Louisville City FC coach John Hackworth is not taking Bethlehem Steel lightly. Hackworth and LouCity will square off against the Steel Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Slugger Field.
Louisville City (8-5-6, 30 pts.) is currently in 6th in the Eastern Conference while Bethlehem Steel (5-10-4, 19 pts.) is in 12th. The top 10 teams make the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"The biggest thing we need to realize is that Bethlehem Steel has been a team that, every year, has consistently been in the playoffs,” Hackworth said. “We played them last year in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference. We tied them earlier this year in Philly. They deserve our ultimate respect, and we have to make sure that we go into this game giving them that, but also controlling what we can and believing that we can get a result."
Hackworth called Bethlehem dangerous for a number of different reasons, most notably their changing lineups.
"Well if you specifically look at MLS-2 teams, they do a lot of rotation,” Hackworth explained. “You never know who you're gonna play. You could get a first-teamer who's coming back from injury and they wanna get him match minutes, or you could get a young guy that's been playing well in the academy, so it's difficult. What I know about Bethlehem Steel is what I said earlier: They have been in the playoffs consistently, they've always gotten better in the second half of the year. We've seen that recently from their performances, and I think we're gonna get the best of what they have on Saturday night here."
As for Louisville City, Hackworth wants to see his squad focus on starting the game well. The Boys in Purple have allowed the opponent to score first in the last five matches.
“The fact that it's happened five times in a row, we've been able to come back and get results in all but one of those games is pretty remarkable,” Hackworth said. Louisville City has a win, three draws and a loss in its last five matches. “If you're a soccer or football statistician, you're looking at that and saying, 'That's not how it's gonna play out.' So that's a positive, but honestly, you know, it's not good enough that we have to react the way that we're reacting. Again, we're gonna go into it and say, 'Let's be proactive, let's take the initiative, let's get the first goal, let's get the second one.' And then it's a much different look for us and a much different reaction, and that's just what we have to try and work towards."
Louisville City returned to training Tuesday morning after arriving back from Ottawa on Monday. After Ottawa scored in the 56’ on a penalty kick by Wall Fall before Louisville City found the equalizer from Magnus Rasmussen in the 67’.
"The emphasis is going to be that we have to play 90 minutes from the first whistle to the last whistle, very consistent,” Hackworth said. “And that's something that we honestly haven't done yet. It's fantastic that we have the responses that we are having when we go down a goal, but we don't want to rely on that. We need to be proactive, we need to take the initiative from the very first whistle, and we need to be consistent through the last."
Louisville City and Bethlehem Steel kick off at 7 p.m. at Slugger Field. The game will be broadcast locally on WBKI and streamed online on ESPN+. The radio broadcast with Kevin Kernen and Jeff Greer will be on 840 WHAS starting at 6:45.