The undefeated Rochester Rhinos take a trip down the Ohio River to meet first-year team Louisville City FC. Louisville inherited Orlando City's USL franchise when MLS came calling and is the Lions' affiliate for the 2015 season. For its inaugural run, the team has assembled a decent array of talent including former D.C. United prospect Conor Shanosky, stand-out USL defender Bryan Burke, and former MLS forward Matt Fondy.
I talked to Jeff Milby of the Mane Land to get more than a cursory introduction to Rochester's next opponent, Louisville City FC.
1.) Who is the obvious dangerman for Louisville City and who is someone flying more under the radar who is still a key player?
Matt Fondy wears the armband as captain and is the obvious danger-man. He has MLS experience with Chicago and Chivas and was the leading scorer in preseason for Louisville City with 4 goals. Besides him, Magnus Rasmussen is another key player. He wears the number 10 and scored Louisville City's first ever goal in regular season play.
2.) What are season expectations and how important are results at home for that success?
I think expectations for this season within the club are high. They've assembled a talented roster, including players like Fondy and former Orlando City right back Bryan Burke who club officials think will get MLS opportunities in the near future.
Obviously, protecting the home-field is a major factor in a successful season for any club. The old cliché of "Win at home and draw on the road" is definitely applicable to this team, as that's exactly what they've done in the league through two games.
Jeff continued and gave insights not only for the team's raison d'être but also its roadmap to get there.
The club has serious MLS aspirations, and that's been a major marketing angle for them so far in a city where soccer is seen as an underdog sport. Winning at home is almost more important for the team's off-the-field success than its on-field success. Louisville will support a winner, no matter what sport. If LCFC can win at home, the thinking is that crowds will grow along with city-wide interest in and respect for the sport and this team.
3.) How have loanees factored into the young season and how do you see that projecting over the full year?
The Orlando loanees haven't factored into the season at all yet. Fourth round draft pick Sidney Rivera, a midfielder from Old Dominion, is the only player the Lions have sent down to Louisville, but he has been battling a groin injury which has prevented him from playing so far this season. In fact, last week he traveled back to Orlando for rehab.
As far as the rest of the season is concerned, the players that do eventually come down from MLS figure to be very impactful. Any Orlando players that join Louisville figure to infuse some talent into the team. As for who those players will be? Your guess is as good as mine. The big rumor in preseason was that Cyle Larin was definitely on his way to Louisville, but he has been in the lineup of late for Orlando and scored against Portland over the weekend.
Tony Walls, Johnny Mendoza, and the rest of the team will be hoping to extend their undefeated run to four games to start the 2015 USL season. Louisville City FC has enough quality players to make that goal a challenge for the Rhinos when they meet at 7:30pm on Thursday night.