The No. 25 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-1) go back to work tonight in Kentucky against the Louisville Cardinals (2-2) to open up ACC play for both teams. The Deacs come into this one after notching a 2OT victory against 9 man Cornell after surrendering the lead late to the Big Red, but Cornell would eventually succumb to Wake’s numerical advantage. Louisville hasn’t exactly had the start they had hoped for going into this season, with the Cards stumbling out to a 2-2 record, winning against Evansville and Bellarmine, but dropping their opener to St. Louis 2-1 in overtime and, most recently, losing 3-1 at home to No. 17 Kentucky in a rivalry game loss they’ll be itching to recover from. Considering the game these two teams played in the spring last year, this should be intriguing viewing, and with both teams looking to right the ship after shaky starts, this game will be pivotal.
In the all time series, Wake has dominated the Cardinals, holding an 11-3 mark over Louisville, including both games the two sides played last year. Wake had its full star studded roster for the first matchup and walked out of Louisville with all three points after a comfortable 3-1 game, with goals from Machop Chol, Calvin Harris, and a penalty from Kyle Holcomb. The second game wasn’t quite as comfortable, but the Deacs got it done all the same, with an Omar Hernandez free kick canceling out Aboubacar Camara’s opener, and his overtime goal sending the fans at Spry home happy after Louisville went down to ten men following a 63rd minute red card to William Portman. Louisville finished last season 5-8-1, but went 4-2 in the spring window after a brutal fall. They were picked as the 3rd team in the Atlantic Division in the preseason, behind Wake and Clemson. They haven’t been all that great under head coach John Michael Hayden, who has compiled a 17-18-3 record over his 2 seasons and change with the program, but they’re expecting to have a more impressive season this year than they did in the last two.
Tactically, Louisville are still that high octane, high pressure, exciting attacking team that gave Wake hell in the first half of the game at Spry las season. They come out in a 3-4-3 and press their numbers way up the field, piling bodies forward on the attack and relying on their counterpress and ability to win duels to get them out of trouble on the back end if they turn the ball over. However, defensively this Louisville team looks less than sharp, as although the press has worked wonders for them, their defenders have not been able to perform well defending in space and have made some really sloppy errors leading to goals. Their keeper Detre Bell, a stalwart redshirt senior that you can usually expect a good game from, has also not been in the best of form to start the season, which has led to them giving up some of the goals they have. Nonetheless, this game will be decided by how well Wake’s backline is able to distribute the ball and avoid sloppy turnovers. Wake have been uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball so far this year, which could lead to many problems with a team like Louisville who always have numbers up the field when the ball turns over. But if this Wake defense and midfield can break the first line of Louisville’s press consistently, and get the ball out into space for their wingers (likely David Wrona and Chase Oliver, both of whom have been in good form) and force the Louisville defense into uncomfortable positions, this game should be theirs if they take their chances.
Ones to Watch:
#46 Sander Roed (CM): As part of Louisville’s double pivot in the middle, your job has to be two-fold, both requiring excellent recovery runs on defense and the ability to progress the ball and create dangerous chances going forward. Roed, a freshman from Norway, seems to be the conductor of this Louisville midfield, as he is able to make progressive runs, use his body well to hold onto the ball, and start some great passing exchanges with his teammates. While it is unclear if he has all of the tools defensively, going forward he is definitely a danger, and physically he fulfills the role Coach Hayden has in mind for him well. For Wake to win the midfield battle, they’ll need to neutralize him.
#9 Aboubacar Camara (CF): Camara is the ideal center forward in the modern game. He’s strong, fast, has good energy, holds the ball up well, and is a great finisher. After a strong freshman season leading the Cards with 6 goals in 12 games, including scoring in 3 straight games to end the season against Wake, UVA, and Clemson. He’s started this season much in the same way, with 2 goals in 4 after his ACC All-Freshman campaign last year, and is an ever present danger if he gets a chance. Wake’s defenders will need to keep an eye on him in the area, as he’s unlikely to flub his lines.
#34 Chase Oliver (W): Last game very much felt like the genesis of Chase Oliver. After being excellent in exhibition games at the start of last year, he had a relatively ineffective campaign for the Deacs, but always showed flashes of the talent that he had even in those not great performances. This year he has a new confidence about him, and has made incredible progress in his trajectory toward being a star at the collegiate level. He scored the goal to open up the game against Cornell, and gave Kyle Holcomb the assist on the game winner in overtime, while looking dangerous throughout. If the Deacs are going to break out of Louisville’s press, Oliver will have a lot of space out wide to do what he loves: taking players on. If Wake has a good game, expect Oliver to be at the center of it.
#12 Takuma Suzuki (CM): Takuma Suzuki is one of those players that this old adage of the sport applies to: if you haven’t said his name, he’s had a good game. Suzuki’s game is primarily focused on making sure Wake is comfortable in possession, acting as a release valve for the Wake defense, and looking for ways to progress the ball, as well as winning the battles that he needs to in the middle of the field. He had a spotty start to this season for Wake, but has settled in during the last couple of games, and with Louisville’s press being such a key to this game, Suzuki will need to control the ball in the middle and make sure Wake doesn’t turn the ball over into trouble.
Kickoff is set for 8:00 at Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium in Louisville and it will be on ACCN Extra.