With the 2021 Challenge Cup pre-season tournament in the rearview mirror, the new Louisville expansion side has turned their attention to the regular season. While there were many positives from the Challenge Cup, the squad was still in search of their first win. Coach Christy Holly’s young Racing Louisville team proved to be competitive and full of potential. To begin their first regular season, they welcomed the former Utah Royals side, Kansas City NWSL, into Lynn Family Stadium.
Racing Louisville Lineup
Over the first few matches of Racing’s existence, Coach Holly has been fairly consistent with his starting eleven selection. The first regular-season encounter was no different. Many of the same names and faces made it onto the pitch except for Emina Ekic. Ekic started on the bench in favor of Katie McClure, who was making her first NWSL start. Post-match, Coach Holly had the following to say about McClure, “We are exceptionally proud of her. Katie has a very good eye for goal, which, for this team, separates her a bit.” Formation-wise, the team appeared to be lined up in a 4-2-3-1 similar to what they had used in the previous two matches.
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) May 15, 2021
The match got off to a spooky start for the home team fans when at 2’, KC got the ball into the box and hit a low shot that was blocked and scooped up by Michelle Betos. A few minutes later, a KC free kick outside of the box was sent towards goal but went just wide of the net. Thankfully, after the first few minutes, Racing took a hold of the match and kept the pressure on KC. Although they did not see any quality chances early, they were in control. At 36’, Emily Fox displayed her versatility by making a fantastic run down the pitch into KC’s final third. She dished it out to Yuki Nagasato, whose cross into the box to Savannah McCaskill was blocked, but the loose ball bounced right to Cece Kizer. Kizer fired a shot on goal, but the KC keeper snagged it. In the first half’s added time, McCaskill sent in a low cross to Cece, who was waiting in the box. Cece didn’t get the contact she would have liked and sent the ball over the crossbar. A big missed opportunity for Racing Louisville. “That one at the end of the half I think Cece on any other day that’s going into the back of the net,” McCaskill said post-match. “She was in a great pocket. That’s where we want to be. That where we want our nine to be –in and around the goal taking those opportunities.” At the half, despite Racing’s 59% possession, they only managed one shot on target.
Several minutes into the second half, at 51’, Racing Louisville launched a corner kick into the crowd of players. The KC goalkeeper jumped to catch the ball but missed. Kaleigh Riehl was able to control the ball and get a shot off, but it went right into a defender and was eventually gobbled up by the goalie. Ten minutes later, Erin Simon made a phenomenal slide tackle to dislodge a KC attacker of the ball. The ball made its way to the feet of McClure, who drove it down the pitch and passed it over to McCaskill. She let a rip on the ball and sent it painfully close to goal, but it was unfortunately slightly too high. Another big missed opportunity. At 65’, Racing Louisville made their first substitution of the match, taking off McClure for Ekic. This would be followed by Taylor Otto in for Lauren Millet at 82’ and Jorian Baucom in for Cece at 90’. Despite the infusion of fresh legs into the match, there were no other notable opportunities for either side. The match would end 0-0 with both leaving the encounter with the first points of their 2021 regular season.
By The Numbers
While each team took plenty of shots, few were on target. In fact, Racing’s two best opportunities were off-target shots. Although Racing led in possession for the first half, the final possession ended up being much more even. A case could easily be made that Racing did more with it alas possession doesn’t determine the outcome of the match.
The nitty gritty of tonight's game. 👀 pic.twitter.com/OBdM4CFlz9
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) May 16, 2021
— GameFlow (@GameFlowxPG) May 16, 2021
— Arielle Dror (@arielle_dror) May 16, 2021
It was a draw that felt like a loss. Racing had more control over the match and better opportunities but could find the back of the net. After the match, Coach Holly stated, “I thought that we need to clinical with our opportunities. We didn’t unfortunately and we will have to improve on that.” Missed opportunities were a reoccurring theme. The team had little issue getting the ball into KC’s half, but finding attackers in good shooting positions posed to be a challenge. While KC’s defense deserves some credit, this might be some of Racing’s youth showing. “We need to be a little bit braver and put ourselves in positions where we can actually score,” Coach Holly said. “We must take a little more responsibility as an individual and as a teammate to step up and let the shot go.” Several possessions ended because of players being on different pages. Passes into space with no one advancing to that position. Simon stated, “We are still learning each other as teammates, learning our tendencies, and we are still implementing our style of play. It is a long season, and we have a lot of growing to do so this is a really good foundation to build off of.”
On the bright side, this was the squad’s second clean sheet. They did very well to neutralize the KC offense and stifle most shooting opportunities. The play of Fox and Ekic (off the bench) stood out, much like in the previous matches. The two first-round draft picks continue to be special pieces to the puzzle. As they continue to grow, they will become more and more pivotal to the team’s success.
While a bit disappointing for the home team, there is still plenty of season left. The more this team plays together, the more they will gel and the more success they will see. Being an expansion team in the first season is such a challenge. Even with that adversity, this team is performing well. The best is yet to come!