Previewing Racing Louisville’s Final Home Match Against NJ/NY Gotham

International Flair

Racing will play their final home match of their inaugural season today, October 28 at 7:30PM. The game against NJ/NY Gotham was originally scheduled for October 1st, but was postponed after reports of abuse and manipulation by North Carolina coach Paul Riley rocked the league. As a result, Louisville fans will get to see women’s soccer legend Carli Lloyd play the final away game of her illustrious career from the comfort of home. How much Lloyd actually plays is unclear as she played the final match of her international career on Tuesday night in Minnesota. She’s said she plans to play in all final games but should expect her minutes may be limited.

Speaking of international play, all five Racing players who were called up during the international break should be available for selection today, according to interim coach Mario Sanchez. These players include Ebony Salmon who played for the English U-23s, Freja Olofsson who debuted for the Swedish U-23s, Vanessa Kara who debuted for the Dominican Republic, Cheyna Matthews who represented Jamaica, and Emily Fox who represented the United States.

Fox played in both national team matches against South Korea and started as left back in Tuesday night’s game. She had a particularly strong game on Tuesday that earned high praise from coach Vlatko Adonovski who called her defense work “spot on” while also praising her ability to get forward and help regain possession whenever the U.S. lost the ball.

“Overall, a great performance,” said Adonovski of Fox after the match. “I just hope this is a baseline or base for her that we can continue building on.”

Fox wasn’t the only player to stand out during the international break. Vanessa Kara scored two goals and earned an assist in her Dominican debut against Bolivia.

“I never thought I’d get the chance to compete internationally,” wrote Kara on Instagram. “Representing Dominican Republic is beyond what I could have ever dreamt for myself. Such an honor to wear these colors and to play with such amazing people. I am so grateful to be a part of this and to be building something special.”

If you missed Cheyna Matthews and the Reggae Girls’ match against Costa Rica, you can watch it for free on-demand on atafootball.com. With a free account, you can watch a huge number of live and on-demand club and international matches from across the world. Consider checking it out and help grow the women’s game worldwide!

Second-Time Spoilers

In their last match, Racing spoiled the Orlando Pride’s chances of making the playoffs with an energetic 3-1 victory. Gotham needs just one more win to clinch a playoff berth. Will Racing play the spoiler one last time?

They very well may! Racing and Gotham have only met twice before – once during the Challenge Cup and once during the regular season in August. Both matches ended in draws. If today’s match ends similarly, Gotham will only have one more chance at making the playoffs. Amusingly, that last chance will also be against Racing on Sunday, October 31- this time at Red Bull Arena. The close proximity of these matches was a necessity after the postponement of the October 1st match. The unexpected side effect, however, is that it leaves Gotham’s post-season fate entirely in Louisville’s hands.

There is no doubt that Gotham will be eager to put away the points they need to put the playoff race to bed. But they struggled in their last match against bottom-ranked Kansas City and ultimately only earned a draw. They will be buoyed by the return of Carli Lloyd to their roster after she was out for the international break, but will that be enough for them to earn all three points?

Racing, on the other hand, will want to give their fans a big last hurrah at the end of their inaugural season. The last match against Orlando displayed some of the best football Racing has played all season. If they can replicate that energy and enthusiasm, they might just earn another win.

Furthermore, the power of the home-field advantage for Racing can’t be overstated. They’ve earned 15 points at home (4-3-4) versus only five away (1-2-8). Interestingly, this is also Gotham’s first visit to Louisville, so they’ll be playing in unfamiliar territory. Gotham has actually earned one more point away than they have at home this season, so playing away may not sway them as much as it has other teams.

Another motivating factor for Racing is that more win would unequivocally hand them the title of most successful expansion team in history. They already took the title of most points earned by an expansion team in their inaugural year after surpassing Orlando’s record. However, Orlando played four fewer games in their first season, so they still have a higher win percentage. With three more points, Racing would take the win percentage record, also.

Magic Moments

Racing fans will be excited to see that Gemma Bonner is officially off the injury list. The fact that she’ll be available for selection is a relief considering the playing time for returning international stalwarts like Fox, Salmon, and Olofsson are up the air. Bonner may not get a full 90 minutes, but having her available against attackers like Midge Purce and, of course, Carli Lloyd is a boon for Racing.

Unfortunately, interim coach Mario Sanchez confirmed that Michelle Betos will miss the last two matches of the season with a hand/wrist injury. Luckily for Racing, the star of the Women’s Cup, Katie Lund, is more than ready to step in.

As a dedicated fan of this team from the moment they were announced, it’s bittersweet to note that we’ve reached the final home game for Racing. This season has been filled with ups and downs, both internally and from within the league, but the players have remained steadfast and dedicated through it all.

When the team was first announced and the initial roster set, so many naysayers believed Racing would be played off the field every single match. Instead, the opposite happened. Racing has stayed in almost every single game they’ve played all season. They keep attacking up until the very end whether they’re up by two or down by five.

I can’t help but think back to that first cold, rainy, windy day in April when Racing first took the field against Orlando in the Challenge Cup. No one knew what to expect from the team – although many naysayers pretended they did – and what we got was a bit of magic. Cece Kizer scoring the first goal in team history and putting Racing on the board first. Conceding two goals, including a late-game heartbreaker that seemed to seal Racing’s fate followed by Brooke Hendrix’s equalizer in the very last minutes of stoppage time. The elation of the thousands of fans in attendance who in that single moment became diehard supporters.

Racing may have suffered through many of the lumps expansion teams go through when joining the NWSL, but they’ve also had moments of clarity and exhilaration. The first draw against Orlando was one. The away win against Chicago was another. Of course, the Women’s Cup victory goes on that list. And the last game against Orlando in front of a record crowd was the most recent.

Today is set to be another cold, wet, windy day just like Racing’s debut match against the Pride. Maybe lightning can strike twice and we can end the season where we started: on a resounding high note that points to just how great this team can be.

Author

Bekki Morgan

Covering Racing Louisville and the NWSL. Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @sukiisacat.