by: Cody Ruth – @Bourbonier
In my last article, I condensed a wild and exciting 2018 season into 1,900 words. To catch up, on my last article, please click here. In this article I will be looking forward to the upcoming 2019 season and what we may expect from Los Morados.
Coach John Hackworth and Assistant Coach Danny Cruz wasted no time laying the groundwork for a team ready to challenge for a 3rd consecutive cup, announcing 14 re-signings less than two weeks after defeating Phoenix for our second cup. Resigning Forward Luke Spencer, Midfielders Paolo DelPiccolo, George Davis IV, Jose Carranza, Magnus Rasmussen, Richard Ballard and Brian Ownby, Defenders Oscar Jimenez, Alexis Souahy, Sean Totsch, Shaun Francis and Pat McMahon, along with Goalkeepers Greg Ranjitsingh and Chris Hubbard. Much like last year when Mark-Anthony Kaye was signed to Los Angeles Football Club in the MLS, Greg Ranjitsingh later signed with Orlando City Soccer Club, joining former LCFC coach James O’Connor and Kyle Smith. Also signed to an MLS contract was Golden Boot winner Cameron Lancaster.
As the weeks passed and we inched closer to the 2019 season, we saw more of the 2018 team returning. In quick succession the team announced the resigning of Midfielders Niall McCabe, Devon “Speedy” Williams and Napo Matsoso, Goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski and then followed by 2-Time USL Team of the Year, Defender Paco Craig.
To replenish the ranks, Hack & Co. brought in numerous promising signings from top notch collegiate sides, USL teams as well as another with plenty of MLS pedigree. Defender Taylor Peay was the first to join Los Morados, coming to us from MLS side Real Salt Lake. Taylor also spent time in the MLS with the Portland Timbers, as well as USL sides Orange County Blues, Portland Timbers 2 and Real Monarchs. A large, imposing presence in the back line, Peay will give depth to our already formidable back line.
Luckymore “Lucky” Mkosana was frankly the only intimidating player that I saw from last year’s Penn FC team, where he bagged 11 for the season. Against us at Slugger, he scored a punishing goal only 15 seconds into the match, which was then followed by a beautiful back heel goal in the second half. With how anemic Penn was, I am legitimately excited to see what the Zimbabwean Forward will do with a quality team supporting him.
It’s really odd to refer to Lesotho native Tsotleho “Sunny” Jane as a local product, but sure enough he took All-State while playing at Trinity. After high school, he was signed to the inaugural roster of local PDL side Derby City Rovers alongside future New England Revolutions player Andrew Farrell. He is being reunited with former Richmond Kickers teammate Brian Ownby who he paired up with when he last played in the USL in 2017. He signed for a year for Cambodian side Phnom Penh Crown and I cannot describe how intrigued I am to hear the story of how that came about. Another striker with a lot of potential weighed down by an underperforming team around him, I expect good things this year.
Abdou Mbacke Thiam is the kind of young player that I expected when John Hackworth was signed. A stand-out player for UCONN for the last four years, Abdou is an athletic (and even acrobatic!) Senegalese forward that is also able to lay the ball off for the assist. Aside from being one of the standout players of the AAC, he also took Honor Roll multiple times, which would play into the LCFC credo that character is an important part of who deserves to wear the crest. I expect Thiam to be green at the beginning of the year but I am hopeful that he will grow and mature to be a valuable member of the team.
Also, on season-long loan from a team upriver, we have Goalkeeper Ben Lundt. He Played in the NCAA College Cup for Akron with Coach Hack’s son Morgan last year. More importantly, in 2018 he posted a ridiculous 0.58 Goals Against Average with 12 shutouts in 20 games. This 6’6” German monstrosity is not afraid to come off his line to make a big play, and I expect he will be competing for first team minutes from day one. For people who may see controversy by entering into an arrangement with That Team, I emphatically don’t care about it. This is a business decision with a team in another league and there’s no need for any further subtext.
The last signing of the preseason is Midfielder Geoffrey Dee. The most immediate and impressive thing I can say, is that ACC Champions trophy that was next to the USL Cup during our preseason game with UofL was won by Dee, so he has hardware already. It’s a little hard to know what to expect, as all the information we have to go from is Uof L’s stats (which are nowhere near as crunchy as I like for defense) or a solid highlight reel. City has him listed as Defender/Midfielder, and he subbed in for DelPiccolo against Memphis, so possibly a Central Defensive Midfielder will be his preferred spot.
The Front Office signed some people as well, with a couple of them reinforcing the club’s commitment to the community. Mario Sanchez was hired in Director of Youth Development and Community Relations, Scott Budnick was solidified as Goalkeeping Coach after volunteering for the interim position after the departure of Thabane Sutu last year, Howie Lindsey took over as Director of Public Relations when Scott Stewart got poached by the USL Home Office and Evan Floyd was brought in as Partnerships and Community Relations Executive.
In the ongoing story that will be the biggest subplot to the story of our year, there were numerous updates to the stadium project. The last piece of financing was secured and syndicated through local banks by Fifth Third. Messer/Harmon JV were put in place as our contractors for building the stadium, and we secured Levy for our Hospitality Partner.
Louisville City continues the tradition of giving back to the community partnering with Louisville Parks to install more public fields in our community. After Beechmont received a five-a-side, William Harrison had a much larger field installed. They will carry on with a commitment to place THREE five-a-side fields in Wyandotte.
One last update that I am particularly excited about is that LouCity announced an expanded partnership with WDRB. All Regular Season games are going to be broadcast on WBKI! I feel that this is a big win and will expand viewership greatly.
With the preseason complete (except for one weird one against League One side Chattanooga Red Wolves), the two time defending champions finished the preseason 4-2-1. But we all know that preseason doesn’t count anyway. There are only a scant few hours until the season opener on Saturday and I know I’m pacing the hallway counting the minutes. Let’s get behind The Boys in Purple again as they march to their third consecutive Cup! The watch party for the season opener against North Carolina FC is Saturday at 4pm at Against the Grain. I hope to see everyone there for what will surely be a packed house!