Match: Penn FC at Louisville City FC
Date: Saturday, June 16th
Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. Central, 4:30 p.m. Pacific, 11:30 p.m. UTC
Venue: Louisville Slugger Field (Louisville, KY)
Refs: REF: JJ BILINSK AR1: CHAD COLLINS AR2: KHARY WILLIAMS 4TH: TBD
How to Watch: ESPN+ (Subscription Required)
How Louisville will look: Louisville comes into Saturday’s match pretty banged up. To complicate matters, they’ll also be kicking off a particularly rough stretch on their schedule where they’ll be playing every couple of days for the next few weeks. So their injuries woes couldn’t have come at a worse time.
So don’t expect to see forward Luke Spencer on Saturday as he is expected to miss at least six weeks after a recent knee surgery. Cameron Lancaster ran into problems in Pennsylvania last week when he clashed with Joshua Yaro of the Bethlehem Steel. He suffered a mild concussion and a dislocated shoulder. Initial reports were that he would just be questionable for Saturday’s match, but Louisville assistant coach Daniel Byrd seemed to indicate at his press conference on Tuesday that he would be out through at least Monday. That leaves Ilija Ilic as their last healthy forward, although Brian Ownby could fit in there as well if required.
How Penn FC will look: Don’t look now, but Penn FC has built up a bit of momentum. They’ve won back to back matches over Toronto FC II and Richmond Kickers and having six more points in their account has surely boosted their spirits. But both of those clubs are sitting quit low on the table. Louisville is currently sitting in second place, so it won’t be easy to head out to their field and pick up points.
Expect most of the starters from the Toronto match to appear again after they managed to score three goals in that match. One player you might not see is Tommy Heinemann as he picked up an injury that required him to be subbed off on Tuesday. It might have been something as simple as a hamstring tweak, but there’s a good chance they’d rather rest him than push him to play again on short rest.
What to expect: Now, just because Louisville is in a tight spot, that doesn’t mean that Penn FC is suddenly favored to come in to town and pick up a win. But it can’t be overlooked that Louisville is particularly vulnerable right now and that might leave an opening for an upset.
Louisville’s coaches say that they won’t be caught looking ahead and that they’re focusing all of their attention on Penn FC, but that’s exactly what they said last season before they visited Harrisburg and lost to the City Islanders 1-0. But who could blame them if they did look ahead? After Saturday they face Nashville midweek for an Open Cup match followed by a trip to North Carolina FC on short rest. And they’ll still have to face Pittsburgh and NYRB II in the same week when they return from NC. That’s rough.
While the City Islanders did upset Louisville at home last season, they were repaid with a 5-0 drubbing when they visited Louisville. So how does Penn FC avoid that fate? Their best bet is to take some time early to feel out the Louisville game plan and make defensive adjustments. Just because Louisville’s down a few strikers doesn’t mean they won’t be able to score. They have several midfielders like Paolo DelPiccolo and Speedy Williams who are more than capable of scoring if needed. If Penn FC can settle in and keep Louisville scoreless for at least the first half, they’ll be able to breathe a little and start controlling the game more.
Penn FC has struggled with scoring this season themselves, but after this last week it really looks like set pieces are going to be their bread and butter for the time being. But since it’s working for them, I see no reason to fight it. The more corners and free kicks they can rack up, the more chances Ken Tribbett will have to come up and head in a goal or Jerry Ortiz will have to try and curl in a direct free kick. They’ll just need to be careful not to allow Louisville to spring a counter on any corners that don’t do their way.
PREDICTION: Yes, Louisville is vulnerable. But Penn FC’s performance on the road has been really hit or miss this season. So my prediction is if Louisville scores first, they’ll win. But if Penn FC gets the first goal, they’ll be getting at least a point at Louisville.