Early Harris Goal Stands as LouCity Hold On to Edge San Diego
(Photo: David Mucker)
Needing a result in the worst way to keep their playoff destiny in their own hands, Louisville City FC leaned on a familiar formula to earn a pivotal 1-0 home victory Saturday over San Diego Loyal SC.
Striker Wilson Harris provided the only goal City would need in just the 5th minute, starting quickly in a trend that has almost always led to success this season. LouCity is now 12-2-3 when scoring first in 2023.
Harris pounced on a rebound after Jorge Gonzalez’s initial header was saved to notch his team-leading seventh goal. It marked the fifth time in their last six games that LouCity scored inside the opening 10 minutes.
“Getting a goal from the start always boosts the team and just lifts everyone’s energy,” said Harris. “It gives us more confidence to play the way we want to.”
That early edge allowed LouCity to dictate proceedings, holding over 60% of possession in the first half. San Diego didn’t record a shot until the 38th minute as the home side kept them under constant pressure.
The Loyal fought for an equalizer after the break but found keeper Oliver Semmle in inspired form. His five saves – several of the spectacular variety – preserved his league-leading 12th clean sheet of the campaign.
“It helps a lot because they have to go. They have to score. It’s on them to do something,” said Semmle of the early goal’s impact. “It helps a lot. An early goal is just in our favor, and tonight was great.”
With playoff positioning hanging in the balance, the victory couldn’t have come at a better time for desperate Louisville. They cling to fourth in the Eastern Conference, one point up on Memphis 901 FC with five games remaining.
“The biggest thing for me is, we need to make sure we have the bite on the road that we have had a good portion of this year,” said coach Danny Cruz, looking ahead to a three-game away swing. “We have the quality in that room to make sure we continue to perform well.”
After a disheartening road loss last weekend, LouCity quickly righted the ship. Their tested formula of starting fast and defending staunchly once again led the boys in purple to three vital points.
There were a few nervy moments late as the defense absorbed heavy pressure. San Diego actually led 5-3 in shots on target.
But LouCity’s experienced core girded through it, determined to maintain their playoff fate in their own hands. Captain Paolo DelPiccolo even made a goal-line clearance in the 64th minute to preserve the clean sheet when Semmle was caught out.
“In times like these, the veterans in our locker room really need to step up and guide us,” said defender Sean Totsch. “We know what it takes to grind out wins when the pressure is on.”
With little room for error, Totsch and Co. ensured the squad responded to their latest gut check positively. They rose to the occasion at home, where LouCity boasts a stellar record in high-stakes games.
The win kept City just ahead of the playoff line, but they aren’t safe yet. Three massive road tests now await the boys in purple as they cling to that top-four seed.
But Saturday’s triumph reminded what makes this group special. When desperate times called for their best, LouCity reached into their bag of veteran tricks and emerged with three season-saving points.
There is work left to do to clinch a home playoff opener and beyond. But fueled by early offense and a locked-in defense, LouCity gained a crucial result that maintains belief in this talented team.
Now it’s time to replicate that formula on the road. With the stakes sky-high, the mettle of these playoff-tested players will be tested again.
If the composure and execution from Saturday can travel, LouCity’s fight may just go the distance after all. But first, they must pass three difficult road tests over the coming weeks.
Thanks to a familiar winning formula, the boys in purple live to fight another day, their fate still in their own hands.
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