Louisville City announced today in a press release that eleven players from last year’s Eastern Conference finalists would return for 2017. Equally interesting were the names not included, which we’ll get to. I’d also like to add that it’s nice to see the club being a bit more transparent with these contract announcements, as last year we didn’t really know who was coming or going until much later.
Goalkeeper: Tim Dobrowolski
Defenders: Sean Reynolds, Tarek Morad, Paco Craig, Kyle Smith
Midfielders: Niall McCabe, Guy Abend, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Paolo DelPiccolo
Forwards: Cameron Lancaster, Ilja Ilic
The club also indicated that they are still in negotiations with Greg Ranjitisingh and George Davis, IV, and that Aodhan Quinn, Kadeem Dacres, and Andrew Lubahn might also return after testing the waters with other clubs as free agents.
Not returning, obviously, are Ben Newnam, Enrique Montano, Magnus Rasmussen, Kenny Doublette, and Chandler Hoffman.
So what do we make of all this? O’Connor was right in that the core of the group is almost all back under contract. The glaring omissions, though, are Quinn and Rasmussen. Magnus is apparently going to return to Europe, and no one can blame him for that. It’s arguable that a DelPiccolo/Abend midfield would be pretty good, so the loss of Quinn, captain and all, might not be that debilitating. However, losing MAGRAM and Dacres leaves a lot up in the air for trying to figure out how this team will score goals.
Defensively, we should be set up quite well for 2017. I have a sneaking suspicion Ranjitsingh will be back, but as far as outfield players go, the back four are all super-solid in my eyes.
In terms of holes we’ll need to fill, I’m interested in seeing what the club does to find a central playmaker. Do they try DelPiccolo out in that role? McCabe did okay as a plugin there for a while, but I don’t think it’s his best position.
Also, striker is a big question mark. Lancaster did everything a center forward needs to do except, you know, score goals in 2016. I’m not at all surprised to see Hoffman gone, given his struggles in the second half of the season. I’m pretty sure finding some more depth at forward is going to be important for James O’Connor this off season.
In terms of wingers, I don’t expect Dacres back, either. Taking him off the roster means we lose a lot of pace on the right. Can McCabe replace Dacres on the right wing?
An added wrinkle affecting any player acquisitions is the USL’s new substitution rules. James O’Connor said the new 3 sub rule will probably have an effect on the size of the squad for 2017, i.e., it’ll be smaller. In any event, this is mostly good news, as it gives the club a solid defensive backbone going into 2017. We may see a whole new philosophy offensively, given the losses of Dacres and Rasmussen in the attacking midfield. Exciting times!