It's never easy ending the season short of a championship for any team, but this year's inaugural edition of Louisville City FC has many a reason to hold its collective head high despite falling in the USL Eastern Conference final to Rochester by a 1-0 scoreline.
It was a match-up of opposites that proved the old cliche "defense wins championships" to be true. Louisville City boasted the second-highest scoring attack in USL regular season history, while Rochester's defensive prowess was also the second-strongest in league history. Likely a product of Rochester head coach Bob Lilley's game plan, the match featured only 11 total shots between the two teams, and Rochester won the category eight to three.
Rochester found the back of the net for the only goal of the game in the 23rd minute via a scramble at the mouth of the goal, following a corner kick. The initial header was saved by Louisville keeper Scott Goodwin, but the rebound fell to Rochester defender Vassilios Apostolopoulos, who finished the play despite being in a crowd of players.
The result pushes Rochester into the USL Championship Final, where the Rhinos will host the LA Galaxy reserve squad, which defeated the OKC Energy on the road to advance. The final will pit the regular season champion Rhinos against a squad that finished fifth in the Western Conference. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.
Highlights from the loss:
Louisville's First Season a Success
The positives that can be taken from this inaugural campaign are plentiful. Captain Matt Fondy not only led the league in scoring, but he also broke Kevin Molino's league record for goals and is a lock for MVP. Louisville's offense was second in league history in the regular season in goals scored. In his first year in charge of any team, Head Coach James O'Connor has a strong argument for Coach of the Year.
Most importantly, however, Louisville City appears to have grabbed a foothold in the city and created a loyal fan base. Louisville City was second in the USL in average home attendance, at 6,765 fans per game, and the crowds continually grew as the season progressed.
It would appear that Louisville City has a fan in none other than Mayor Greg Fischer. The mayor has been a feature at several Louisville City games, and had this to say after the finish to the season.
As for what that future may hold? In the short term, not much. Postseason accolades should come soon, but the bigger picture is beckoning for a look. At a community celebration for the team, the mayor made an (non) announcement that the city will begin to look seriously at MLS expansion opportunities. The club's affiliation with Orlando City is now unceremoniously over. Will Louisville re-affiliate? If so, will it be with another MLS team or an international club? Will this current group of players come back? Will Fondy and Bryan Burke get MLS opportunities next season, as many expect? Will O'Connor become the subject of rumors or does he make Louisville his home for the long term?
This inaugural season has been many things, not the least of which was entertaining, and Louisville City's future looks to be just as intriguing.