Three Things to Know About Racing Louisville and the Women’s Cup

At long last fans will get their first chance to see Racing Louisville take the pitch in 2024 as part of the Women’s Cup South America.

The four-team tournament in Cali, Colombia kicks off today, Tuesday, February 27 with Louisville’s fellow National Women’s Soccer League club NJ/NY Gotham FC playing Deportivo Cali Femenino at 5 PM ET. Racing versus América de Cali Femenino follows at 8 PM ET. Fans in the United States can either pay to stream the tournament on the Women’s Cup streaming site or via beIN Sport via YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Fubo TV (more information here).

The rules for this tournament are slightly different than in a regular season match. Namely, if the match is tied after 90 minutes of regulation time, it will go straight to a penalty shootout with no extra time. All teams also have unlimited substitutions in three substitution windows, plus the additional halftime substitution window.

Despite being a preseason tournament, this is the first real chance for Racing fans to take a look at the team after some big off-season changes. Here’s what fans should look for when checking out all the Women’s Cup action.

Learn and Grow

Typically, NWSL teams spend their preseason playing scrimmages against college squads and other NWSL teams. This is an okay way to ease into competition, but Racing — and Gotham — are banking on the fact that playing full matches against other professional teams who are currently in season will give them a bigger edge. Going against a team from another league and experiencing a completely new style of play will be a challenge, but it’ll be what they need to test how ready they are ahead of their March 16 season opener against the Orlando Pride.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for us to learn and grow within our identity and assess kind of where we’re at,” said head coach Bev Yanez. “So for us, it’s just another really good opportunity to play good competition and understand specifically where we’re at.”

Considering Racing will be in preseason form playing against teams who are in season and, even more, teams that no one in Louisville has ever had much of an opportunity to watch before, it’s hard to guess just how they’ll perform. The Colombian women’s league is not easily viewable in the United States and so players are going in fairly blind as to what to expect. Goalkeeper Katie Lund admitted that will be a challenge, but also said that’ll be part of the fun and an excellent way to tell just how prepared they are to head into the new season. That doesn’t mean that they’re not aiming to win, however.

“We’re here to win and we’re here to compete,” said Lund to media on Monday, “so I think the mentality going into tomorrow is to play our hardest and do our best.”

Image courtesy Racing Louisville

A Whole New Racing

Another reason it’s hard to gauge exactly how Racing will look on Tuesday is the fact that they made a lot of big changes this off-season. In addition to adding a bunch of new players, they also have a new head coach in Bev Yanez and two new assistants in Carmelina Moscato and Mitch Sowerby.

It’s these coaching changes as much as the player changes that have fans waiting with bated breath to get their eyes on Racing. Players and coaches have all said that this is going to be a different-looking team than we’ve seen before, but everyone’s been holding their cards close to their chest as to exactly how. The mystery is deepened by the fact that this is Yanez’s first head coaching job, so there are no previous videos of past games to review and get a sense of her tactical and stylistic preferences.

The addition of Moscato has added a whole new layer of intrigue as well. Moscato was widely rumored to be in the running for head coaching positions throughout the NWSL and has ample experience in the lead role having coached Tigres Femenil in Liga MX to a title in 2022. The fact Racing was able to hire her as an assistant is an absolute coup and her experience will hopefully go a long way in helping players adjust to different tactics and a new style of play.

Coaches weren’t the only new faces on the team. While much of Racing’s starting eleven has stayed intact, there are some very notable signings and Tuesday’s match will likely see the debut of some of the most anticipated additions. In particular, U.S. women’s midfielder Taylor Flint (née Kornieck), defender and Kentucky hall of famer Arin Wright, and overall sixth pick in the draft Reilyn Turner are likely to see significant minutes in Colombia. Fans should expect to see Flint placed next to Jaelin Howell in a double pivot while Wright should be placed next to Abby Erceg in central defense since Elli Pikkujämsä is out on international duty with Finland. Turner can play either the wing or the central attacker so it’s hard to guess how she’ll be utilized considering Racing needs support in both areas.

Other players who have a good chance of making their debuts for Racing include defender Ellie Jean who was acquired via a trade from Gotham and Marisa DeGrande (née Viggiano) who signed with Louisville from the Houston Dash as a free agent. Word is that draftee Emma Sears is also having an incredibly solid preseason so she is likely to take the field as well with so many forwards out on international duty. All three are solid players who have upped Racing’s depth significantly and a tournament such as this where the team is getting its first truly competitive minutes is the best possible time to test your depth.

A True Racing Representation?

The Women’s Cup is taking place during an international break and that, of course, means that a significant number of players are missing. Besides Pikkujämsä, Uchenna Kanu and Ary Borges are out among the returning players. A couple of new signings will also have their debuts deferred until they return from international duty. They are Linda Motlhalo with South Africa and Elexa Bahr who is (ironically) with Colombia in the United States for the Gold Cup.

Despite these absences, Racing’s assumed starting lineup is very much intact. The back line, minus Pikkujämsä, is fully available and the lineup featuring Carson Pickett, Abby Erceg, Wright, and Lauren Milliet may in fact be the typical starting defense in the regular season as well. Additionally, Savannah DeMelo, Howell, and Flint remaining with Racing means that fans will also get to see the mostly intact midfield. The forward line is the most impacted by international duty and, therefore, the biggest question, but outside of this exception, the Racing fans see on Tuesday likely won’t be that far off from the one that debuts in the regular season.

This isn’t always guaranteed in a preseason match. Take, for comparison’s sake, Gotham who is missing seven of their presumed starters to the U.S. national team alone plus several others elsewhere. While Racing will certainly have significant rotation to assess depth, the chance to see players like Wright and Flint not just debut, but interact with teammates they’ll likely continue to start with and build relationships with is an exciting prospect.

Looking Ahead

The winners of each of Tuesday’s matches will advance to the tournament final which will take place on Friday at 8:30 PM ET. Earlier on the same day, the third-place match will be held at 5:30 PM.

Keep an eye here on BGN.fm for game recaps for all Women’s Cup events!

Bekki Morgan

Covering Racing Louisville on the Beautiful Game Network and the central NWSL teams on She-Plays.com. Co-host of Butchertown Rundown: A Racing Louisville Podcast. Find me on Twitter @bekki_morgan and my pod @ButchertownR.