by: Cody Ruth
As I’m sitting here Saturday, waiting for the Boys in Purple to play the Baby Bulls, I can’t believe that the Pittsburgh game was only a few days ago. So much has happened in the last couple of days it seems surreal. I feel compelled to put some words together about Louisville City’s place in the soccer landscape.
Starting with the most recent event and working back, I’ll start with our coaching search. Listening to Soccer City Radio and the comments of GK Coach Thabane Sutu make me believe that this was a VERY fast decision. We knew Orlando City had been making overtures to James O’Connor since they removed Jason Kreis two weeks ago, but he seemed to be resisting the move, but still laying groundwork for his departure with the team. It sounds like Thursday night OCSC finally made the right offer and JOC informed the team Friday morning.
Now we are being managed by a player triumvirate, that I believe I could be forgiven the assumption that Spencer will be the man in the button-down shirt to be, as he is still recovering from his knee surgery. Altogether not an optimal situation, but I don’t foresee an extended period of operating in this manner. My concern in the interim, is who will be putting together film on the upcoming opponents. Past that, I see some possible names being thrown about on Twitter, but they are pure conjecture.
Rolling on to the upcoming stadium project, I’m not just excited about the fact that we are getting a stadium, I’m excited about what that stadium is going to look like. The architectural firm HOK that designed it is also the firm that designed the New Palau Blaugrana for FC Barcelona, and both stadia even have similar construction and opening timelines. To put it lightly, this is pretty cool stuff, right there. For those of us who were out in the heat on Thursday, I believe we were present at the groundbreaking of what will truly be the cathedral of American lower division soccer, and one that could stand with any soccer stadium in the country. The future is bright, y’all.
Moving on, there are a few hundred of us looking to make the trip to Chicago for the next round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. As cool as this run has been, I will be the first to maintain that I’d rather never win another open cup game if our league play continues at the highest levels.
But this run is FUN! Each game has a sense of urgency and drama, that grows with every round. Beating the New England Revolutions at Lynn Stadium ranks up there with the games of Revenge Tour ‘17 where we beat Rochester and the Baby Bulls in the same manner that they had each beaten us in the Eastern Conference Finals the previous two years. Even past that, it gives the players, the coaches and the team greater visibility. I’m certain Mitch Hildebrandt’s antics in last year’s Open Cup is what got Atlanta United to look at him. But it’s all dessert, league play is our meat and potatoes, and that is what sustains us.
The last subject is the biggest in our young history, and the ramifications have led us full circle back to my first subject: We won the freaking USL Cup, in our third year! In my opinion, we had JOC for a half season longer than we deserved. He should have been called up to an MLS side that night. But then again, the whole team should have been called up.
I am unabashedly in favor of promotion and relegation, and LCFC would have earned that spot anywhere in the world except here. You know who moved up? Füßbãl Club Cincinnati, who never won a playoff game moved up. To give credit where due, this is one where the fans earned the promotion because there were soooo many of them! And good riddance to the lot of them.
There’s also been mention from the Front Office about, “when MLS comes calling”. I feel that language is deliberate to show that lower division soccer is not the heights of our ambitions. The FO elected to not submit a bid in 2016, and by all indications that caused a shake-up in the ownership that saw Wayne Estopinal, the man who brought the team to Louisville, leave the team and apparently Orlando City’s 10% stake left with him. For those that are against the structure of MLS, this was a huge victory. Realistically, the FO knew they couldn’t submit a strong bid and therefore did not. I have every conviction that if the FO found a way to move up to MLS, they would, and our doubts be damned. That’s not to say we don’t want to play at the highest level, we haven’t concerns about the monopolistic nature of the league and the complicity of the US Soccer Federation in that role. That’s its own conversation and one that will continue indefinitely, until great change is realized.
The last thing I’d like to talk about isn’t about the team, not specifically, anyway, it’s about us. It was the fans who got the team brought here. It was the fans who bought season tickets before we ever kicked a ball. It’s the fans who come out to the games in heat, rain, snow and hail. I talked this whole piece about the Front Office and the team, but those things don’t matter without us. We are a bunch of crazy, soccer loving passionate folk, that don’t have the sense to come out of the rain for as long as Los Morados are on the field! We were always just waiting on someone to give us a team to fall in love with.
These are trying times, but we will still be there. I don’t care if we don’t win another game this season. I will be at every game wearing every proud, tattered, passion filled scarf I own, and I will happily renew my season tickets to do it all again the next year and there are thousands of us that feel the same.
Where City goes, I, and we, will follow.