#Lexington #U.S. Open Cup #USL

Lexington continue solid start with win over Chattanooga and a look ahead to the Open Cup

Lexington SC (1-1-0, 4 points, 1st in USL1) got their first win of 2024 and the Darren Powell era in their 1-0 victory over Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on Friday night in front of a crowd of 1,041, which, unfortunately, is the smallest crowd in the club’s short history. However, that small crowd witness a thrilling match.

Coach Powell made only one personnel change to the starting XI, swapping in Jayden Onen for Nico Brown, in rolling out a 4-2-3-1 formation that I think was what he ran for most of the Hailstorm match as well, looking back. The switch seemed to work well, as Onen was one of Lexington’s best attackers throughout the 1st half of the match, making plenty of attacking runs into the final third and having a fantastic chance to open the scoring in the 40th minute with a heads up interception forcing Chattanooga’s TJ Bush to make a diving catch.

By the 2nd half, Lexington was able to break the tie with a superb freekick ball by Ates Diouf into the box, with Yannick Yankam collecting the ball in the chaos and rocketing it into the back of the net for his and the club’s first goal of the season in the 79th minute – earning Yankam a place on the USL1 Goal of the Week ballot.

Now, while the attack certainly looked more lively within this match compared to last week against Northern Colorado, there are still some chemistry issues in my eyes – which is to be as expected, especially within the midfield. There were improvements from last week, and there was more aggressiveness in breaking the tie as the match wore on. All this being said, is, while I am slightly concerned that Lexington’s attack has not been as deadly and high-flying right out the gate as many (including myself) both hoped and predicted, I still see that potential there, and I especially expect to see it reach that as the roster increases its chemistry.

I am not as concerned with the lack of firepower in the offense because of how solid the defense and Amal Knight have been over these past 2 matches. The Red Wolves were far more aggressive than the Hailstorm, firing 6 more shots in the game but only 1 more on target. Kaelon Fox and Lue Young, in particular, shined for LSC’s backline, with Fox making multiple clutch blocks to further prove why he is the anchor of the Lexington defense. Lue Young did stellar in forcing players deep into the corners and preventing multiple crosses throughout the match, but most notably in the clutch moments of the final 20 minutes.

Via FotMob

The man of the match was the man between the pipes, with Knight making 4 saves and 7 recoveries on the night, 2 insane saves that will arguably both be considered for save of the week. Knight spoke post-match about the hard work he had been putting in the offseason, and so far, it has undoubtedly paid off within the first 2 matches of the season.

However, even with the stellar defense and being up a goal going into extra time, many Lexington fans held their breath as they saw that 8 minutes were added, to which Lexington had been no stranger to giving up late equalizers in the past. Still, luck was on Lexington’s side in this one. The Red Wolves had a corner late that bounced around within the box, allowing Chattanooga to fire off 2 shots that rocketed off the crossbar before Lexington could clear it.

Powell and his staff can breathe a little easier, having gotten that first win of the season out of the way. Still, we will see if Powell has corrected the club’s road form with 2 upcoming away matches this week, with their Open Cup match against one of the most famous USL2 clubs in the Vermont Green on Tuesday night before traveling down to Knoxville in the first Battle for the Barrel of the season.

Unfortunately, the Open Cup match against Vermont will be the Green’s first match of the season, which means that we only have a little on the squad, but I will give a short preview of Lexington’s opponent for tomorrow night.

The Green of Vermont

The Vermont Green is a similarly young USL team, joining the USL2 in 2022. In their first 2 seasons, the Green has become one of the cult favorites of the lower leagues, especially with their stellar kits and matchday posters released, but most notably due to the club’s mission of becoming a net zero soccer club.

The Greens have been solid on the pitch, having finished 3rd in the profoundly competitive Northeast Division in the last 2 seasons, just missing the playoffs last season by 2 points, but the finish earned the Green an at-large bid for the cup. Vermont has returned 2 notable players from that 2023 squad in defender, club captain Jake Ashford, and striker Yaniv Bazini. Both players have been stellar for the Green in the past and for the University of Vermont. Still, we must be looking for a familiar foe in striker Jacob Labovitz (formerly with Greenville in 2023), who joined the Green after retiring from professional soccer this past offseason. Lastly, the match has made history already, as the match will be the first Open Cup match in the tournament’s 111-year history to be played in the state of Vermont, and Lexington will become the first professional club to play a competitive game in the state.

The Open Cup has been known for its legendary cupsets, and with what I expect to be a rotated squad for Lexington due to having to play 3 matches in 9 days, with 2 on the road, I would not overlook the Green as their fans will be packing out the stands. Lexington should come away with the win in this match, but the Green will undoubtedly make it a challenge for Powell and the squad. The match will kick off tomorrow, Tuesday, March 19th, at 7 pm and can be streamed at uslsoccer.com.

For our recap of that match and a preview of the Knoxville one, stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of Lexington Sporting Club and everything soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth.


  • Jon Hunt

    Jon Hunt is an avid and enthusiastic soccer podcast host. Originally from the Detroit area, he now resides in central Kentucky. Jon brings passion and his love of soccer history to the Bluegrass Soccer Cast community. His ultimate goal is to continue the growth of soccer in America with a focus of the thriving soccer scene in Kentucky. #ProRelForUSA

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