Loudoun United kicks off their fifth season in the USL Championship, but its first season as a (mostly) independent side this afternoon facing a Memphis 901 FC side where, despite the 40 point difference in last season’s table, the two sides have a fair amount of uncertainty to them. Loudoun and Ryan Martin bring in a side of older players than the usual bunch, mostly comprised of players from other USL or MLS Next Pro sides, with some loan downs from D.C. United, but certainly not as many as in past seasons. Loudoun is, however, looking to open the League’s goalscoring account for the second straight season after Kimarni Smith’s 2022 goal against Indy Eleven kicked off the League’s season.
Martin is looking forward to the campaign, saying recently after practice,”It’s been a positive preseason, we’ve had positive performances and results in the games, we have been able to get all players signed and academy players 90 minutes multiple times as we will need the depth, the rest of the staff has joined after receiving their visas and added some top players. We are ready for the season and glad it is here, we feel ready to roll. There is a great energy in this group right now.”
Memphis? Well they were formidable last season, finishing second in the Eastern Conference, with Philip Goodrum’s 21 goals placing him 2nd in the League under coach Ben Pirmann. Pirmann left in the offseason to coach the Charleston Battery, but more recently, Goodrum expressed disappointment at returning to Memphis despite offers from MLS and elsewhere. It’s still a dangerous side, with MVP runner-up Aaron Molloy being joined by Sebastian Velasquez and Bruno Lapa, and former Loudoun players Carson Vom Steeg and Akeem Ward heading up the D.C. alumni complement.
Martin believes that talent will make Glass’ job easier. “I think any new manager will bring in his own ideas and philosophy and I am sure Stephen will do the same, but will also adapt to the players he has and the success they had. They have a lot of key players coming back from the very successful 2022 season and based on the success we assume they will use a lot of the players in similar roles. So I think it will be similar to last season but a tweak or two from Stephen’s game model and philosophy. Being so early in the season our focus is 100 percent on the guys in Loudoun jerseys and the process of growth. If we stay focused on us and what we do well, then the result will take care of itself.”
What to know before kickoff: Link to preview, Martin sendoff quote; “We have three non negotiables in who we are for the 2023 season, that is Bravery, Honesty and selflessness….I know I will see that Saturday and excited to be in the trenches with this group of guys.”
For more on Loudoun’s team and (largely) expected lineup, feel free to check out my preview of the team which posted yesterday.
How to Watch
Match date/kickoff time: Saturday, March 11, 5:00 PM ET
Venue: Autozone Park, Memphis, Tennessee
Online Streaming: ESPN+
Loudoun Unavailables: Alex Nagy (ACL), Kwame Awuah (TBA)