#Lexington

Lexington SC Battles Back in Draw Under Interim Coach Nacho Novo

Lexington SC fought back from a halftime deficit after another 2-hour weather delay right before kickoff to walk away with a point in the 2-2 draw against the Charlotte Independence on Sunday night in the first match under interim head coach Nacho Novo, who took the reigns after Sam Stockley stepped down to focus entirely on his role as Sporting Director of the club. The results move Lexington to 7 wins, 9 draws, and 12 losses on the year with 30 points and move them to 6-6-2 at home on the year while remaining unbeaten in the All-Black kits (which I think are solidifying themselves as Lexington’s main home kit). Sadly, LSC does stay in 9th place in the USL1 table, with Charlotte getting some much-needed insurance for their 4th place spot as they move to 12-8-8 on the year with 44 points.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=sNqFI-pNM-A%3Fsi%3DIGdCXMRsSmGcRhqu

The first half is largely back-and-forth, with both teams appearing sluggish after the rain delay. Lexington would get the first shot at opening up the scoring when Nico Brown was fouled inside the box in the 23rd minute. Diouf would take the assuming PK but would be denied by Jack’s keeper, Austin Pack, for his 100th save of the year. However, Brown would collect the rebound and send it over to Balogun for a tap-in goal – but it was called (very questionably from my angle) offsides for no goal. Lexington would have another chance to open the scoring in the 30th minute when Robertson placed a perfect pass to Balogun, making a run a net and beating the keeper with his shot. Still, the post would deny him a goal this time.

However, Lexington’s ruthless attack would not lead to the match’s first goal because the Independence would open the scoring in the 33rd minute when Gabriel Obertan launched a curling shot from 30 yards out that froze Knight to go up 1-0. The final 15 minutes would have some attacking moments for both sides, but nothing of note.

Things got really exciting in the 2nd half (like many others recently for Lexington). Pierre Mané would bag his first goal of the year in the 60th minute after Franky Martinez’s header bounced off the crossbar and to Mané’s head to equalize the match at 1-1 with 30 minutes left.

Not done yet, Lexington would grab the lead in the 67th minute thanks to an own goal by Charlotte’s Joel Johnson when he attempted to clear a low cross from Balogun that was destined for Brown. The goal was very similar to Richmond’s, which was also off a cross by Balogun from the right side of the field.

However, (as the team’s luck has gone of late) the Independence would find an equalizer in the 72nd minute when Dane Kelly capitalized on the slightest trip by Fox to take the ball 1-on-1 with Knight. That would be the night’s final score, but Lexington did everything they could to find a game-winner. Notable chances coming from Soso Kim in the 79th minute on a shot that I heard hit Pack’s gloves from the other end of the field. Knight (who has the USL1 record 8 SOTW honors) would make his notable save in the 82nd minute on a diving stop of another Kelly shot to keep the game level.

Before I move onto post-match discussions, I will note that this other match we were referring to was very questionable, notably with the goal called back from offsides, but also on Owen Green’s yellow card. Green was shown a yellow in the 47th minute after colliding with a Charlotte attack (I believe it was Avionne Flanagan, but I am not sure about that), with the collision sending the attacker crashing hard into the sideline boards. Green would be shown the yellow well after the 6-second time limit, which led to Machell openly asking the ref about the decision. I could not hear what the ref said, but many players were questioning calls by the refs all night. Refs have been an ongoing problem in the USL at all levels all year, so I am curious to see if there will be discussions to address the issue in the winter.

Mané would earn himself Man of the Match honors thanks to his 1st goal of the year, but by continuing his dominant performances as of late in the midfield. Mané and Dlamini are solidifying their cases of being the club’s central midfield duo of the future. Post-match, Mané had this to say: “This team keeps fighting. We went down and we kept going and going. We were unlucky to get the 3 points and that has been happening most of the season. We don’t give up though. No matter what we keep fighting. It felt very good (getting a goal). In the first half I was sitting back deeper, but in the second half they told me to go up higher. So, I was able to score once I went back up and it felt very good to get my first goal.”

Coach Novo said this about his first game as Lexington SC gaffer – “I think the boys did a great job. A mistake happened, but everybody has mistakes. Unfortunately we did not get the 3 points, but I have lots of positives from the game, how we played, how we pushed on.” Novo would end his post-match interview with a comment about the recent staffing change with Stockley stepping down from his head coach role: “Obviously, Sam is one of my good friends and we played together as well. He helped give me the opportunity to come here. Now he has a big job to do that is very important. They asked me to lead us through games, so the best I can do, I will do. We are ready to come back and work hard again.”

Nico Brown also spoke post-match on Coach Stockley’s impact on the team and himself as a player – “Personally I was a bit sad for Coach Sam. We all love him. I really appreciate him for giving me a proper chance professionally and he gave a lot of people a second chance or an opportunity professionally. We know he gave his all every single day for the job. His determination and hard work was never questioned. We all love him, so it was a pretty sad day, but in football you have to move forward. We all know Nacho is very well versed in football and we have to keep trusting him while we move forward as one club.”

In speaking with Stockley during the weather delay, alongside Tyler of Crane Kicks Lex, he emphasized his primary goal for this club since he joined – building a youth-driven squad with players from Kentucky. Club president Vince Gabbert continued banging this drum in the official press release of the staffing change, stating, “With our youth academy continuing to grow and permanent facilities coming to fruition, the Sporting Director role will require Sam’s full attention for the long-term success of this club,” Gabbert said. “Our original plan was for Sam’s dual role as Head Coach and Sporting Director to be short-term. Sam has been an integral part of the formation of Lexington SC and one of its centerpieces since the beginning. We can’t thank him enough for putting this club on the path to success.”

Like Nico, I am sad to see Stockley step down as head coach. Some fans are confused by the timing of the move, which is due to 3 teams clinching playoff spots on Saturday night. Greenville beat Knoxville to widen the gap between Lexington and that final playoff spot. I see this as a 5 match tryout for Coach Novo before the front office begins looking for Stockley’s replacement. Lastly, I never believed Stockley was in the long-term coaching plans due to his role as Sporting Director being crucial to the club’s overall goal. Stockley has laid the foundation for the club to build upward from and create a team that the fans can call their own. 

Lexington SC will play their 2nd to last home on Saturday, September 23rd, against the Red Wolves of Chattanooga at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST. Check back later this week for our match preview, and stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of Lexington SC, and everything soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth. 

Quotes are from Lexington SC and Crane Kick Lex

Author

  • 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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