Playoff Positioning on the Line as Desperate LouCity Face Must-Win Hartford Contest
(Photo: Cooper Kolehmainen)
With their USL Championship playoff seeding hanging in the balance, Louisville City FC face a must-win contest at home against Hartford Athletic on Saturday night. Kickoff at Lynn Family Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
After an alarming defeat at New Mexico United last weekend, LouCity sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, level on points with fourth-place Memphis 901 FC. Only the top four teams earn hosting rights for their playoff opener.
Given those stakes, City cannot afford another poor result that would severely damage their chances of staying at Lynn Family Stadium.
“Our objective is clear – we need three points,” said coach Danny Cruz. “I want to see a group that’s going to fight for 90 minutes because we have the quality to win this game.”
His players received that message loud and clear following their shambolic loss to shorthanded New Mexico. But executing at home against the East’s bottom side presents its own challenge.
With the playoffs looming, it can be hard for teams to get up for games perceived as tune-ups against inferior opposition. LouCity know they must avoid that complacency.
“We can’t just show up and expect the win to happen automatically,” said veteran Paolo DelPiccolo. “Hartford will be motivated playing the role of spoilers.”
DelPiccolo and the rest of the experienced core must set the tone from the opening whistle. The composure and intensity City has strangely lacked recently must be on display from the first pass.
Playing at Lynn Family Stadium, where they boast a sterling 7-2-3 record this campaign, serves as another advantage. LouCity have risen to the occasion in their downtown stadium countless times when seasons hung in the balance.
Feeding off the home crowd’s energy will aid the quest to start fast and build confidence after last week’s embarrassment. An early goal could force Hartford into a shell and open the floodgates.
But Cruz knows motivation will not be lacking for the visitors either. “Every team is dangerous in this league,” he insisted. “We can’t just show up and expect to roll them over.”
With attacking leader Wilson Harris still stuck on 49 career goals, he and strike partner Cameron Lancaster should have added incentive to find the net. Their finishing touch could prove vital with goals potentially at a premium.
Overall, the mission is straightforward: garner three points at all costs against Hartford to keep LouCity’s home playoff hopes alive. But executing when the pressure is sky-high represents a different challenge.
After last weekend’s catastrophic collapse, City face a defining moment. Win, and belief in a playoff run will be restored. Anything else, and doubts may linger into the postseason.
The boys in purple must now prove their heart and championship credentials remain intact. If LouCity aim to defend their crown, it starts with beating Hartford on Saturday.
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