Racing Louisville FC will enter a tough matchup this weekend on a significant positive note.
A busy and congested week in which they played three matches within seven days left Racing with six out of a possible nine points, bookending a midweek loss against a tough North Carolina side with two clean sheet victories, the most recent of which came as the Lavender routed the Chicago Red Stars last Saturday en route to their first road win.
“To see the girls do what they did on the back of a lot of rotation, it makes us incredibly proud in terms of the direction that they’re going and the commitment they have to establishing our club,” said Louisville head coach Christy Holly.
“That was the first time that we really put together a 90 minutes,” said vice captain Savannah McCaskill after the Chicago match. “I think we did a really good job of controlling when we needed to keep the ball. And when we needed to clear our lines, get up and get compact as a team.”
The 3-0 win over Chicago came with several milestones for the young club: Ebony Salmon’s 38th-minute opener, her second goal in just three appearances with Racing, represented the team’s first away goal and first goal scored in the first half. A good passing sequence for Louisville saw Cece Kizer slip a pass to Salmon in the center of the box, and the finish caromed its way past Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Salmon marked her first goal as a member of Racing’s starting XI, a milestone she successfully lobbied Holly to achieve after making an impact in two appearances off the bench.
“It’s what I’ve come here to do,” said Salmon. “I think the past two games I’ve got good minutes. I think in both games, I’ve had good performances. So to get the start today was really good and to top it off with a goal and a win was just perfect for me.”
The match began nearly two hours later than scheduled as torrential rains spoiled the early afternoon start. The downpour returned around the 20 minute mark, making sophisticated, technical soccer a near impossibility for much of the match.
“I said to the girls at halftime, ‘This isn’t good soccer,’” said Holly. “You’ve got to make this a fight. You’ve got to make this a battle. You’ve got to identify who you’re up against and win your 1-v-1 battles, then collectively win the 11-on-11 battle.”
Louisville fought off Chicago’s attack in the early goings, with Racing goalkeeper Michelle Betos making a stellar save, punching away a rising effort from Chicago’s Vanessa DiBernardo to keep the game level in the 31st minute as pitch conditions worsened. Betos ended the match with 3 saves to widen her lead in saves among NWSL goaltenders with a whopping 43 over seven games; Gotham FC’s Kailen Sheridan is in second place with 27. The Queens, NY native and Racing captain has been named to the NWSL Best XI for the month of June due to her series of stellar performances.
Louisville cracked the match open in the 56th minute after Chicago’s Danielle Caprico was sent off for accumulating two yellow cards after a cynical tackle on Louisville’s Yuki Nagasato. Nagasato, the former Chicago midfielder, immediately cashed in on the numerical advantage, slipping past the Chicago defense and tapping the ball in after a scramble in front of goal to double Racing’s lead. Five minutes later, it was another former Chicago midfielder, Savannah McCaskill, who punished the outnumbered Chicago and completed a 40-yard run, tapping in a lofting, deflected ball for the 3-0 lead in the 61st minute. Both goals were the respective players first tallies with Louisville, a shining moment for the first two players to join the expansion club.
“It’s very, very special,” Holly said. “I’ve spoken about how important they are to us as a team, and to us as a club and the value that they stand for. To see them get a reward on the field, it’s very rewarding for everybody to see.”
For McCaskil, the return to Chicago was a special moment, and the goals were an indication that Louisville is on the right track.
“I love Chicago,” McCaskill said. “I loved my time here, I still have so many friends on this team. So coming here and just being able to see all of them and coming back to where I spent a year and a half of my career is always going to be special. But you know, I think we’re really building something special in Louisville. I think this group of players really has something to prove, and I think we’re showing that week in and week out.”
The two-win week put Louisville in playoff position at sixth in the table with a hair less than a third of the season played. Louisville are playing with the confidence of a real contender, and with a record of three wins, a draw and three losses, have outpaced expectations for the new club. Salmon praised the team’s quickly-developed chemistry.
“Obviously we’ve managed to build those relationships quickly but I think it’s not just working together,” said Salmon. “They’re the kind of players that I want playing in front of me and I’m the kind of player they want playing in front of them. So I think part of that relationship will just come naturally.”
Louisville Take on Portland Thorns at Home
Louisville’s next challenge is a meeting with 2021 Challenge Cup winners Portland Thorns FC. Portland currently sits at third in the table with 12 points to Louisville’s ten. Both teams lost to North Carolina Courage by a 2-0 decision during last week’s busy stretch, though Portland will be the more well-rested side after only playing two games over the seven days in which Louisville played three.
In their last meeting on June 5, The Thorns dismantled Racing 3-0 on the back of goals scored by Angela Salem, Rocky Rodriguez and USWNT star Lindsey Horan. The lineups for both teams will look quite different for this meeting however, with Louisville having since added the likes of Salmon, Gemma Bonner and Cheyna Matthews and Portland losing five stars to the Olympic period. The Thorns’ illustrious roster will be significantly defanged as starting goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and midfielders Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan are set to join the US Women’s National Team, while forward Christine Sinclaire will represent Canada. Louisville’s young roster, which does not include any US Soccer allocated players or players participating in the Olympics, will remain entirely intact throughout the Olympic period.
Racing Unveil Brand New Training Facility
Racing Louisville FC have released details and pictures of their new training facility, which the team moved into this week alongside USL Championship counterparts Louisville City FC.
The $15 million facility, which began construction in August of 2020 and will be fully completed in the coming weeks, includes a weight room, dining hall, media/film room and several fields, according to a press release sent out by the team on Wednesday.
“I’m still wrapping my head around it being ours. I hope the league can see the standard now, because this changes it,” said goalkeeper and captain Betos, a 12-year veteran of professional women’s soccer, in the release. “All I could think about when I walked in there was, the first year I had a folding chair, put my clothes under it and took it home every day. Now I’m sitting on a purple cushion chair with my picture above it.”
Locker rooms, offices and training rooms are identical for the men’s and women’s sides, and the two teams will share the weight room and cafeteria, according to the club. There will be no conflict between training schedules, as there are enough fields for both squads to train simultaneously, still a rarity in women’s soccer across the globe. The training facility will also be used by the club’s youth academy.
“The opportunity to have a home where you can house a women’s team and a men’s team that are treated equally is really important to us as an organization,” said James O’Connor, executive vice president of development for Soccer Holdings, the club’s ownership group. “Then we align them with the academy. It’s rare for clubs to be able to house their whole technical side in the same place.
Racing Louisville gaffer Christy Holly praised the new facility, which sits two miles away from Lynn Family Stadium.
“It’s a world-class facility and statement of intent for where we want to go,” said Racing’s head coach, Christy Holly. “We feel very strongly that players deserve the best — whether it’s their nutrition, strength and conditioning, the locker room or medical care, it’s all taken care of here.
“This facility is something that will allow us to recruit the best players in the world to Louisville.”
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