The upcoming game is going to be a tough one, so here you are with everything you need to know. First, the specifics: The game is away to Loudoun United FC at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia. It will be streamed live on flowercityunion.com/watch-live on Wednesday, April 26th at 7:00 pm. If any of you make it down, make sure to hit up Valiant 33 on Twitter to come say hi and support the team with me.
As of the time of this writing, Flower City Union hasn’t played in over two weeks. You can see our preview of the Chattanooga match for a recap of where we are, and what our chances are against a tough league opponent. Not much has changed since the last match, although there are a few new signings that have been announced. Midfielder Aidan Miller is a newcomer, while winger Ryan Curtis is a returning face from last year. I haven’t had time to watch him play in person yet, but I’ve heard fantastic things about midfielder Matt Bolduc. By the time of the Loudoun match-up, we may have a better idea about what to expect from any or all of these players in this year’s squad, but as of now, it’s unknown how or where they’ll fit in. So, you’ll have to watch the match against Chattanooga on Saturday to potentially see these new faces.
Drawing against Loudoun in the US Open Cup was probably the best chance we could have gotten. While they are in the USL Championship, a tier above FCU in the pyramid, we could have drawn against New England Revolution of the MLS. Loudoun finished in last place for two years in a row, and then in the middle of the pack last year. However, they are currently on a winning streak. They made a lot of moves in the off-season and “almost all moves were significant because it’s almost an entirely new team.” They have a new owner, and can now bring in long term contracts. In their last two league games, they won by an aggregate score of 5-1, they and are currently sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Watching highlights of their last game, a 3-0 dismantling of a fellow Championship side, the highlights barely show the opposing team. They fire short and long passes with precision. They take perfect headers both as shots on target and as passes. They can get breakaways. And they can send long shots curling around players directly on target. This will be our hardest test so far this season.
As for who to watch out for, their new winger Panos Armenakas has played in many top division leagues in Europe (Greece, Belgium, Denmark). Their forward Zach Ryan is on a hot streak, having scored 4 goals in 3 games. While we’d never wish ill of a player, hopefully the fact that “he seemed to be favoring one leg when he [recently] was subbed off late” means he will get a rest for our match-up. And finally, as for tactics, their coach “loves to rely heavily in his fullbacks and both Kia Santos and Gaussou Samake make overlapping runs and create additional attacking opportunities for the forwards.” It seems as if they will be a very attack-heavy side.
While I think Loudoun is definitely the favorite, FCU does have one advantage on their side: the US Open Cup is generally not taken as seriously by clubs higher up in the pyramid. While Loudoun is probably not going to come out as strongly as they would in a league fixture, they will also not look at FCU as much of a threat, so we can exploit their shortsightedness. Valiant 33’s own Mike C. has been watching their games and says “they can be taken advantage of with a high press and pressure, either balls over the top or through attacking with width on the fullbacks.” Whatever the result, making it to the Third Round of the US Open Cup is a good achievement. We are not expected to win this game, so hopefully we can pull an upset against a team that will be underestimating the new players and tactics Flower City Union has this season.
Thank you to Adam from @NextnLinePod for his thoughts from a Loudoun United FC point of view.