Solid Defense, Lack of Finishing Provide Louisville Scoreless Draw with Kansas City
After a scoreless draw against fellow NWSL newcomers Kansas City to open the regular season, Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly praised his team’s defensive performance, but lamented the zero on the scoresheet after a match in which his side controlled much of the play and created chances.
“I think the frustration is that in the first half, I thought we needed to be clinical with our opportunities. We didn’t unfortunately and we will have to improve on that.”
Louisville started the match on their heels defensively. A strong Kansas City build-up led to two crossing opportunities in the second minute. Just seconds later, Louisville goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who has been a standout performer from the jump in this young season, was forced into a save when Victoria Picket took a heavy touch into the box and was able to slip a pass to striker Amy Rodriguez for a shot on goal.
After that initial scare, Louisville’s defense seemed to settle, and limited Kansas City’s opportunities. Kansas City, which are referring to themselves as KC NWSL until settling on a permanent brand identity, managed eleven shots in total with eight of them being blocked by the stout Louisville back line. The defense ended the night with their second consecutive clean sheet, after producing the same 0-0 scoreline against East-leaders Gotham FC in their final Challenge Cup match.
“We limited them to a few good chances,” said Holly. “They had Amy Rodriguez, Darian Elkins, Mallory Weber and Victoria Pickett. To limit a team like that, and not only keep a clean sheet, but to limit them to smaller chances is something good we take away from this.”
Rookie left back Emily Fox led Louisville’s defensive effort with six clearances and three interceptions, managing to keep the match in front of them and limit Betos’ workload. Right back Erin Simon was satisfied with her defensive teammates for their effort in putting together the shutout performance.
“I can’t tell you enough about how proud I am of this team’s performance to keep a clean sheet two games in a row,” said Simon. “We are not conceding, which is really awesome from a defensive point of view.”
Louisville are not conceding, but they also haven’t scored for the second match in a row. This time around though, they were able to create chances to break through. Louisville controlled possession 50.6% of the match, and outshot Kansas City 13-11, though Louisville only managed one shot on goal to KC’s three. Racing, however, did create seven corner kicks and had several scoring opportunities on the attack, which Holly and vice captain Savannah McCaskill were quick to point out Louisville needs to do a better job in finishing.
“We created chances, and we need to find a way to put one in the back of the net at the end of the day and find a way to win,” said McCaskill. “I think it was all around a pretty solid 90-minute performace, but obviously we need to find the back of the net and figure out a way to not let our level drop throughout the 90 minutes.”
Racing Set to Host “Exceptionally Talented” Washington Spirit
Louisville’s first franchise win has still eluded them thus far, but they have another opportunity on home soil against the Washington Spirit on Friday. Holly called Washington, which boasts a roster comprised of national team players as well as bright young rookie forward Trinity Rodman, an “exceptionally talented team,” and said that while the two teams have already met this year, in matchweek two of the Challenge Cup, they aren’t counting on seeing the same exact squad.
“They’ve definitely made a couple of changes to the system,” said Holly. “So we need to make sure that we’re not looking back on that game so much as opposed to looking at their most recent performances.”
Katie McClure, who made her first start for Racing at right wing in the week one draw with Kansas City, identified the threats posed by the Spirit and pinpointed the areas that Louisville will have to focus on in order to achieve a positive result.
“I think the national team players are going to be a key role for them,” said McClure, referring to Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnet, who regularly feature with the US senior national team. ‘They have good players up top, Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman, and Ashley Sanchez. They’re very dynamic. They all want to get into the box, dribble, do whatever they can to be the defenders, I think that our backline being solid back there and just stopping them at every opportunity that we can will be crucial for us.”
McClure said that she believes Louisville is in a good spot to be competitive in NWSL play, as they enter match week two with a combined record of 0-2-3 in all competitions. Many of those results, which make up four Challenge Cup matches and the week one draw, came from last-minute concessions.
“I definitely think we are [ready to compete],” said McCLure. “We’re competing with every opponent that we’ve faced already. And so I think that there’s small changes that we have to make, there’s obviously growth in every game. And I think that we’ve taken and learned from it and put it into the game, each game. So I think that we are growing every little chance we have and we’re taking the steps that we need to go forward and compete.”
Friday’s match between Racing Louisville FC and Washington Spirit will air at 7:30pm on Twitch.
Holly Provides Updates on European Signings
Holly had updates on Racing’s impending arrivals from the FA Women’s Super League, Gemma Bonner and Ebony Salmon. Bonner is arriving from Manchester City, while Salmon has recently signed after a stint with Bristol City. Holly said both players are in the process of acquiring their visas.
“Gemma had her visa interview today. And we expect to maybe see her on the ground in Louisville in the next ten days. But again, that is out of our hands,” said Holly. “Then Ebony has her visa interview next week. And then assuming all goes well, she would be here seven to ten days after that. What happens is they go for the visa interview, and then assuming it gets approved, there’s a turnaround time of seven to ten days, and then from that point, they jump straight on the plane, and be here and ready to go.”
Holly said that Bonner and Salmon, both coming off a long European season and in Bonner’s case still overcoming injuries, may need time to get to full fitness and be fully integrated into Louisville’s system. According to Holly, even if they arrived fully ready and healthy, they’d still need to impress to earn their spot in the XI.
“No one’s going to just show up and just walk right into the team,” said Holly. “The mentality here is these kids that have come here, they’ve earned it, and they’re gonna fight for it. They’re gonna fight to hold on to their positions. We expect Ebony and Gemma to show up with that mentality that they actually have to come here and fight to earn it.”
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Photo Credit: Racing Louisville Twitter