In front of an announced crowd of 6,067 at Louisville Slugger Field, Orlando City's USL affiliate got its inaugural season off on the right foot with a 2-0 victory over fellow USL newcomers Saint Louis FC, in both clubs' first ever regular season league match on Saturday.
After a beginning to the match in which it was evident that both sides were playing their first ever matches, neither side could establish any kind of passing rhythm. Both teams pressed their opposition at every pass of the ball and turnovers were rampant.
However, order was established in the 22nd minute as the home side scored to send the Louisville Coopers supporters section into a purple-smoke-filled frenzy. Danish midfielder Magnus Rasmussen, a star in the preseason, slotted home a left footed shot that came off of a missed clearance by the Saint Louis defense. It was the first goal in Louisville City history, and it was good for a 1-0 halftime lead.
The second half was considerably less choppy, and Louisville City used the increased flow of play to assert their dominance. A clear chance for Louisville's Matt Fondy was wasted, as LCFC's leading preseason goal scorer got in behind off of a long ball from Center back Conor Shanosky. Fondy, however, couldn't quite collect himself in time to get a shot off and the Saint Louis goalkeeper Dais produced a key save to keep his team in the game.
Louisville City would put it out of reach in the 65th minute. Israeli midfielder Guy Abend picked up a cross which had been knocked down inside the box, made a move between two Saint Louis defenders, and really showed his quality with a back-heeled assist to English midfielder and second-half substitute Charlie Adams, who curled in a shot from around 20 yards out.
"The coach wanted me to come on at halftime, so I'm obviously gonna give it my best," Adams said, after the match. "Maybe in the upcoming games, hopefully I'll be able to score a few more (goals like that one)."
"We felt like we needed to get a bit of freshness," Louisville Head Coach James O'Connor said of the decision to bring Adams on for Kadeem Dacres at the half. "We felt that Charlie would go on and was very capable. He's a very talented player. I thought Kadeem did well in the first half -- it was nothing against Kadeem -- it was just the case that we thought we could isolate their fullback. Charlie did a great job and took his goal very well."
The 2-0 scoreline would hold as Saint Louis continued to crumble under Louisville's pressure in the final third. A yellow card was issued to Saint Louis' Jeremy Lynch late in the second half, as he fouled Abend near the corner flag in Louisville's attacking half and, in a play that was representative of Saint Louis' frustrating day, a Saint Louis defender kicked the ball away under no pressure for a Louisville corner as the ball was rolling inches from his own keeper's gloves. After the match, O'Connnor was pleased with the result.
"We can definitely get better, as it starts to go on we can definitely improve. There's some areas of our game that we can definitely improve," O'Connor said. "We're very pleased, and it's great to get off to a win.
"We've got some very good players. Decision making at times could be a little bit better, but all in all it was great. Fantastic goal from Charlie and a great finish from Magnus. The whole eleven did really well and worked very hard."
As for the 6,000 fans in attendance, their efforts didn't go unnoticed on the field.
"It was superb, especially the fans," Adams said. "The fans were unreal today. The atmosphere was amazing."
"To have 6,000 fans it was important that we gave a good show and won," O'Connor said. "We're a brand new club, it's gonna take time to get to where we want to go, but we're really pleased with the initial start."
After taking all three points against Saint Louis on opening day, Louisville City will take to the road to play the Richmond Kickers this Saturday. The next home match will be on Thursday, April 16 against Rochester.
Highlights from the win:
- Orlando City loanee Sidney Rivera was not in the 18 on Saturday, and has yet to be officially announced by the club, due to an ongoing groin injury.
- The field conditions were a big talking point in the buildup to this season, and it's going to be an ongoing storyline. The retractable pitchers mound was still an obstacle, as it was still raised around a quarter of an inch off the ground. The elevated part of the field affected the roll of the ball slightly during the game. The turf that is being used to cover the infield dirt could also be a concern, as multiple players slipped during the match, including a slight injury to midfielder Juan Guzman in the second half.