Indy Eleven 0 - Louisville City 2
In another show of resiliency that has become one of this team's hallmarks thus far in the season, Louisville City fought and clawed its way to a 2-0 overtime victory over NASL club Indy Eleven in a rain delayed U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday night in Indianapolis.
James O'Connor elected to make six alterations to his usual first-choice lineup, including a first start for Orlando City loanee Sidney Rivera and a change of formation from the usual 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3. However, despite the wholesale changes, Louisville City held its own in a mostly even match that was devoid of clear scoring opportunities for either side. Louisville's best chances came in the second half in breakaways for Ilija Illic and Nate Polak, which were both ended by Indy Eleven keeper Kristian Nicht, whom you may remember from his one-game stint for the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Final.
The final 20 minutes of play opened up, as both teams were striving for a goal in the late going to secure a place in the next round. Goalkeepers Nicht and Scott Goodwin of Louisville stood tall with their defenses late, as both teams warded off late chances to see the game into overtime at 0-0.
After a grueling 25 minutes of play both teams were showing signs of tired legs, but Louisville would display the grit and determination to strike first. Rivera got on the end of a long ball and headed it back to the feet of Polak, the hero of last week's wild 3-3 draw at Saint Louis. From outside the box, Polak twisted and turned to find the space to fire a low, hard shot past Nicht and into the left corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage.
After a tepid response from Indy, Louisville maintained the edge in the run of play and would grab another goal not five minutes later. A slicing through ball found the feet of substitute Matt Fondy, but Nicht came off his line to deflect the shot. However, the rebound was fired off the crossbar by Juan Guzman and landed at the feet of Rivera with an open goal in front of him. The rookie from Old Dominion tapped home the easy finish for his first professional goal, sending the announced crowd of 7,134 home in a state of shock.
The 2-0 victory sees Louisville through to the fourth round of the 102nd Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where the Royals will take on the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. The match will be played on June 16 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. Kickoff will be at 7:30 ET.
Highlights from the victory, including the post-game locker room celebration:
Louisville City 1 - Saint Louis FC 1
In the second meeting of the King's Cup rivalry in a week's time, and the third of the season, Louisville City had the chance to clinch the inaugural season series against rivals Saint Louis FC in front of a record crowd of 7,185 at home at Louisville Slugger Field. And for a few minutes Saturday night, it looked like the Royals might just do it.
The first half saw Louisville dominate play to the tune of an eight-to-one shot advantage, but without a goal. Things quickly changed after the break as the home side took the lead five minutes from the start of the second period. That's when 21 year-old English midfielder Charlie Adams looped in a perfectly placed ball which found the head of winger Kadeem Dacres, whose header beat Saint Louis keeper Alec Kann for the Royals' first lead over Saint Louis since opening day.
"I saw Charlie running with the ball, he got his head up," Dacres, who was named Man of the Match, said. "I got in a dangerous area and just put my head on it."
Louisville would rue their missed chances as Saint Louis, in a role reversal from last week's draw, were the visiting spoilers. In the 69th minute Saint Louis midfielder Charles Renken, a former teammate of Dacres last season at Arizona United, split the Louisville defense and was found with a long pass. The former Hoffenheim youth player took the shot first-time off the bounce and beat Louisville's Goodwin to equalize.
The Royals would respond in kind, with a flurry of corners and chances. In the dying embers of the match a corner went off the post twice and nearly sent the record crowd into a frenzied status, but Lou City couldn't grab what would have been a deserved winner.
"That's something that's really frustrating," O'Connor said of his team's inability to score off of set pieces (Louisville has only scored off one corner this season). "A couple of weeks ago we were the highest in the league with 51 corners. I don't know what it is, but the last few games we've had countless corners. You need to start capitalizing. You can't keep having that much possession, that much momentum and not score goals."
The match would end 1-1, setting up a grudge match for the King's Cup in St. Louis.
"I think tonight, as you can see, two very, very tired teams," O'Connor lamented after the match." For us we didn't play quick enough. It was to be expected. That's our sixth game in 18 days. I knew before the game it was gonna be tough for us.
"We went in front, and then we gave a poor goal away. It's very disappointing, considering how hard the lads worked. We definitely had a lot of possession, and for me always looked like the team that was going and trying to win the game."
When asked about the mood of the locker room after the match, Dacres responded shortly, "We're disappointed. We're disappointed
"We're a mentally strong team," he continued. "So we'll take this in our stride and continue to look forward to the next game."
After a much needed week of rest, Louisville City will next travel north to Canada to face FC Montreal, the USL affiliate of the Montreal Impact. That match will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on June 10.
Highlights from the draw:
- After playing the full 120 minutes in the U.S. Open Cup win away to the Indy Eleven, Sidney Rivera played another 15 minutes on Saturday vs. Saint Louis. Despite the increased minutes, Rivera could be seen running wind sprints at Louisville Slugger Field moments after the final whistle blew.
- Former MLS MVP Mike Magee played for Saint Louis against Louisville City on Saturday, as part of a three-day loan deal that saw the former MLS Champion return from injury. After 60 minutes that saw him create just a few chances, he was taken off. Kadeem Dacres said his presence didn't affect the game plan. "We just played our game. We didn't have any guys [specifically] marking him or anything like that. We just played our game.
- After a second straight record crowd, O'Connor was effusive in his praise. "The supporters were absolutely tremendous. If you look at the last two or three minutes, great credit to them. They were really trying to push us forward and I thank them because they made a real effort to get behind us and try and push us over the line. You could see it helped -- it helped our momentum. We had a period there at the end where we had four or five corners and I thought we actually nicked one. But it wasn't to be."