It is hard not to be disproportionately optimistic following Loudoun United’s eventful 3-2 win Wednesday night; the win in the brutal midwestern heat included a goal from a former D.C. United Academy player (Griffin Yow) while a current Academy player (Bryang Kayo) assisted on a late game-winner. Two other Academy players saw their first pro minutes as well (Nelson Martinez, Moses Nyeman), and things appear to be looking up for the ponies.
What do they get as a reward? The chance to play the two-time defending USL Champions on their home field. And if they come away from that with at least a point, they can find themselves above the red line in the Eastern Conference tonight. So no pressure!
Key player: Peabo Doue
Doue played centrally in the Wednesday win but flared out to the left side in attack and the results were productive as he assisted on Loudoun’s first two goals and won 4 of 7 duels. Defensively he had 3 interceptions and 2 clearances and drew more fouls than committed. It remains to be seen a) if he’ll play today and where that will be, if he stays inside he’ll have to work on containing a Louisville attack more seasoned than Swope’s, he could also be on the outside if Harri Hawkins is ready to go in the middle, and Doue could spell Martinez after his debut. His contributions on both sides should be needed today.
Location: Louisville Slugger Field (Louisville, KY)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11: Where the last game was tricky to predict, today will be a tiny bit trickier; Martinez saw his first start, Nyeman and Kayo saw their first and second games, respectively. Do the latter two rotate into the starting lineup? Do Academy players Theodore Ku-Dipietro and Adam Lundegard get some run? If the answer to either of those two questions is yes, and we think it is, then coach Ryan Martin could have as many as 4 current members of D.C.’s U-17 team (which he also coaches) getting pro minutes tonight, 5 if you count alum Yow.
Starters: Calle Brown; Jack Villatoro, Lundegard, Hawkins, Doue; Nyeman, Kayo; Connor Presley, Antonio Bustamante, Yow; Kyle Murphy
Bench: Colin Miller, Martinez, Collin Verfurth, Jack-Jean Baptiste, Ku-DiPietro, Andrew Lubahn, Orlando Sinclair
Key Hartford player: Oscar Jimenez
It was great to win against Swope Park Rangers Wednesday for sure. Swope Park also has conceded the most goals in the Eastern Conference and wraps both arms around this year being a developmental one for the organization; after finishing each of its first three years with a winning record, Swope has won once in 12 games.
Louisville can be viewed firmly as the other end of the spectrum. In its first four years of existence they have finished no worse than second in the East during the regular season and have appeared in the Conference Finals each year, winning the Championship in 2017 and 2018. Former Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth and his assistant (and former D.C. player) Danny Cruz head up a formidable squad.
A squad that, it should be noted is missing several key cogs; Devon “Speedy” Williams and San Jose Earthquakes alum Shaun Francis are with Jamaica for the Gold Cup, and Paco Craig is out after receiving two yellow cards in the team’s 4-1 win over Charleston last Saturday. That’s your defensive midfielder and half of your backline out, not to mention former Richmond Kicker Brian Ownby (who received a suspension for violent conduct in the same game). On top of all this, they have a U.S. Open Cup game with rivals and MLS infants FC Cincinnati on Wednesday. Sitting in sixth with teams breathing down their necks with games in hand, Hackworth may find himself in a pickle and if there was a time to catch Louisville, this could be it. That said, Jimenez in second in the USL with 38 created chances and if he can be shut down, Loudoun has a chance at something.
Referee: Marcos DeOliveira
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?: Daddy Juice, Aslin Beer Company. I like the name, it’s sour season, and this is a blueberry, mango and vanilla beauty I’ll nurse while watching the youths.
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