By Jordan Kalt and Michael Carney
Although these clubs are fairly new to the soccer landscape, Louisville City FC and Indy Eleven have embarked on a hundred and fifteen mile I-65 rivalry that should be strong for years to come. They will have faced each other only twice in preseason and once in US Open Cup play prior to Wednesday night’s showdown but Louisville is 3-0 and has outscored the Eleven 5-1. During last year’s marathon Open Cup match that saw a weather delay and overtime, Louisville advanced with a 2-0 win. Expect the 2016 Open Cup match to be a close, physical affair as Indy and Louisville are solid on both sides of the ball.
In only their second year in existence, Louisville City FC have once again flexed their muscles in the USL. They finished 2nd in the eastern conference last year before bowing out in the conference finals. Similar results have started piling up in 2016 as Louisville City is currently first in the eastern conference with a 7-3-1 (W-D-L) record. Their success has come through the help of their back six in the 4-2-3-1 formation. In Louisville’s last 5 games in the USL they have not allowed a goal. Credit to defenders Kyle Smith, Conor Shanosky, Tyler Newnam, and Sean Reynolds who have each recorded over 680 minutes each in Louisville’s back line. They have been bolstered by the consistent play of Louisville City defensive midfielder and captain, Aodhan Quinn, who has seen 800 minutes in 10 games. Additionally, goalkeeper Gregory Ranjitsingh has only allowed 1 goal with 10 saves in 6 matches.
Matt Fondy took the USL by storm by recording a league record 22 goals on his way to capturing USL MVP and Golden Boot awards in 2015. Common sense would have said Louisville would have a tough time replacing a striker like Fondy. However, Louisville is building a reputation for scouting and developing strikers as they picked up Jon Chandler Hoffman this off-season. After bouncing back and forth between MLS and USL teams it seems Hoffman has found a home in Louisville, recording 7 goals in 10 games for the purple and gold. He has struggled in his last four games, but has still challenged opponents with 5 shots on goal.
Louisville will be facing a drastically different Indy Eleven squad on Wednesday night, even from the lineup they met in this year’s preseason. Since last year’s Open Cup nail-biter the Indy Eleven have overhauled their squad under new head coach Tim Hankinson. Chemistry and cohesion came slowly in preseason, but Indy Eleven now stands undefeated with a 3-5-0 record and occupies 2nd place in the NASL Spring Season table. With the best shot at catching the New York Cosmos for the Spring Championship, Indy Eleven will have critical decisions to make in the starting lineup for this Cup tie.
With a stout back line and MLS veteran Jon Busch on goal, the Eleven have held opponents to only 7 goals in their last 8 games. Employing a 4-4-2 formation, they have proven themselves to be a resilient and physical side. Players such as Nicki Patterson and Colin Falvey (both products of a 2015 Ottawa Fury run to the league final) have become invaluable parts of a hard hitting, outspoken lineup. More key components for Indy are found in Nemanja Vukovich, 2014 USL Defender of the Year, and his former Sacramento FC teammate and captain, Justin Braun. The Eleven have yet to see an individual standout goalscorer emerge, though Braun is in-form, having scored in his last two games. Indy has seen success in the back of the net from a varied cast of internationals led by Irishman Eamon Zayed, Columbian Jair Reinoso, and Jamaica’s 2016 Golden Boot winner, Omar Gordon.
The match between Louisville City FC and Indy Eleven will take place at Michael A. Carroll stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 1st at 7:30pm EST. The winner will face the MLS Chicago Fire.