by: Cody Ruth
Before I jump back into this, I just want to say how good it is to see this team start to show flashes of being the USL Cup Champions, even if it is just flashes. Hopefully, we can start to stretch together these instances and cobble together a game where we show up, dominate, and walk away with all three points and a full roster. STILL NOT THERE.
We started May the same way we left April, with an unfortunate injury. While warming up at Children’s Mercy Park preparing to take on Swope Park Rangers, Ben Lundt suffered a sprain and LCFC was left to put on our fresh 4th string keeper Brian Holt. I will completely admit that I can’t get out there and do what these guys do, but Holt looked outclassed as his effort was marred by errors that left us in a deficit early. In the 30th minute, Holt opted to develop out of the back rather than punt and had his pass picked off by Felipe Hernandez who surged forward to a one-on-one, with Holt stranded, Felipe slotted it into the net. A handful of minutes later, Mark Segbers wandered virtually untouched to the top of the box and slots an ambitious pass in front of Rassambek Akmatov. If Holt had held his line or committed to coming off and making himself big a half-second earlier, he would have had a lot more of a chance than he did. The systematic collapse of the defense in front of him didn’t do him any favors as we went into halftime down by two. We surged hard in the second half, finally earning an opportunity with a free kick just outside of the box. Magnus Rasmussen put his shot over the wall and curved it to the far post and into the net. (FYI, the curving of a spinning ball in flight is called the Magnus Effect.) Just before the hour mark, Lucky Mkosana sent a cross into the box to a waiting Luke Spencer. With three separate defenders mishandling the ball in the following four seconds, Luke shows his quality by leaving the ball in the net and tying the game. In the dying minutes of regulation, SPR started to develop the ball past midfield on the run. Niall, looking to make a professional foul and slow down play, took down the man on the ball. However, he did it by hacking the guy’s legs out from under him from behind. Niall McCabe was shown a straight red and forced to leave the field. The ensuing free kick finds Abdul Rwatubyaye leaping tall at the top edge of the box. Holt, was off his line and couldn’t get back in time and had to watch the final goal of the game fall in the net. We lost 3-2 giving the Rangers their first win of the season.
Lundt marked the 9th LCFC player to miss minutes due to injury this season. The following game against Birmingham Legion was what many might say was the turning point where Los Morados started to show the talent and teamwork that earned us back-to-back championships. We never looked like we were playing away from home as we kept Birmingham on the back foot the entire game. Magnus found space at the top of the box in the sixth minute and rocketed it far post to put us up early and for good. In the 24th minute, Lucky got a yard off the ground to pull down a long diagonal ball and calmly embarrass both the Legion keeper and defender by slotting the ball between both to put us two to the good. Keeping up pressure, Shaun Francis forced the ball loose from Birmingham defender in our attacking third, playing through to Luke to put us up for three goals, three points, and our best performance of the year to that point.
With a quick turnaround, we played Reading United in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. With all respect to our opponents, the game was more notable for the 18 selected by LouCity than for the gameplay. Chris Hubbard and Geoffrey Dee earned the start and their first minutes for the Boys in Purple. Sunny Jane and Richard Ballard also made their return from injury as a starter and sub respectively as well as Academy signee Elijah Wynder making his debut. Reading looked outclassed at every turn but appointed themselves excellently showing talent that I wouldn’t doubt could make a pro team, but lacking the cohesion of a team that plays professionally.
Returning to league play, we welcomed our oldest enemies to Slugger field as we took on St. Louis FC. This game was a tale of missed chances as we took a team hunting for the top of the table and hounded them relentlessly. Los Morados being the superior, took roughly a two-to-one advantage in Shots, Shots on goal, possession, and passes; our pass accuracy being nearly 20% higher as well. Without beleaguering the point, it was an incredibly entertaining scoreless draw that we somehow came away with a single point instead of all three.
We hit the ol’ dusty trail again, visiting Bethlehem Steel. We ended the game with a similarly garish stat advantage in shots, possession, passes and pass accuracy as the previous game. We also walked away with a single point on the table as well. What was different was the drama of the game. Spencer made himself a menace all game and really showed it in the 30th. Luke collected a poor clearance and made moves to the near post around his defender. Panicking to atone for the poor clearance, the defender over committed and was left on the ground as Luke switched feet and put in a low right-footed blast into the net. Before the end of the half, Napo Matsoso and Faris Moumbagna of the Steel, decided to put each other’s faces together and push back-and-forth in a game nobody will win, that earned both a red card. Coming into the second half, Louisville played hard and developed strongly in the opening seconds. George Davis IV was able to work up the left wing to the goal line before giving a laser-straight pass to Lucky who only had to oblige to turn the ball into goal. The celebrations were short-lived as Bethlehem developed quickly from the restart and Paco Craig was forced to make an unfavorable tackle inside the box. This gave the Steel a penalty and Paco a second chance as he was already riding a yellow with no further discipline awarded. The bad guys buried the penalty, and the lead was back to one. The penalty taker (Chavany Willis) punished our defensive indiscretions just six minutes later by blasting one in from the top of the box after going unmarked. Before stoppage expired, Ben Ofeimu of the Steel caught a second yellow card for chopping the legs out from Abdou Thiam and was rewarded with the third red of the game just seconds before the death at 2-2.
We ended the month with an Open Cup game against the “flavor of the month”, Birmingham Legion. Playing at Lynn Stadium at Uof L, the visitors trotted out their A-team, including LCFC alum and Birmingham native Chandler Hoffman. LouCity reached deep into the bench, again starting Ballard, Dee and Jane alongside Matsoso who was suspended from league play due to a red card. At the hour mark, Coach John Hackworth made a dual substitution bringing on Brian Ownby and Paolo DelPiccolo for their triumphant returns from injury. Indeed, it was Ownby who was brought down in the closing seconds by the opposing keeper to earn a penalty kick. Sean Totsch walked to the spot and with some gamesmanship slipped it past the keeper for the deciding goal.
May was a month of ups and downs, but for a change, we had much more ups than downs. We seem to have turned the tide on injuries and opportunities wasted and now we start peeking around the corner to opportunities capitalized. Let’s see if the following month can keep heat on the coals as we look for a third cup.