Have you ever bumped into the parents of an ex in the grocery store? Saturday night may feel a little something like that.
Orlando City B (0-1-1, 1 point) travels to Kentucky to take on Louisville City FC (1-1-0, 3 points) in its first-ever USL road game tonight at 7:30 at Louisville Slugger Field. The match will be a meeting of the Orlando City senior side's former USL affiliate and its current one, and several of the connections between the two teams remain.
Louisville City is led by Head Coach James O'Connor, an ex-Lion midfielder and assistant coach who played on the 2013 USL championship team, along with both OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis and assistant Rob Valentino. LCFC is captained by midfielder Aodhan Quinn, who played for the Lions in their final USL campaign back in 2014.
O'Connor utilizes a similar system and playing style to Adrian Heath and the Orlando organization, so these two teams will be identical in more ways than just the primary team colors and anglo-like team eponyms. Off the field the connections run deep as well. Louisville City principal owner Wayne Estopinal also a remains a minority owner in Orlando City, which of course isn't a conflict of interest the USL should care about.
Last Week's Lineups:
OCB: (4-2-3-1) Mark Ridgers; Zachary Ellis-Hayden, Craig Nitti, Tyler Turner, Mikey Ambrose; Tony Rocha*, Andrew Ribeiro; Pierre da Silva, Lewis Neal, Richie Laryea; William Eyang.
Louisville City FC: (4-2-3-1) Scott Goodwin; Jonghyun Son, Conor Shanosky, Sean Reynolds, Kyle Smith; Aodhan Quinn, Guy Abend; Mark-Anthony Kaye, Andrew Lubahn, George Davis IV; Chandler Hoffman.
*Note: Rocha received two yellow cards and was sent off in the 0-0 draw against Charleston last weekend so he is suspended for tonight's match.
Keys to Victory for OCB:
- Production from the 9: After scoring one goal in its first two games, OCB will be looking for its first ever victory tonight at Louisville Slugger Field. That 0 in the win column is in part due to the lack of production from OCB's forwards. No words need to be said about Bryan Rochez; everyone knows the MLS Designated Player is paid to score goals in the first division, much less the third. Whoever starts up top, they'll need to give OCB something to take points on the road.
- Defend the wing: On the other side of the token, Louisville City has also scored only one goal in its first two contests as well, and the attack -- I'm putting this nicely -- has been about as graceful as a three-ton Beluga whale wearing a tutu and pretending to be a ballerina. The team's only goal came from a free-kick after 90 minutes of mostly chance-less soccer in the opener, followed by a shutout at home last Saturday. Throughout last season the key to Louisville City's attack was fullback overlaps on the wing with deadly crosses to find Matt Fondy. Principally, the attack remains the same this season, but the players (due to off-season moves and injuries) and level of execution have been different. Regardless, if OCB can neutralize Louisville's ability to get down the wings and get quality crosses into the box, the young Lions significantly increase their chances on the road.
- Don't fall prey to the atmosphere (or turf): Louisville City has one of the best atmospheres in the USL, and that atmosphere was at its best for last season's friendly against the Orlando senior side, due in no small part to the ending of the affiliation between the two clubs. Passions won't be as high this week, but don't be mistaken into thinking the atmosphere won't be as hostile as any OCB will face this season. Pair the crowd with the playing surface, which is a converted baseball field with a thin and very slick green carpet covering the dirt infield, and OCB will be playing in one of the more unique environments it will all year. The surface has a habit of claiming at least one visiting player in a Charlie Brown-esque moment per game, so be aware of that when OCB is attacking the goal towards the west end of the field, which will be to the right of your screen.
How to Watch
You can watch tonight's game on the official USL YouTube page, or at orlandocitysc.com/live. The broadcast team consists of anaylsts Bob Valvano and Jim Wombwell, along with award-winning local sportscaster Fred Cowgill on the play-by-play, who will be watching a soccer game for at least the second time in his life.
The Mane Land will be represented at the match, so follow @j_milbz for live tweet updates and check back here after the match for the recap.