coach Dave Sarachan have known each other for years and have each worked for each other during various points of their careers.
"We are facing a Coach and a group of players that have quality, and it is always tough to open your season on the road," Hackworth said. " ... I'll be honest, we started our prep a long way out."
Sarachan, who is in his first season with North Carolina FC after serving as the interim coach for the United States Men's National Team, is hoping to get North Carolina FC to the playoffs.
"We've had a great three weeks of preseason," Sarachan said. "We have a group that is extremely eager to prove themselves when we open up on the 9th. We are extremely young, but we think we have a quality club... and we have a talented group this year."
Louisville City is the back-to-back defending champions and North Carolina didn't make the playoffs last season, but the two teams are very different this season than they were last year.
Gone are goal scorers Cameron Lancaster, the Golden Boot award winner in 2018, and Ilja Ilic, a dangerous second option last season, so Louisville City is looking to Luke Spencer, Brian Ownby, Niall McCabe and others to provide more scoring punch this season.
As for North Carolina, the club had one of the worst defenses in the league last season, but Sarachan hopes to change that.
"This team gave up a lot of goals in the past," Sarachan said. "When you give up that many goals it is hard to win many games. We want to start having a lot more of what we call team sheets, we need more shutouts."
City returns 18 players from the 2018 USL Cup team, and North Carolina is a largely new squad.
“We’ve pieced together a roster, somewhat creatively,” Sarachan said. “You start finding ways to get quality players within a budget. All of a sudden, we’ve pretty much got our roster … I know a lot of players who I could have gone after, but I’ve tempered that. I’ve realized, OK, here’s what I gotta work with.”
Louisville City and North Carolina FC kickoff Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will be televised in Louisville on WBKI-CW Louisville and broadcast on 1080 WKJK.
The official Louisville City GameWatch party is at Against the Grain Brewery on Main Street at Slugger Field.