Following a week where Loudoun United started to open some eyes as they throttled Birmingham last week, they may not have hit those lofty heights, but managed to fend off the Oakland Roots to earn a 2-0 win in front of 2,061 at a windy Segra Field. The win pulls them up to fourth place, a game in hand and three points back of that same Birmingham Legion squad and to Louisville City, who have finished worse than 5th overall in the USL once in their six season history. On the first game of a three in seven day run that ends at Phoenix Rising and sandwiches the team’s third round Open Cup game midweek, it was a nice note.
Two Things I liked
Panos is (becoming) inevitable
Panos Armenakas has created 12 chances so far in the USL, good for sixth in the league, tied with several, including teammate Kalil ElMedkhar. But look a little closer and notice that nine of Armenakas’ chances have come in his last three games, which included Sunday’s Goal of the Week nominee which came off a deflected ball from (coincidentally) ElMedkhar:
Over that same span, he’s won 18 of 24 duels, had five tackles, a blocked shot and interception as well. Of the signings Ryan Martin and Stewart Mairs have made over the years, this could be the most ingenious one so far.
Esprit de corps
Something Zach Ryan said in this piece with the USL should be emphasized is the ability to build team chemistry, something that Ryan Martin emphasized with this group, and the challenge on doing that when you’re an MLS2 side, as Ryan was when he was a New York Red Bulls homegrown. In a bit of serendipity, I had this angle for Ryan’s PK conversion:
The scan to the right was to the celebrating teammates who either are injured or did not dress for the game. I don’t recall offhand if I saw that with past Loudoun iterations, but it was something that was fun to see and capture on camera. The team meets after the game at the midfield circle to share thoughts, laughs and recenter the mentality of the group, and it can’t be said enough how different a group this Loudoun team is from past ones.
One Thing I was worried about
Tighten it up
It may have been 2-0 on the actual, but at 2.23 vs. 1.59 on the xG game, this was one where Hugo Fauroux got tested a little more and a spill where he was caught out of his net could have made things tighter than they should have, and the xGD was tighter than last week’s win as well.
The good news is that to a man, Loudoun is aware of the work they have to do. Martin said after the game, “I didn’t think we were particularly great in the first half and especially the first 15 minutes. It took us a little bit to get into it, (we) gave the ball away too much for silly turnovers and we were too stretched out from side to side, which made it easy to play through us.”
From Zach Ryan: “I think the scoreline could have been more in our favor and in spite of that, they controlled a lot of the ball and made us defend a lot. A big part of our identity is to control the tempo of play and move the ball side to side and make the other team work and they did that to us. We found that we could still generate chances and dig in and be content with just defending when it isn’t going our way.”
So what’s next?
Sunday afternoon’s shutout was a good note for Loudoun, who host NISA club Flower City Union Wednesday before going to play at Phoenix Rising Saturday. And the team feels like they’re appropriately focused.
Martin: “Today was the focus for the guys, it was ‘don’t worry about Open Cup, don’t worry about Phoenix, worry about Oakland, a good, worthy opponent.’ And to be fair they stepped up and did that, now 100% of our attention is towards Flower City and we’ll hit Phoenix when we get there. For us, it will be about getting to the next round, it will be about going after Wednesday’s opportunity.”
Armenakas: “To be honest, up until now we’ve only focused on Oakland, we haven’t tried to look past that. At the end of the day, we have belief in everyone that steps out on the field. We all need to be ready, we have the conditioning and stuff mentally. The focus is now how we can get a win on Wednesday, it’s ot looking back at (Sunday) and we’re not looking past Wednesday either.”
Ryan: “Our focus was completely upon trying to get three points (Sunday). And as soon as the final whistle blew, the preparation for Flower City began. Obviously we know that it’s a heavy load, so we’ve got to take our recovery seriously and take our preparation seriously. But if you’re attempting to look beyond any of these games, any of these teams could punish you. We’re focused now on Flower City.”
Check this Stat
92.2% – The passing accuracy of Bryce Washington since Cole Turner went down to injury, good for second highest among players with more than 300 minutes (via ASA).
Loudoun United FC 2 – Oakland Roots SC 0
LDN – Zach Ryan (PK) 30′
LDN – Panos Armenakas 58′
OAK – Bryan Tamacas (bad foul) 27′
OAK – Tarek Morad (bad foul) 29′
OAK – Lindo Mfeka (dissent) 39′
LDN – Tommy Williamson (bad foul) 60′
LDN – Yanis Leerman (bad foul) 64′
OAK – Trayvon Reid (bad foul) 75′
OAK – Ethan Kohler (dissent) 75′
OAK – Lindo Mfeka (bad foul) 91′
LDN – Abdoul Zanne (bad foul) 91′
Loudoun United FC starting lineup (4-4-2):
Starting XI: Hugo Fauroux, Aidan Rocha, Yanis Leerman, Bryce Washington, Gaoussou Samake, Panos Armenakas (A. Koanda, 92′), Houssou Landry, Juan Ramirez (J. Garay, 72′) , Kalil ElMedkhar (A. Zanne 72′), Zach Ryan (D. Chica, 92′), Wesley Leggett (T. Williamson 54′)
Unused Substitutes: Dane Jacomen, Isaac Espinal
Oakland Roots SC starting lineup (3-4-3):
Starting XI: Paul Blanchette, Daniel Barbir, Tarek Morad, Emrah Klimenta (N. Hackshaw 71′), Guillermo Diaz (K. Wright 80′), Irakoze Donasiyano, Napo Matroos (J. Nane 71′), Bryan Tamacas (D. Murray 88′), Dariusz Formella, Anuar Pelaez, Lindo Mfeka
Unused Substitutes: Taylor Bailey, Ethan Kohler