Racing Louisville FC opened their new chapter after a mid-week firing of inaugural head coach Christy Holly last Saturday, starting interim coach Mario Sanchez’s tenure with a 1-1 draw against third-place OL Reign inside Lynn Family Stadium.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these women,” Sanchez said after the stalemate. “For the week they’ve had, to come out and play against one of the best teams, shows the character of this team. They came together, so that’s the most important thing.”
Louisville put together a quality first-half performance, controlling the momentum against a tired Reign side who was playing their third game over seven days. For Racing, it was a return to the courageous, attacking football the expansion side had shown flashes of throughout their inaugural campaign. They cashed in on that momentum with a 23rd-minute goal from veteran forward Nadia Nadim and entered the halftime break with a 1-0 lead.
“We started off so well pressing them high up the pitch and we won a lot of balls in the opposition half,” said Racing center back Gemma Bonner. “Now we’ve got to learn how to do it for 90 minutes, and how to manage it to do it in the moments more consistently.”
Ultimately, Louisville couldn’t keep up the pace for the full 90 minutes as a series of substitutions left OL Reign refreshed and energized, resulting in a 74th-minute equalizer from NWSL scoring leader Bethany Balcer. Racing ended the game outshot and outpossessed, but were able to walk away with a point.
“We’re obviously disappointed to come away with the draw, but we’re definitely learning every single week. I think our focus now is if we can put on a complete performance for 90 minutes. Reign are a fantastic team and they’ve got quality, world-class players throughout the squad. I think we competed really well with them, and that’s something we’ve got to take forward into the latter part of the season.”
For Sanchez, much of the match laid out the road map for what the rest of the season should look like for the Lavender. As it stands now with seven games remaining, Racing are stuck in ninth place but not yet out of playoff contention — they are six points out of the sixth and final playoff spot with 17.
“We want to be a high-intensity team. We want to press high, we want to play forward. This club is built on entertaining and winning. We feel that what you saw tonight, especially in the first 60-65 minutes, is something we can grow on and move forward and have a clear identity.”
While Racing have not been content with moral victories at any point this season, the draw with a top side surely came with some exhalation of relief for a team that had spent last week dealing with the fallout of the firing of head coach Christy Holly. Holly was let go by the team for cause in the late hours of Tuesday, August 31, four days ahead of Saturday’s match. Venus Sports has detailed what is known publicly, but details about Holly’s firing remain elusive.
“Obviously it was a challenging week, I think there’s no hiding away from that. But I think the group’s really stuck together and stayed strong. Every day in training seems to have positive energy. All that we can control as players, and all we’re here to do is play football.”
Racing Louisville now turn to Exploria Stadium in Orlando FL, for a Saturday matchup with Orlando Pride. The Pride have been without striker Alex Morgan since the US international suffered an injury in the US bronze medal Olympic campaign, but have managed points in four of their last five matches to keep themselves in playoff position with 25 points, good for fourth in the table.
Following Louisville’s match with Orlando, two standout performers will depart the club for the September international window. Strikers Ebony Salmon and Nadia Nadim will represent England and Denmark respectively. Salmon could make her second appearance with the Lionesses after debuting in February, while Nadim will likely mark her 100th international cap while Denmark attempts to qualify for the World Cup.
Racing Louisville and Orlando Pride will kick off inside Orlando’s Exploria Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 11 at 7pm. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+.
(Image credit- Racing Louisville twitter)