(This is an old picture, it was cold!)
It would seem a little off to have Week 2 be some sort of referendum on Loudoun United, given they had their largest crowd in three and a half years show up on a blustery (and friggin’ cold!) Sunday March afternoon, to play against the defending champions of the League in San Antonio FC. And to be honest, I think the jury is still out in a bunch of regards after the 1-1 result. I think that the performances of the first two games kind of raise the expectations on games in the short term, but let me get into that below.
Two Things I Liked
This isn’t the same Loudoun side as before.
This part is obvious, but as the game entered its second 30 minutes, as they transpired, you could see that things were getting a little more physical and chesty out there. Where past Loudoun sides would talk back, they would have the opposition’s will imposed on them more over the course of the game, leading to an allowed goal, dropped result, what have you. This Loudoun side talks back but keeps focus on the plan, stays professional. Added benefit of dressing young professionals.
Another nice first half
Zach Ryan scored Loudoun’s goal (the third of four for them so far), but it very well could have been his second of the day; Kalil ElMedkhar could have opened his account too, were it not for Jordan Farr, who won the 2022 USL Championship Goalkeeper of the Year for a reason.
Two Concerns I Have
About that second half start…
Last week I talked about the need to tighten up in the second half, the team realized it midweek, and it was an action item. And then:
“I think it’s twofold; one, when you’re in the lead, your tendency is to just take a deep breath and relax, and I think we do it too much. So for us, doubling down on our focus and concentration, finding the ball, finding our rhythm, that’s something we’re going to 100% address this week.”
And Ryan: “Two weeks in a row now, it’s been a tale of two halves. I thought we came out flying and played well with each other, we were combining really well and made life difficult for them. The second half they made it difficult for us, played it long, won the second balls and won the territorial battles, so we need to get that second half right but we’re definitely excited about what we have.”
Where are the chances going to come from?
So far this season, Ryan leads in goals and shots, ElMedkhar has four created chances. He had one on Sunday, and Panos Armenakas had two. after that? That’s the list, as best as I can tell. The team has eight created chances so far this season. For a comparison, Skage Simonsen has five with new club Detroit. I’m not saying Loudoun should have kept him, and I understand this is a new crew, so hopefully ElMedkhar, Armenakas and the supporting fullbacks find a groove soon.
Check This Stat
OK, bear with me here. As part of the Goals Added (G+) component (that ASA explains here) there’s something called ‘Interrupting,’ which examines defensive actions which are calculated into this. And Cole Turner’s already at a .43 on this group (backline partner Yanis Leerman is second at .36, and by comparison Houssou Landry was at 1.22 for 2022). When his other actions (not losing the ball on a dribble being a big one), Turner’s at a .31 G+, meaning his actions are leading to Loudoun claiming, and starting a new possession chain. He keeps his game simple, doesn’t try to put his teammates in a poor position, and as far as center backs go, nobody else is doing as well by the metric. This was a very good performance!
OK, you can say it now:
Loudoun United FC 1- San Antonio FC 1
LDN – Zach Ryan (Panos Armenakas) 35′
SA – Ignacio Bailone (Justin Dhillon) 55′
LDN – Cole Turner (caution) 53′
LDN – Zach Ryan (ejection) 90+1′
Loudoun United FC starting lineup (4-3-3):
Starting XI: Dane Jacomen, Koa Santos, Yanis Leerman, Cole Turner, Gaoussou Samake, Panos Armenakas (Wesley Leggett, 89′), Aidan Rocha, Houssou Landry (Bryce Washington, 64′), Kalil ElMedkhar (Abdoul Zanne, 78′), Tommy Williamson (Jeremy Garay, 78′), Zach Ryan
Unused Substitutes: Drew Hartman, Juan Ramirez, Abdoul Koanda
San Antonio FC starting lineup (4-3-3):
Starting XI: Jordan Farr, Shannon Gomez, Mitchell Taintor, Fabien Garcia, Lamar Batista, Connor Maloney, Jacori Hayes, Victor Giro (Mohammed Abu, 14′), Kimarni Smith (Zico Bailey, 45′), Ignacio Bailone, Justin Dhillon
Unused Substitutes: Carlos Mercado, Mateo Gonzalez, Eduardo Fernandez, Dalziel Ozuna