Racing Louisville opened their regular season on Saturday night with a frustrating 2-1 away loss against the Chicago Red Stars. For the second week in a row, Racing found themselves in a winnable match that was lost through simple mistakes.
“It’s difficult to explain the feeling right now because, on one hand, we’re super disappointed over the result – we really thought we had a good chance to win tonight,” said Racing coach Kim Björkegren. “We started the game not so well. … We tried to answer their questions on the pitch, and we’re doing many things really well. We had (61) percent of the possession in an away game in Chicago. In the end, it doesn’t matter. We need to create more chances, but we also need to be more hungry in the box.”
Racing’s single goal of the night came from Emily Fox who earned Player of the Match honors for her efforts. This was Fox’s first professional goal, an experience she called bittersweet considering the match’s outcome. “In the moment I was like, ‘We need to score,’ and I felt like I could have done more to help with the goal they scored,” she said. “There really wasn’t much celebrating. I felt like we needed to get after it. I’m very excited I scored, but I want the team to win.”
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) May 1, 2022
In addition to Fox, rookie midfielder Savannah DeMelo had a standout match. She was second only to Fox in duels but was the team leader in duels won. She’s also proven to be a solid taker of set pieces and was inches away from getting one against Chicago when her shot in the first half went off the woodwork.
Although clearly frustrated by the outcome, players are keeping this match in perspective. “I think we got a little unlucky with the two goals,” said DeMelo after the match, “but I think we showed what we’re capable of both in the attacking third and the defensive third. We’re just going to take what we learned from this game and move forward. It’s the first game of the season, so we’ve got a long way to go.”
DeMelo was one of the standouts for Racing on Saturday.
A poor pass from Julie Lester intended for Emily Fox went out of bounds in just the first few seconds of the game causing a quick turnover to Chicago. Moments later, an on-target shot by Chicago’s Ella Stevens was deflected over the net by Katie Lund. The resulting corner taken by Danielle Colaprico found Stevens who converted it for Chicago’s first goal. Racing Louisville quickly took control of the game, however, Fox scored off a through-ball from Cece Kizer in the 10′.
Things stayed even for about another 15 minutes until Chicago caught Racing Louisville unprepared by taking a fast free kick in a dangerous area before Louisville’s defenders got into position. Chicago’s Bianca St. Georges’ shot hit the right post and bounced to the feet of Colaprico who took another shot that missed but wasn’t properly cleared and fell to St. Georges who scored from the right at very close range.
Around the 30’, the game went into an hour-long weather delay due to lightning strikes in the area. From the time play resumed, however, Racing was on the front foot almost the entire rest of the match. Racing’s chance came when Emina Ekic – who was substituted in at the half – forced a last-second save from Chicago keeper Alyssa Naeher in the 74′. Despite 10 shots and 32 crosses – including 5 corners – in the second half, Racing would fail to score and the match would end in 2-1 in Chicago’s favor.
By The Numbers
Racing dominated in about every single offensive metric possible – except having the most goals and expected goals (1.35 to Chicago’s 1.37). They had 14 shots with 6 on goal compared to the Red Stars 8 on goal with 3 on target. Eight of Racing’s shots were from inside the box. Interestingly, the players with the most shots on target were Emily Fox and Emina Ekic who had 3 apiece.
Racing broke two league records on Saturday for total crosses in a match (47) and total open play crosses (43). The North Carolina Courage was the previous record holder in both cases. As a result, the Red Stars were forced to make an unbelievable 39 clearances on the night compared to Racing’s 2. Chicago keeper Alyssa Naeher was also forced to make 5 saves.
Racing also dominated possession in both halves ending with 61%.
A graphic for your viewing pleasure pic.twitter.com/ffHWkWYSFo
— Tony ⚡ (@xGisfornerds) May 1, 2022
Finding That Killer Instinct
In short, there can be no doubt that Racing is learning to kick their attack into high gear. An offensive barrage like this is a positive sign even if the final result wasn’t great. They’ve gone from a team that was tentative and too afraid to take shots last season to a team that can pull off an almost overwhelmingly relentless attack. The issue with Racing right now is finishing and finesse. Crosses and shots need to be more accurate. They need to rush less and make sure they’re actually picking attackers out instead of just launching the ball into the box. If Racing can keep up this offensive production and take that final step into accuracy, they will be a team to be reckoned with.
Right now, these attacking stats are a bright spot. If they don’t find the necessary accuracy and final touch to put these chances away soon, however, they’re going to have more disappointing matches in their future. Creating this many chances does raise the possibility of scoring goals. It’s a great next step. But Racing needs to develop more of a killer instinct that helps them deal that final blow.
If Racing can keep a positive, attacking mindset and stay focused on their progress, they have a good shot at continuing to improve. If they let these matches get to them and become complacent, however, they might undercut themselves before they reach their full potential. It’s clear this season will be a big test for Coach Kim Bjorkegren and the players’ ability to own their mentality. And so far, players remain positive.
“I think we’ve progressed really well,” said Fox of the team’s growth since the preseason. “Like I said, it was a bittersweet game. I do think we had really great energy and so many chances. We were in their half most of the game. But in terms of how we’ve progressed, I think we’re getting better and better each game. In a sense, we are kind of a new team again with a new coaching staff and new rookies coming in.”
There is no doubt that this was a disappointing match for players and fans alike, but as DeMelo said, it was just the first game of the season. Racing is a young team that’s essentially restarting from scratch and they have a long way to go still. But they are on their way. And now they have the rest of the season to show their progression.