Lexington looked to build on a solid start against the Red Wolves

Lexington SC (0-1-0, 1 point, 3rd in the table) will host the Red Wolves of Chattanooga this Friday, March 15th, at 7 pm at Toyota Stadium for LSC’s 2nd match of the season and Chattanooga’s season opener. The game will be the 4th showdown between the 2 clubs in LSC’s short history, with the Red Wolves owning the series advantage at 2-0-1. However, both sides had heavy turnover this past offseason and are practically new teams going into this matchup.

Via FotMob

Firstly, Chattanooga has yet to play a competitive game during the year, so we can only see how new head coach Scott Mackenzie (the Red Wolves interim coach to the end of the 2023 season) has retooled his roster. Mackenzie brought back only 8 players from the 2023 squad that finished 10th in the league in 2023. However, those 8 were brought back for a reason. The 2 biggest returners for Chattanooga are the deadly goal-scoring duo of Chevone Marsh and Ropapa Mensah, who both scored 12 goals apiece in 2023. Both will be looking to best that total from last year and should be circled as the top priority for the Lexington defense to contain.

The additions to the roster are where I am most curious to see how Mackenzie uses them and how Coach Powell has planned to contain them. The Red Wolves brought back two-time All-League midfielder Ricky Ruiz, who spent the last 2 seasons in Rio Grande (RIP Toros), alongside the additions of Lucas Coutinho, Stefan Lukic (both solid USL1 veteran), and Gustavo Fernandes (2023 USL1 champions with NCFC). On top of getting their leading assist leader from 2023, Jonathan Filipe, officially on the team for 2024 after being on loan from Hartford in 2023, these new additions have the Red Wolves poised to be challenging for a top 4 spot and will not make an easy opponent for Lexington.

The last thing I will be interested to see come out of Chattanooga will be who gets the nod in goal, as both Ricardo Jérez and Carlos Ávilez walked this past offseason, leading Mackenzie to bring in USL1 veteran TJ Bush from Tormenta and Tim Trilk from USLC side Indy Eleven. I have a feeling either of them could start in this one.

For Lexington, we know a lot more about this squad now. In my eyes, we have seen the formation, a 3-5-2, but some may see it as a 4-1-4-1 while on defense. We have seen 8 out of the 14 new faces make their debuts – 6 in the starting XI alone. Finally, we have seen what (in my eyes) is the bare minimum to expect out of Coach Powell’s side this season – a team that will be aggressive and loves to be on the attack while being prepared to react quickly on defense.

It will be interesting to see what changes Powell and his staff make or problems they have addressed over the week to increase the chemistry among the states, particularly the midfield and attacking groups. Lastly, I will need to see if the LSC attacking duo of Lancaster and Diouf can be just as hungry for a goal as they were against Northern Colorado. The shots on target from the match paint a different picture than what we saw on the field, but they both need to step up if LSC will come away with 3 points in this one.

I did like what I saw out of the squad on Saturday, and I can confirm the potential for the squad to live up to all the hype from this preseason (which I contributed to) is possible, but I need to see more out of the squad. In-person and watching the match back, I still feel that LSC was caught off guard by the Hailstorm’s lack of attacking aggression. It will be interesting to see if they can adapt if Chattanooga catches them off guard (as they have historically) on Friday. In my opinion, Lexington is still the better squad on paper, but the season has become – it’s time to live up to the hype sooner rather than later.

Players to Watch

Yannick Yankam (Lex) – Yankam had a great 1st game in the green and black for Lexington. Being named to the Week 1 Team of the Week. However, I sometimes felt he was holding back on runs that could have made the difference on an attack. Yankam was the last player to join Lexington in the preseason, coming over from Malta, and I hope that Powell can get him to make those off-the-ball runs. Yankam was great on Saturday, but he can be excellent as he becomes more familiar with his teammates.

Jonathan Filipe (CHA) – Filipe was stellar for the Red Wolves last season, contributing 2 goals and 7 assists in just 13 matches – one could largely contribute to the Red Wolves’s late-season surge to Filipe. Given the new additions with the returners, Filipe will be critical in ensuring that the Red Wolves attack is organized and together.

Final Score Prediction
Lexington 2-1 Chattanooga


  • 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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