Louisville City has gone undefeated since July 28 including six wins in their previous eight matches. How did the run start? And can the defending back-to-back champs keep this remarkable streak going through the end of the regular-season?
“We’ve just fixed a lot of details and it started with our defending. We put an emphasis on making sure we didn’t give up goals early in the games, despite doing that against Red Bulls,” head coach John Hackworth said. “I think that has meant that we’re more confident in everything we’re doing.”
Aside from a different approach on the defensive side of the pitch, depth at the center back position has enabled Coach Hackworth to implement several different schemes and lineups.
“We know we have four really talented center backs on our roster,” he said on his defense. “All four have played a lot of minutes so far this year, so we have a lot of confidence in those guys. But having the consistency at the right moment at left back position has been key.”
Despite a number of injuries - from team captain Paolo DelPiccolo to the explosive forward Brian Ownby - the club has made a strong effort to return to the Eastern Conference playoffs for the 5th time in 5 tries.
One of Louisville City’s keys to the success of late has been the aggressive play from defender Pat McMahon, who did not see much of the pitch before the 8-game streak began.
“I would say personally is trying to defend first,” McMahon said on what has changed in his style of play to help the club. “That’s what I’ve been put on to do and then just organizing in the back and I think it’s coming together on the back line where we’re working with the midfield in front of us.”
The addition of McMahon to the lineup helped the Boys in Purple concede just three goals over a 7-game stretch beginning with a 1-0 clean sheet against then-playoff hopeful Charlotte Independence.
“In that game, we’re battling and it doesn’t look like it now but if you remember, Charlotte was in really good form, in a playoff position,” Coach Hackworth said. “We played well, we did what we tried to implement against them and we ended up winning that game despite being down a man for about 20 minutes.”
Down to just 10 on the pitch after a second-half sendoff, Coach Hackworth was left no choice but to take a defensive stand.
“It was towards the end and that kind of solidified that we had a lot of games left,” he added. “If we could just be good on the defensive side we would give ourselves a chance. And I think that’s something we’ve continued to do through this streak if you will.”
Now Hackworth and company will have a shot to earn points for the 9th straight match against 3rd ranked Tampa Bay Rowdies.
“They have a game in hand so if we’re able to win this and get three points, it makes us relatively even with them,” Coach said. “It’s a huge game and I like the team right – the way we’re working, our process, our confidence, our belief in each other.”
With just 9 points separating the first-place New York Red Bulls II and Louisville City, Saturday’s clash will be nothing short of playoff-style soccer. Kickoff against the visiting Rowdies is set for 7 p.m. at Slugger Field.