Nashville SC’s US Open Cup journey continues tonight in Kentucky. After a 3-2 win over Atlanta United in the Round of 32, they travel to take on Louisville City in the Round of 16. Can Nashville continue their push for silverware?
Louisville City FC
Louisville have been the premier club in the USL Championship. Since they debuted in 2015, they’ve qualified for the playoffs every season, winning USL Cup twice. They’ve posted a stunning 114W-52D-40L record and have been remarkably consistent.
In 2020, they opened Lynn Family Stadium, an 11,700 seat soccer-specific stadium in the Butchertown neighborhood of Louisville, right on the banks of the Ohio River. In their three seasons, they’ve lost just six times at home. Against Nashville, they may have their toughest test yet.
Former assistant Danny Cruz took over from John Hackworth after his surprise exit in April 2021. Cruz has posted an impressive 24W-8L-9D record, keeping the standards high and making the transition seamless.
Nashville fans will be familiar with Cameron Lancaster. The English striker returned to Louisville after an injury-plagued 2019 season in Music City. He found his form again in Louisville, scoring a league-leading 33 goals in that time. He suffered a serious injury ahead of the 2022 season, and made his first appearance of the year last week off the bench.
22-year-old Wilson Harris was signed from Sporting Kansas City in the offseason, and he’s filled in for Lancaster without missing a beat, scoring six and assisting two so far this season.
17-year-old defender Joshua Wynder has become a fixture in the lineup. He’s made nine appearances in 2022, and has been the 24th-best center back in USL, according to American Soccer Analysis‘s goals added.
Louisville revamped their fullbacks in the offseason. They signed Many Perez and Amadou Dia, both of whom have MLS experienced sprinkled in with their other USL stops. Both are in the top 15 among USL fullbacks per G+, combining for two assists so far.
Louisville like to play with the ball. They’ve averaged 55% possession this season, the fourth highest in USL. They also like to press high and win the ball, with the most turnovers won in the final third this year. With talented passers in midfield like Palo DelPiccolo, Nial McCabe, Corben Bone and Tyler Gibson, they’re more than capable of breaking down a defense.
On the wings, Brian Ownby and Jorge González have been two of the best in USL. Just this season they’ve combined for four goals and three assists, both able to get in behind as well as combining quickly in the final third.
Louisville are one of, if not the, best team in the second division. They won’t be an easy test for Nashville.
Nashville are in the midst of a ridiculously heavy stretch. They’ll play eight matches in 28 days, traveling straight to Denver to play the Colorado Rapids this weekend. They went all in on their previous Open Cup match, and all signs point to more of the same in Louisville.
Gary Smith will likely rotate some tonight, and is almost forced to with the heavy schedule. But the lineup he puts out should still be consistent with the sides we’ve seen.
Elliot Panicco was recalled from his loan in Indy Eleven yesterday, and it would be a surprise if he’s not given a start tonight.
Josh Bauer is back from injury and showed well in preseason. With Eric Miller picking up a knock against Atlanta midweek, it would make sense to keep the backline fresh, and Bauer seems a likely candidate to start. Ahmed Longmire has been in the matchday squad a handful of times as of late, but a knockout match against an elite side is a difficult place to debut.
Brian Anunga has forced his way into the first choice lineup recently, but after starting three of the last four matches, he’s in need of a rest. Sean Davis and Dax McCarty are both fit and somewhat rested, seeming like a strong option to start.
Similarly, CJ Sapong and Hany Mukhtar have played a ton, starting all but one match this season. It’s a risk to take off the two best attackers, but Ethan Zubak and Aké Loba have shown flashes and should be capable of filling in.
Score: Louisville 0-3 Nashville
Scorers: Aké Loba (x3)
MOTM: Aké Loba
Bold Prediction: Aké Loba bags a hattrick.
Score: Louisville 0-2 Nashville
Scorers: Ethan Zubak, Aké Loba
MOTM: Aké Loba
Bold Prediction: Louisville only take one shot on target.
Score: Louisville 0-2 Nashville
Scorers: Luke Haakenson, Ethan Zubak
MOTM: Elliot Panicco
Bold Prediction: Elliot Panicco gets the start and earns a Man of the Match performance with a couple of big saves.
Score: Louisville 2-2 Nashville
Scorers: Aké Loba, Sean Davis
MOTM: Sean Davis
Bold Prediction: Nashville advance on penalty kicks.
Teams: Louisville City FC vs Nashville SC
Date: Wednesday, May 25
Time: 6:00 pm CT, Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, KY
Forecast: 84°/67°. Partly Cloudy. 50% chance of rain. 83% humidity