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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Alfano

The Playoff Push: How Racing Louisville is Heading Into Their Final Games

No matter the outcome of Racing Louisville's match against the Orlando Pride, the team has a lot to be proud of.

For Racing, who currently sit in tenth, a win is needed in order to make sure they’re not eliminated from playoff contention. Louisville sits four points out of sixth, the last playoff spot, currently occupied by OL Reign. Orlando is even on points with OL Reign but trailing in goal differential which makes a win tonight even more crucial.

After dropping unfortunate points to the Chicago Red Stars, the team is home for what could be their most important match of the season.

Captain Abby Erceg in the pre-game huddle for the NWSL Challenge Cup final. Photo by Georgia Soares via NWSL.

This year is the tightest it's ever been in the league. It's a testament to women's soccer in general and the coming up of a lot of really good talent, but also to all the clubs that have joined the league.

For Racing, the most important thing is to not look too far ahead. Three points at the stage can make or break their playoff race so staying in the moment is key to their success going into the final stretch. It is all hands on deck for the mint and purple side as they look to break their two-game losing streak with a big win.

While it is easy to dwell on points lost, Racing is keeping their goals set on making that final push to land in the playoffs.

“I think a lot of times people have always said like pressure is a privilege, and I think when you do get into this stage, you can twist it in either way, you can let that pressure build and let it get to you, or you can be like, we're in such a good spot, there's pressure here for a reason,” said defender Lauren Milliet who has played every single minute for Racing this season.

In an environment like a professional sports team, which is high pressure all the time, spinning it positive is what is going to keep this Racing team alive. And, while it is stressful that your whole season can rest on one game, Milliet said "It's honestly kind of fun."

Last year, when it came playoff time, Racing was not in the position to make the playoffs, so being only a few points away this season is huge for them. However, going into a playoff situation they need to do better and they need to do more.

Throughout the season, Racing has had plenty of big wins over teams that are currently at the top of the standings. Knowing that these big wins are in their back pocket, has helped build confidence in this young team. Last year, this team was very far off from beating those top-of-the-table leaders which is a testament to their growth as a squad.

"When we play like we know how to play, we feel like we can beat any team in the league," said Howell, "It's about embracing the opportunity we have to do something great for this club."

Another big thing in Racing's favor is their goal differential. Although dropping a few points, they still sit with a +2, having only let in 20 goals this season. Their backline is solid, with most goals coming from little moments of miscommunication.

Milliet and Howell credit the leadership of Carson Pickett and Abby Erceg, who both joined Racing in the offseason, with helping strengthen the backline. They came in with experience of winning the league and have been able to help formulate this backline into one of the most underrated in the league. The goal differentials from the first and second to this year show that things are getting progressively better. It is a major testament to where this club is headed and how they've improved each season. Not letting in a lot of goals has kept the Kentucky-based team in a lot of games where people overlooked them.

As an expansion team, that has had a bit of a rough start with coaching issues during the first few years, they are finally starting to find their groove. With a successful Challenge Cup run and a steady regular season setup, there has been a lot to gain from the season.

But, there is still a lot to learn. Howell has high exceptions for this team but the biggest is consistently showing up for every game. It can't be hot and cold, they need to go out and commit for the full ninety minutes in order to do what they know they can. A lot of the team hasn't experienced a big pro-semi-final or championship match, so the Challenge Cup was crucial to help give them that test. Learning how to bounce back from those losses and get into the best position going froward was one of the biggest takeaways from the season.

The team clicks off the field, experiencing all the highs and lows together, which has bettered their relationship on the pitch. They need to stick together through it all in order to bring their best product. There is intense determination in the squad and they have a "there's nothing we can't do" mentality.

"I think that that's like an important piece for us is that, we're willing to do whatever it takes for the person next to us. Get into a crazy tackle or block any shot under the sun. We're willing to do it for each other. And that's every single mentality on the pitch," said Milliet.

Jaelin Howell extends to play the ball in game against Portland Thorns. Photo by Kallie Hansel-Tennes for WSX.

Both Milliet and Howell shouted out the community they've built at Racing who support this team inside and out. The support consistently shows up and shows up for this team which drives Racing to represent the city as best as they can. Howell added that part of being a professional player is how you give back, so they want to give back to the supporters as much as they can because they give them so much.

This team has all the capability in the world to win championships, now it's just putting the pieces together to make the playoffs, now it's just time to do it.

Howell said it perfectly, "It's important to believe in ourselves, I think a lot of teams count us out, a lot of people count us out, but, believing that we can do it, we've shown that we can do it, and now we just have to."


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