It has been 16 days since Loudoun United played their last USL Championship game (a 2-1 loss to Hartford Athletic) and well, it’s going to be interesting to see what new coach/former D.C. United Academy Director Ryan Martin brings to the table. Not from a tactics perspective mind you (though Martin’s Dad Jay is the winningest soccer coach in NCAA history), but from a larger organizational message. Martin has indirectly seen two homegrown players (Donovan Pines and Griffin Yow) spend time in Loudoun and D.C. this year already, midfielder Theodore Ku-Dipietro was added to the 23-man gameday roster (and traveled with the team, along with heralded midfielder Moses Nyeman) before games tonight and Saturday, so to what extent does he continue with it? The opposition, Sporting Kansas City’s USL owned side, may have a peak into that particular method. More on that in a minute.
Key player: Harri Hawkins
With presumably everyone back, Hawkins (who has missed the last two games to injury) should solidify the Loudoun backline and let Peabo Doue play in his natural outside back spot. Will this happen? Remains to be seen, but if there were a chance to give him a go, tonight (or Saturday with Louisville City) would be a good start.
Location: Children’s Mercy Park (Kansas City, KS)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11: This is a little tricky; Loudoun is playing the first of three games before D.C. United plays its next regular season game and the latter has made some loans with Yow and Antonio Bustamante (the latter out since week 2 due to a knee injury) traveling the club ahead of next week’s U.S. Open Cup match with the Philadelphia Union. Jack-Jean Baptiste has returned after his U-20 World Cup duty with Honduras and should be available. Oh, and there’s the matter of a new coach. So this should be a strong group for Loudoun relatively speaking. They will at least have a full complement.
Starters: Earl Edwards Jr.; Alexxon Saravia, Collin Verfurth, Hawkins, Doue; Antonio Bustamante, Baptiste; Yow, Orlando Sinclair, Nelson Martinez; Kyle Murphy
Bench: Calle Brown, Jack Villatoro, Sandor Bustamante, Milton Campos, Shinya Kadono, Andrew Lubahn, Connor Presley
Key Hartford player: Felipe Hernandez
On paper this is a winnable game for Loudoun; Swope has given up double the number of goals (26) that Loudoun (13) have, though Hartford allowed more goals at that point and beat Loudoun on the road. That said, the Academy signing has seen appearances with the United States U-20 and U-19 teams in his day, and the midfielder who is due to turn 21 on Saturday has scored more goals than Kyle Murphy, who leads Loudoun. Swope is young (average starting XI age: 20.9 years) and 13 Academy players have appeared in almost 4,000 minutes, and it’s early June. (It should be noted that at one point, the Seattle Sounders’ USL team dressed a Starting XI last September of 18.5 years of age). If Martin is looking for an example for his Academy players to emulate, this could be a good place to look.
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Available streaming: ESPN+ (click here and subscribe to ESPN+, and your friends at B&RU get a little bit of cash!)
What are you drinking?: Probably a JREAM from Burley Oak. I’m on the Eastern Shore/Delaware, so may be more of a Dewey Beer Company growler run more than anything.
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