Who will take home the barrel?
The last derby week of the season is one of the funniest and most stressful weeks for any football fan, with social media accounts taking digs at each other—the hyper-analysis of each team to see how your club could win or lose. The excitement and anxiety build up all week to that fateful 90 minutes to determine who has bragging rights until next season. For The Barrel Brawl between Lexington and One Knoxville tomorrow night, there is one extra piece of the derby pie on the line – silverware. Well more likely woodenware, but a trophy is still on the line in Knoxville tomorrow night.
Sam Stockley’s Boys in Green travel down to Knoxville to face rival One Knoxville SC for the 3rd and final time tomorrow night at Regal Soccer Stadium in a match set up to be a classic; kickoff is set for 7:30 pm EST/6:30 pm CST. Lexington SC (6-6-10, 24 points) is riding a 2-match-winning streak and has gone 3-1-1 in their last 5. Knoxville has struggled in the 2nd half of the season, going on a 7 match-winless run (3 straight draws followed by 4 consecutive losses) that saw them fall out of the playoffs. Still, they have begun to look dangerous again, winning 2 out of their last 3 (all road matches) with a questionable 2-1 win (at least according to Madison fans) over the ‘Mingos in Madison last Saturday.
Knoxville will need to channel some of the home magic they had at the beginning of the season, as they have lost 4 straight matches at home, with their last home win being back on June 17th with a 2-0 victory over the Independence. Additionally, star keeper Sean Lewis will likely need to maintain his strong run of form after his 8-save performance against Madison, as Knoxville has scored at most 2 goals in a match all season. Lewis will be facing a Lexington squad that has scored in all but 3 matches and comes into tomorrow’s brawl with a GPM of 2.4 in their last 5. The key for Knoxville will be if the backline can control Lexington’s red-hot attack without having Lewis (or the refs) bail them out because Sean Lewis is still human.
If they want to pull away with the victory and the barrel, Lexington has to put a full 90 performance in this one, which we have not seen since the 3-0 thrashing of Omaha. Yes, Stockley’s boys have fought hard and been the better team in 4 out of 5 of their last matches. Still, the legendary comeback against NoCo only happened due to Lexington falling into a 3-1 hole after going up 1-0 within the first 5 minutes. Also, Fuego made Lexington’s last match a little stressful when they managed to grab 2 goals and had chances for others by getting off 16 shots in just the 2nd half. Lexington has looked extremely dangerous under the 3-5-2 formation that has been critical for Lexington’s offense explosion. Lexington is an entirely different team than the one that traveled down to Regal in March for their first-ever game as a club. Still, the Boys in Green cannot give a hungry Knoxville team any hope if they want to return to Lexington with the barrel.
Both teams’ recent run of form will make this match must-watch for all USL1 fans across the country, especially since it is the only match being played on Friday night. Lexington can make a statement tomorrow night with a victory, but that will depend on what version of Knoxville shows up – either way, history will be made at Regal Stadium tomorrow night.
Players to Watch
One Knoxville SC
Sean Lewis – Knoxville’s hero from Saturday night; Lewis will be crucial in protecting Knoxville’s net all night from Lexington’s high-power offense. Tied 4th in the league in clean sheets (6) and the 2nd lowest goals per 90 (1.1), the 30-year-old keeper has shined since dropping down from the USL Championship, where he previously played with FC Tulsa and Indy Eleven. Lastly, Lewis has made crucial saves to deny Lexington in the previous 2 games. Can he do it for a 3rd?
Tate Robertson – Yes, I am picking Robertson again, but that is because he is the most crucial cog to the Lexington attack under the new formation – a role in which he is thriving with 2 goals and 3 assists in the last 5 games – Robertson also picked up an assist the previous time Lexington faced One Knox. So, look for “Chef Robo” to continue cooking in the Lexington attack as he pushes to become the league leader in assists.
One Knox 1-2 Lexington SC
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