There is some humor in Loudoun United’s opening time for me because after seeing them be one of the last teams to open their home campaigns every year since they came into the League in 2019, they now get the chance to be the first kickoff for the USL Championship’s 2022 season, hosting an Indy Eleven side at Segra Field that they saw last August in one of Loudoun’s more comprehensive wins in recent memory. Given that wins have been a premium for Loudoun over the last couple of seasons, the desire to start the year off on a good foot is desirable but won’t be easy.
Key player: Jackson Hopkins
Week to week and without figuring in who comes down from D.C. on a game to game basis, Hopkins may be the focal point for the offense of the team. Coming off an impressive half-season where he and Ted Ku-DiPietro had a few moments of brilliance, Hopkins gets to work with Tyler Freeman, loaned from Sporting Kansas City II, and is an attacking prospect in his own right. With Azaad Liadi, Hopkins has the chance to either work off Freeman’s chance creating or be the playmaker of the bunch. It will take time to sort out but is intriguing.
Location: Segra Field (Leesburg, VA)
Kickoff time: 6:00 pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11/who D.C. United is loaning: So as of Friday afternoon, I’d only heard Jacob Greene and Kimarni Smith’s names called as loan downs. Then late Friday, It looked like (via the USL roster page) that Ku-DiPietro, Jeremy Garay, and Hayden Sargis would be joining the pair, who are more of a season-long designation, so we’ll see what changes as the season goes. Imagine the quintet gets priority and then Ryan Martin may fill the remaining lineup with talent as well, to knock Indy off-balance as they learn their system. More on them in a second.
Starters: Luis Zamudio; Sargis, Grant Lillard, Rio Hope-Gund; Greene, Nicky Downs, Garay, Sami Guediri; Smith, Hopkins, Ku-DiPietro
Bench: Luke Peacock, Carson Vom Steeg, Owen Walz, Landry Houssou, Freeman, Michael Gamble, Liadi, Skage Simonsen
Key Indy player/former D.C. players: Neveal Hackshaw
Indy parted ways with former Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie last year and brought in Mark Lowry, who impressed the League with an El Paso side that went to the Western Conference Finals in its last two seasons. Nicky Law figures to be the attacking player the defense should keep an eye on, but Hackshaw is the focus here. A defender who was bothered by injury in chunks of last season, but when on form as he was in 2019 and 2020 is one of the best, and he’ll get to feast on a fledgling Loudoun attack while serving as the bruiser either at center back or defensive midfield. In terms of local interests, gone is former Maryland Terrapin and Loudoun player Gordon Wild, i.e., the only D.C. connection to speak of in the past.
Referee: John Matto
Available Streaming: ESPN+ (click to subscribe to ESPN+, and your friends at B&RU get a little bit of cash!)
What do we have to say about it?: Well you can read my musings on Loudoun’s roster and season, along with my recent chat with Ryan Martin and Stewart Mairs on the roster and on youth development within the organization,
What are you drinking?: Downing a whole bunch of hot chocolate wherever the press box location is this year, assuming I’m not frozen solid by then.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussions.
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