2024 S-2 Briefing: Racing Louisville

In our look at the Thorns’ 2024 opponents we’ve finally come to the lower depths, the bottom third of the 2023 table. From here things will get ugly, so be prepared.

Rather than recount everything we discussed a year ago let’s start with the 2023 version of this series and just note where things have changed at…

Racing Louisville FC

Year formed: 2019
The club originally known as “Proof Louisville” started playing in 2021. It seems like a gajillion years ago now, but they had “Riley Problems” with then-head-coach Christy Holly. He got canned in August but not before gutting the 2021 squad and cratering the season. The seasons since then have been unimpressive.

Owners: Soccer Holdings LLC
No change; John Neace is still chairman and CEO.

The club hired someone named Ryan Dell, a USWNT guy, as GM in March 2023. In part that seems to have been in response to the issues the NWSL investigation exposed at Racing. This included moving James O’Connor out of operations, probably also because of his part in the Holly debacle.

Head Coach: Lars Kim Björkegren
Still here after two mediocre seasons, God knoweth why.

In 2022 Björkegren and Racing went 5-9-8 (23 points; 9th of 12) 23GF 35GA -13GD. Last season they improved by four points; 6-7-9, 27 points 25GF, 24GA, +1GD but even with that just ended up 9th again.
Season summary: Draws. Lots and lots and lots of draws.

Racing went 1-2-4 through Matchday 7, 4-4-9 through Matchday 17.

The 2-1 home win over Portland on Matchday 18 teased the poor schmoes with a hint of playoff glory, sneaking into 6th, the highest on the table the club had been all season.

Then things went completely to hell and Racing finished the season 2-3-0 to end up in the same place they’d been a year earlier.
Meetings with Portland: 4/22/23 (2-0 away loss), 9/2/23 (2-1 home win)

Outstanding players: Louisville brought in a United Nations of internationals.

These included Kiwi defender Abby Erceg, midfield/forward Wang Shuang from the PRC, Brazilian midfielder Ary Borges, Finnish DM/defender Elli Pikkujämsä, and late additions South African striker Thembi Kgatlana and Danish forward Nadia Nadim returning from injury.

But the top scorer in 2023? Savannah DeMelo with only five goals and a couple of assists. Kirsten Davis potted four, and Paige Monaghan nicked three. Three players bagged two each, and five more got a single goal.

That’s not enough when this was happening in back…

Goalkeeper – seasonxG againstGAGamesxGa/gameD/Diff
Lund 202236.9132211.75-0.23
Lund 202330.024221.36-0.27

The Racing DMs and backline were…better than 2022. But still not “good”; Lund still had to save Racing about a goal every four games, so about 5 goals over the season. She even managed to keep five clean sheets.

This was just not a very good club.

Lat year I wrote: “With the Holly disaster it’s hard to see two poor seasons in a row as some sort of comprehensive condemnation of Racing as an organization on the pitch (in the FO? Another matter…). Both were a mess, but the 2022 mess seems distinct from the 2021 mess.”


Now it has been three consecutive poor seasons, and as any former Sky Blue or Breakers fan could tell you, there’s only so much losing that casual fans will take before they stop turning out.

How did they score?

Not much from the run of play; 56% of the total.

Racing did get a lot of goals from the spot, which is interesting because Björkegren didn’t seem to have a designated penalty taker. Scorers included DeMelo with two, Shuang with two, and Nadim.

How Did They Look?

Björkegren switched formations a bit. Here’s his various formations in order of frequency along with the results:


The formations also tended to come and go seemingly at random.

Racing played the first two games in the 4-3-3. Then Björkegren ran out the 4-2-3-1 in Los Angeles (and got another draw)…and it disappeared; the 4-3-3 returned until Matchday 9.

That one was a 4-2-3-1, a loss to The Damned and then the 4-2-3-1 vanished again. Back to the 4-3-3 until Matchday 13, when the 4-4-2 shows up for another loss to Carolina.

After that the formations change like fashion; a 4-4-1-1 at home against the Current in July, the 4-1-4-1 twice in August, then a brief return to the 4-3-3 before the 4-2-3-1 rolls out in the final two matchdays.

How’d all this look?

Here’s how, beginning the 4-3-3 in the loss to us in April:

Here’s the 4-1-4-1 against ACFC in August:

Same backline and Howell at the #6. DeMelo and Borges at the #8, Wang at RW. In the 4-1-4-1 Monaghan replaces Jess McDonald, with Nadim at the #9.

Here’s the 4-3-3 again beating us in September:

Lots of swaps. Lester to CB and Pikkujamsa moves up to the #6. Holloway for Pickett, Wang back alongside Borges at the #8s, Kgatlana and Monaghan on the wings outside of Davis.

Finally here they are on Decision Day:

4-2-3-1 with Nadim back up top, Kgatlana and Monaghan as AM/wingers with DeMelo at the 10. Similar DMs and backline.

After 2022 I wrote: “It seems like Björkegren had a system he liked – some version of 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 – but didn’t have the horses at center forward to make them work, and didn’t seem to have a solution for his porous backline, at least not one that worked there, either.”

I don’t see that a whole lot changed in 2023.

Changes for 2024

Coming in are defenders Ellie Jean from Bay City and Arin Wright from Chicago, forward Taylor (Korneick) Flint from San Diego, and free agent midfielder Marisa Viggiano from Houston.

Leaving? Defender Julia Lester to Seattle, Emina Ekic to the A-League and Nadia Nadim to AC Milan. Wang Shuang signed with Tottenham Hotspur. Thembi Kgatlana went to LigaMX Feminil.

Jessica McDonald is unsigned as a free agent.

Racing had four draft picks, a first rounder, low second, and two fourth rounders, and took:
Reilyn Turner (forward) – 1st round #6
Emma Sears (forward) – 2nd round #28
Sam Cary (defender) – 4th round #48
Madison White (goalkeeper) – 4th round #54

Henderson loved Turner (“Has top three potential in this class. Louisville desperately needed winger talent and got someone who could be the best one in this class.”) and thought both fourth rounders were decent. Wasn’t impressed with Sears’ 2023 season.

Wright should give veteran help in back, Flint is always dangerous, and Turner sounds promising. Otherwise…I don’t see a big leap here.

How they’ll look next year?

Here’s my guess:

This is a pretty critical year for Racing. This club has GOT to start putting a quality product on the pitch. I’m not sure if this rebuild will bring in enough quality.

I’ll revise what I said at the end of 2022: “The fans have been very patient; Louisville averages between 4,000 to 6,000 or so a match…and was only slightly down from 2022. But if 2024 is another shit season pretty soon numbers are going to be down into the Houston/Orlando range and that’s not a good look for the club or the league.”

Summing Up

After Holly and now three straight poor seasons Louisville has got to get better, markedly better, and this season. Can they?

I don’t see the sort of breakout attackers the squad needs to do that, and it’s asking a lot from Arin Wright to put some more steel into the defense if Abby Erceg can’t.

II see no reason to presume a shockingly better season from them.


This club will need a ton of luck to break their way this season to go anywhere. The expanded playoffs might give them that break; I could see them sneaking in eighth. But I don’t see that Björkegren has improved them in his two seasons. So ninth and out is just as likely.

Will they be dangerous? Well we fucking got hammered there last season, so, maybe to us they are…!

Kidding aside, I don’t see this lot as much more dangerous than they have been the last three years.

Can the Thorns beat them? We should be comprehensively better than this mob, so, yes, we should. Can we? That’s up to Mike Norris.

Next up: A Dash of Futility

John Lawes
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2 thoughts on “2024 S-2 Briefing: Racing Louisville

  1. That backline has three defenders that I have always respected a lot. Erceg, Wright and Pickett. It is possible all three are past their prime, but when they were good they were really good. The rest of the team except DeMelo and Flint/Kornieck are mysteries to me. So my guess is a bottom tier team that might on any given day beat a good team like the Thorns, SDW or Gotham. I don’t see any players even DeMelo that look like locks for the Olympics.

    1. As individuals? Sure! As parts of a unit? Erceg’s Louisville and Wright’s Chicago were both pretty meh defensively. Pickett is kind of the dictionary definition of “squad player”, and her defensive units have been okay-ish at best. Same with DeMelo & Co., regardless of international callups.

      As always, it’s about the coaching. Björkegren has done jack shit with this team two years running. Could he do better this coming season. Maybe? But that’s not how I’d bet.

      Which is why this squad screams “mid-table mediocrity”. Thing is, 1) with more than half the table getting into the playoffs this season “mid-table mediocrity” is gonna be enough, and 2) once in, get hot for three games and Big Casino! (hi, Gotham!).



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