Friday, May 4, 2018

A Tale Of Two Cities - Indy Eleven V Louisville City FC PREVIEW

Brad Ring playing preseason in 2016 has missed both competitive Open Cup matches with Louisville.

By: James Cormack

Despite never having played in the same league together, the histories of Indy and Louisville run somewhat parallel since 2014. The clubs have met five times, three in preseason friendlies and twice in the US Open Cup in 2015 and 2016.

In the spring of 2014, Indy Eleven began their professional journey preparing for their first season in the NASL. Saturday, March 22nd saw them head to Louisville for the first time in an arranged friendly against the University of Louisville Cardinals. 

Louisville City FC was still a year away from kicking a ball, but like the Brickyard Battalion their supporters group Louisville Coopers already existed and it was the first opportunity for both to meet and exchange ideas, both supporters groups existed before their teams had played.

The match at U of L itself was an opportunity for coach Juergen Sommer to play several trialists with a view to rounding up the Indy Eleven roster. One of those trialists was current Louisville club captain Paolo DelPiccolo. 

Paolo a former player for UofL Cardinals was drafted by Montreal Impact in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft but elected instead to play at Eintracht Frankfurt II in Germany before returning in the same summer to sign for Montreal. After being waived by Impact at the end of the season he joined New England Revolution who also waived the Midfielder.

Two former Cardinals Paolo DelPiccolo and Dylan Mares challenge for a ball in preseason 2016

The March 22nd friendly with Louisville Cardinals ended in a 2-2 draw, Indy goals coming from Don Smart and Ben Spencer. Head coach Juergen Sommer decided against adding DelPiccolo to his roster and on April 10th 2014 Paolo signed for Arizona United, now Phoenix Rising and would eventually sign for LCFC in 2016 after a stop in Charlotte.

Louisville City FC was announced as a new team on June 4th of 2014, to commence play in USL starting in 2015. Louisville and Indy would meet on March 21st in a friendly competition for the first time in the preseason of that year at the University of Indianapolis in a match that ended with Louisville leaving as victors in a 2-1 win.

To date, the two sides have never met in the city of Louisville in a match, competitive or friendly. Two friendlies have taken place at the University of Indianapolis, one in Evansville and two USOC matches at Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis.

102nd US Open Cup - May 27th, 2015

2015 Official Match poster
by James Cormack
Leading up to the USOC meeting between the two sides on May 27th of 2017, Indy Eleven was not in good form, despite having a reasonable start to the 2015 campaign things started to go downhill quickly. In the three matches prior Indy had scored only one goal and suffered three defeats including two home losses to Jacksonville and Ottawa with a 3-1 away defeat to Minnesota United in between.

Not only were we leaking sloppy goals we also basically couldn't hit a barn door with a shovel and our overall play on the field was that of a disjointed, incoherent team low in spirit.

"The US Open Cup game against Louisville City FC was a chance for the players to regain some poise, play some better football and achieve a win and a happy ending. Unfortunately, all of the problems we have seen of late were still apparent, none more so than our failure to find any chances in front of goal. We never looked like scoring, we lost 2 goals in extra time, I felt had we played for 180 minutes we still would not have scored a goal." excerpt from Bloody Shambles 2015 Match review.

Indy Eleven and Louisville remained deadlocked at 0-0 after regulation time and added time had passed and both would enter extra time in order to find a decider in the match. The Eleven would not score, Louisville took the lead in the 115th minute through Nate Polak and double their lead four minutes later with a goal by Sidney Rivera.

It was a hammer blow for Indy at a very low point in the clubs short history. Louisville would move on to face Chicago Fire in the next round, a tie that our supporters badly wanted to be a part of. The defeat also was probably the catalyst that saw the club part ways with head coach Juergen Sommer, following the USOC exit Indy Eleven played out a 2-2 draw at home with Tampa on May 30th. On June 2nd it was announced the team had parted ways with their first head coach.

103rd US Open Cup - June 1st, 2016

2016 Official Match Poster
by Peter Evans
A year to the day after Indy Eleven fans had seen the exit of their first coach the team would play Louisville City FC again, and like the last time, a tie with Chicago Fire of MLS was up for grabs. Things were different, Tim Regan took over as coach after the departure of Sommer and in the offseason, Tim Hankinson was installed as new head coach and announced Tim Regan as his assistant.

As most Indy supporters would know it was an undefeated spring for us, the new look squad was probably the best roster the club had seen, but it wasn't going to be easy going into this match. Indy was pushing for a Spring Championship win and was having some injury issues. 

The Open Cup tie came when the Eleven were 8 NASL matches undefeated in Spring but had to play Miami FC three days after the game in the second to last match of Spring desperately needing wins to clinch their first silverware.

Tim Hankinson took a gamble and fielded a vastly changed line-up from our league matches, it was about as second string as you could get with a smattering of starters, but it was necessary at the time and not a slight on the competition. It sure made people nervous including myself, nobody wanted to exit the same competition to Louisville City in consecutive years. Tim Hankinson, however, did have weapons on the bench.

Louisville did enough themselves to scare everyone by taking the lead early in the game, a 21st-minute goal by Chandler Hoffman put the visitors 1-0 up against a depleted Indy side. Justin Braun and Éamon Zayed were already at the stage where both were making a difference together in Indy's league matches and both were sitting watching.

Jair Reinoso hounds the defense, first half 2016 US Open Cup

Braun and Zayed came on to the field either side of the halftime break, Justin replacing Jair Reinoso in the 41st minute and Éamon started the second. They shifted the momentum of the game and turned it in Indy's favor. Owayne Gordon leveled the match in the 58th minute and Zayed scored the goal that would seal victory 10 minutes later and it was Indy Eleven's turn to meet with Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup.

Indy Eleven V Louisville City FC - May 5th 2018 USL Eastern Conference

After four years in different leagues with competitive meetings limited to the US Open cup only, Indy and Louisville will meet for the first time in league play. Lou City are current USL champions and have started 2018 looking the part. Along with Pittsburgh Riverhounds, they are the only two teams in the Eastern Conference without a defeat.

Indy Eleven potentially have one of the best rosters they have ever had but are still maturing as a squad, and have their best start to a season in franchise history despite losing twice at home to FC Cincinnati. This will be Indy Eleven's fourth home game of 2018 and they have one win to show against Nashville, they will need to tip the points balance at home if they want to make the playoffs.

Lou City fans in 2016, attendance likely to be sparse this week with the Kentucky Derby and the 500 Mini on the same day.

This game will probably be like no other game between the two, both sides have come a long way since their beginnings and arguably we could be looking at a match between the two strongest Indy and Louisville teams to date. If it brings as much excitement and entertainment as Indy's midweek encounter against Cincinnati, then those attending will be in for a treat.

At times in the past, people could be forgiven for considering Indy Eleven as favorites in meetings between the two, but the results prove otherwise. Louisville has always been a tough nut for Indy to crack. In this match, Indy Eleven are the underdogs.

Despite having played all their matches against Indy Eleven away from home, Louisville have only lost to Indy Eleven once through five matches in that 2016 USOC encounter, I have been to every match and each one has been aggressive and chippy. The matchup I am looking forward to most is between Martin Rennie and James O'Connor, a Scotsman and an Irishman on the sideline what could possibly go wrong?

Martin Rennie is a young man for a head coach, but he has quite a few years on O'Connor. The Louisville coach, still only 38 went straight from playing and coaching at Orlando to being the manager of Louisville City and he has progressed himself and his team year by year. Martin Rennie has a history of improving teams since his days at North Carolina and is now trying to prove himself in the USL, what better match to do so than against the current league champions.

No score predictions from me, but I will predict we are going to see one hell of a game.

Ben Speas in action against Louisville City FC in Spring of 2017

Previous Results:

2015 Indy Eleven 1 Louisville 2 (Friendly)
2015 Indy Eleven 0 Louisville 2 (USOC)
2016 Indy Eleven 0 Louisville 1 (Friendly)
2016 Indy Eleven 2 Louisville 1 (USOC)
2017 Indy Eleven 1 Louisville 1 (Friendly)

Current Form:
Indy Eleven (WLWWDL) 3-1-2 10pts from 6 matches.
Lou City FC (WWWWDW) 5-1-0 16pts from 6 matches


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