New look Lexington SC ready to burst out of the gate in 2024

Lexington ended 2023 in an odd way. Sam Stockley stepped back from his head coaching role to focus solely on being the club’s Sporting Director with 5 matches to go in the season, having an assistant coach and Rangers FC legend Nacho Novo serve as the club’s interim coach to finish the year. On the pitch, the squad was mathematically still in the playoff hunt until the final whistle of the 2nd to last match but ended the year on an 8-match winless streak. Add in Novo and goalkeeper coach Connor Talbot announcing via their social media that they were departing the club, and you have a recipe for Lexington fans to look at 2024 as another building year.

Now, while 2024 is going to be a building year, it is looking like Stockley and company took the building plan of 2023 North Carolina FC (who he was a former player for back when they were the Railhawks) by crafting together a squad and coaching staff that has put the rest of the league on notice. Also, LSC may be entirely copying the NCFC model from last year as rumors are circulating (primarily from the recent Forward Madison town hall) of a possible move to the USL Championship as soon as 2025, but those remain largely rumors. Now, let’s break down how Lexington went from a club that finished 9th last season to one that is the heavy favorite to win the league.

The Sideline

First, we must start on the sidelines with the LSC’s new gaffer, Darren Powell. Powell comes to Lexington with a wealth of experience throughout the American soccer landscape. From 1998 to 2014, he coached at various colleges throughout North Carolina, first at Greensboro College before leading the Phoenix of Elon University for 10 years. Powell then moved to Orlando City FC to become the club academy director during their move to MLS from USL Pro. 

From there, Powell became the inaugural coach of San Antonio FC, a role he served for 4 seasons from 2016 to 2019. Before joining Lexington, Powell had been with Inter Miami since 2020, serving in multiple roles, but most recently as the Director of Player Development and First Team Assistant Coach.

Under Powell, his teams played an exciting attacking style that most commonly was in a 4-3-3 formation. We can expect that style here in Lexington with a number of the new additions that he brought in for the field. Powell has also brought in 2 assistant coaches with a wealth of knowledge both internationally and in America with assistant coach Javier Cano (formerly the head coach of MLS Next Pro side North Texas SC) and director of goalkeeping Chris Barocas, a role he previously served in under Powell for Inter Miami II.

Between the Post

The goalkeeper room saw the least amount of changes out of all the position groups this past offseason, with the club releasing 17-year-old Luke Phillips (the youngest player to appear for LSC) from his academy contract and bringing in Spanish keeper Nico Campuzano from New England Revolution II, where he made 11 appearances in 2023 with a loan spell to the senior MLS side, but he did not make an appearance. 

LSC brought back star Jamaican international keeper Amal Knight, who picked up multiple honors last season for the boys in green, and young backup Austin Causey, who secured the club’s first-ever clean sheet and point in the inaugural home match against Forward Madison.

It will be exciting to see how the depth chart shakes out after preseason, but Knight’s starting role is to lose now. Causey and Campuzano will both be hungry to get minutes. The trio as a whole will very much be an iron sharpens iron type vibe, with all of them competing to get a chance, and with the club in 3 different competitions this year (League, In-Season Cup, and US Open Cup), I would suspect to see them all get a shot this season in some way.

The Backline

Photo by: Fahad Alotaibi

Defensively, Lexington brought back 4 key pieces with 2023 minutes leader Kaelon Fox, assists leader Tate Robertson, and the promising young stars of Erick Ceja-Gonzalez and Lexington native Kimball Jackson, both of whom showed real promise when they were given their shots towards the end of last season. Powell and Stockley had a similar approach to balancing youth and experience with the 6 defenders they signed. 

Anthony Patti is from ALBION San Diego of NISA, and Michael Agboola is from Wolverhampton Wanderers FC of the English Premier League academy system. Both join Lexington with a lot of promise; Protagonist Soccer even named Patti as one of the top transfer targets for USL1 clubs to look at in NISA. Agboola and Patti have a lot of promise and will have to earn minutes by competing in practice, thanks to the excellent haul of veterans who have come to the 859. The veteran defenders are some of the players I am, with USL Championship experienced players Ebenezer “Eby” Ackon from San Diego Loyal (RIP Loyal) with Cuban internationals Modesto Méndez from Hartford Athletic and Jorge Corrales from FC Tulsa, plus 2023 USL1 champion Christian Lue Young from North Carolina FC.

Powell and Stockley have built one of the strongest and deepest backlines with this group of 10 players, most of whom are versatile enough to contribute to the attack or even play up in the midfield. They will make it extremely difficult for opponents to get a shot off, let alone on target.

The Midfield

Midfield is the group that was hit the hardest by the club’s mass player release on December 1st, with only Ates Diouf (who is traditionally a midfielder but played as a forward for the majority of 2023) and Pierre Mané, who turned it on in the 2nd half of last season. While both are exceptional returns for Lexington, especially Diouf, who I had heard had multiple offers from USLC sides, LSC lost a lot of leadership with Machell (who joined rival side One Knox) and Smart leaving alongside fan favorites SoSo Kim and Phila Dlamini. 

However, just like with the defenders, Powell and Stockley brought in some of the best players available with Maltese international (and rapper) Yannick Yankim, Powell’s former captain at Inter Miami II in Abel Caputo, one of Forward Madison’s best young players in Jayden Onen, and David Loera, who shows a lot of promise but was plagued by injuries during in time with San Antonio FC. The entire midfield core now ranges from as young as 22 (Onen) to only 26 (Mané), creating the most competitive and up-for-grabs position group on the roster, in my opinion. Add in that nearly all these guys can contribute to the attack (Diouf, Onen, and Loera) or help out the defense (I would not be surprised to see Caputo in a CDM role), and Powell has created the perfect group of players to help connect a brick wall of a backline to most deadly (on paper) forward group in all of USL1 and arguably one of the most deadly in the USL entirely.

The Attack

Lexington’s attack showed tons of promise last year. It was going to be arguably one of the best in the league when the club announced that Khalid Balogun and Nico Brown would be returning alongside the club’s 2 most critical attacking pieces in Diouf (who is the highest USL1 goal scorer from 2023 returning in 2024) and Robertson (who finished 4th in assists in all of USL1 last year, with all 3 guys in front of him having made the jump to USLC this offseason). Still, the additions have the rest of the league sweating just thinking about planning to stop this loaded LSC attack.

Arguably, the biggest addition this year, at least in the eyes of many bluegrass soccer fans, is LouCity’s all-time leading goal scorer Cameron Lancaster, or the “Kentucky Messi,” as I dubbed him on my recent guest appearance on One League Under the C podcast. Lancaster will is joined by Azaad Liadi from Huntsville City of MLS Next Pro and hopeful future LouCity star and Lexington native Issac Cano, a product of a Kentucky soccer powerhouse in Dunbar High School, on a season-long loan to Lexington from Louisville.

With these additions, Lexington now has 3 guys (Diouf, Lancaster, and Liadi) who have all netted 10+ goals at the professional level in America. Add in the stellar talents of Brown and Balogun, who combined for 12 goals last season, and the promising talent of Cano; Coach Powell will have an arsenal of options on every matchday. 

Powell ball has the potential to be some of the most fun and exciting play in all of the USL. I got a taste of it firsthand this past weekend in the El Bluegrassico clash between Louisville and Lexington. Both sides remain undefeated in their respective preseasons as they grinded to a 0-0 draw. We got to see a form of Powell ball in action as both sides played a mix of potential starts, depth pieces, and we even some a 3 academy kids get some solid minutes towards the end of the match.

Lexington has 3 more preseason matches left, all at home, with 2 matches on February 24th between USLC side Indy Eleven at 4 pm and then against NAIA college side Georgetown College (where Lexington plays as the new stadium is being built) at 6 pm. The Boys in Green will end their preseason against the University of Kentucky on March 2nd at 6 pm. All matches are closed to the public at the time of writing.

Now, preseason and friendly matches should be taken with a grain of salt, but I will look at the 2024 Lexington season closer to the season kickoff, highlighting critical matches for the year. For that article and more, stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of Lexington SC and 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

New look Lexington SC ready to burst out of the gate in 2024

#53: LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz

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