Quotes courtesy of Louisville City’s presser video.
USL teams are staring in the rearview mirror at preseason, knowing that, finally, the 2018 campaign will officially begin Saturday. For Louisville City FC and Nashville SC, that beginning comes at 3 p.m. EDT Saturday (side note: if you’re an NSC fan looking to make the trip, here’s how you get seats in the visitors’ section).
For Louisville coach James O’Connor, finally getting a feel for what the Boys in Gold will be all about is going to be a welcome sight. Given that NSC is fielding a USL side for the first time ever, their tactics and lineup are going to be something of a mystery until kickoff.
“We’re trying to figure out what will their formation be, what will their personnel be,” he said. “I think for us, that obviously presents a challenge. It’s part of it: when you look at the American culture, there’s new teams every year – there has been and there will be. It’s part of the growth of the game that you just have to accept.”
The two teams took drastically different approaches to the preseason, which may help give O’Connor a bit of a heads up about what NSC will do: Nashville played three MLS sides, two from USL, and two from lower leagues (the NPSL’s Chattanooga FC and NCAA’s Lipscomb University). Getting time against top-caliber opposition helped them prepare for the season – and do it in a way that probably foretells how they plan to attack the regular season, too.
O’Connor even got a chance to see NSC in action in one of their more competitive preseason matchups. Just over a week ago, he took in their friendly against fellow USL East contender FC Cincinnati, getting a bit of a feel for what we may see going forward.
“I think it’s impossible to know [how difficult preseason opponents prepare you differently for the year]: everyone has a different way of doing preseason,” he said. “For us, with our squad, we like to make sure that the minutes are managed and we get everyone some good minutes. When you’ve got a bigger squad like Nashville or Cincinnati, you need to play more games, and you need to try and manage it a little bit differently. There’s so many different ways of getting success.”
O’Connor knows plenty about success. He helmed LCFC to a USL title last Summer, defeating Swope Park Rangers to rule the second tier of US Soccer. That’s behind him, though.
“We don’t speak about it at all: the only focus is Nashville,” he said. “That is now, and that has been now. My expectation is for no one to be talking about a championship when we haven’t even played a game. I think for us, it’s completely on Nashville, trying to figure out what we believe they may or may not do, then trying to cause them problems when we have the ball ourselves. It’ll be no talk of a championship for sure.”
Getting back on the field in an attempt to repeat is several months in the making. This game has had buzz since the initial USL schedule release back in January.
“I think everyone – there’s an excitement to get home and get back in front of our supporters,” he said. “Everyone’s excited about the fact we can get it going again. Even speaking to some of the supporters, they’re ready for the season to start. We’re excited, and we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can get out and give a good performance on Saturday.
“It’ll be incredible. For us, the supporters have been so passionate since our inception.”
Nashville’s goal? Spoil that homecoming for their regional rival.