Louisville City FC, Real Monarchs meet Sunday in USL Championship Final
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – All eyes will be on the Bluegrass State on Sunday night for the final game of the domestic soccer season in the United States as Louisville City FC and Real Monarchs SLC square off in the 2019 USL Championship Final.
A sellout crowd will pack Lynn Stadium to see if LouCity can become the first club to win three league titles in the USL Championship’s history or if the Monarchs can spoil the party for the hosts and lift the trophy in their first trip to the title game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET, with full national television coverage on ESPN2 and – for the first time in league history – ESPN Deportes.
After prevailing on home turf in each of the last two postseasons, LouCity has faced a more arduous road to reach its third consecutive Championship Final, needing a stoppage-time equalizer from Antoine Hoppenot last Saturday night against Indy Eleven to send the Eastern Conference Final to extra time before earning a 3-1 victory at Michael A. Carroll Stadium. Louisville has never lost a home postseason contest in its history, taking victory against the Swope Park Rangers in 2017 and Phoenix Rising FC in 2018 in its two previous Championship Finals. Eight current players in Louisville’s squad played in the 2017 title victory, while 11 current players saw action in last season’s final, a testament to the continuity the club has maintained over its first five seasons in the Championship.
The Monarchs are the latest challenger to that record and arrive in Louisville having already posted one major upset on the road this postseason. Real eliminated 2019 Regular Season Title-Winner Phoenix Rising FC in the Western Conference Semifinals before returning home to edge past El Paso Locomotive FC in a 2-1 victory after extra time last Saturday in the Western Conference Final. Winners of the 2017 Regular Season title, the Monarchs have won the second-most games across the regular season and playoffs of any side in the Championship over the past three seasons (55), one more than their host on Sunday, but they will have to overcome both the absence of leading scorer Douglas Martinez through suspension and the Championship Final’s history that has seen the host take victory on all eight previous occasions.
Players to Watch
Louisville City FC
Oscar Jimenez (D) – Named to the USL Championship All-League First Team for the first time in his career on Tuesday, Jimenez has been a key playmaker for Louisville from both open play and set pieces. His 92 chances created rank third in the league this season, while recording seven assists.
Magnus Rasmussen (M) – Louisville’s second selection to the USL Championship All-League First Team, Rasmussen is the fifth different player to lead LouCity in goalscoring over its five seasons. The Danish attacking midfielder has recorded 16 goals across the regular season and playoffs, including two game-winning goals this postseason.
Real Monarchs SLC
David Ochoa (GK) – Set to be the youngest starter in Sunday’s game at 18 years old, the United States U-20 international goalkeeper is among the brightest young players in the country. In addition to 19 appearances for the Monarchs this season, Ochoa also competed this summer at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and is eligible for the next edition of the tournament in 2021.
Jack Blake (M) – The Monarchs’ captain has come up with big moments so far this postseason, leading Real with three goals while leading a central midfield triumvirate that has also featured veteran Luke Mulholland and Justin Portillo. Teaming up with Cuban winger Maikel Chang, the English attacking midfielder could have a major impact on Sunday.
737 – Louisville City FC has recorded 737 crosses and corners in the 2019 season, the most of any team in the Eastern Conference, with an accuracy rate of 25.5 percent.
10 – Real Monarchs SLC has scored a postseason-high 10 goals in three games on its way to the Championship Final, with eight different players recording at least one goal or one assist.
FiveThirtyEight.com Match Predictor: Louisville City FC 64%, Real Monarchs SLC 36%
Louisville City FC – GK: Chris Hubbard; D: Oscar Jimenez, Paco Craig, Taylor Peay, Pat McMahon; DM: Speedy Williams, Niall McCabe; AM: Antoine Hoppenot, Magnus Rasmussen, Brian Ownby; F: Luke Spencer
Real Monarchs SLC – GK: David Ochoa; D: Erik Holt, Konrad Plewa, Kalen Ryden, Noah Powder; DM: Justin Portillo, Luke Mulholland: AM: Tate Schmitt, Jack Blake, Maikel Chang; F: Kyle Coffee
Louisville City FC – None
Real Monarchs SLC – Suspended: Douglas Martinez
Referee: Tim Ford
AR1: Jeremy Kieso
AR2: Cory Richardson
4th Official: Malik Badawi
Reserve Official: Chris Elliott