Well, it’s certainly refreshing to start one of these posts with an upbeat tone! June gave us a run where we showed much more of our potential as defending champions (although we’re not quite there). We also get to see a couple of players rise to make their mark as must-start players.
We started against perennial playoff contender Charleston Battery in a madness of a game that featured five goals and three red cards. The scoring started early at Slugger Field as Los Morados struck early, with a George Davis IV sliding strike just outside the six-yard box. Going up in the third minute broke the Charleston plan to absorb pressure and capitalize on our defensive mistakes, forcing them to stretch a bit more than they usually would. In the nineteenth minute, Lucky Mkosana harassed a Battery defender who held onto the ball too long and forced him to cough it up inside the eighteen-yard box. Lucky then sold a tumble that likely shouldn’t have been a penalty, and certainly shouldn’t have been the first red card of the game, leaving Charleston down a man. Magnus Rasmussen stepped up to the spot and buried a cannon of a shot past the Battery keeper who guessed right, but simply couldn’t stretch far enough. Early in the 2nd half, Charleston got a goal back from a well-executed corner kick that Ben Lundt had no chance at. A short corner taken by Oscar Jiminez in the 74th minute was converted into a goal as he played to Magnus just outside the eighteen. He looked to be sending it to Paco Craig streaking into the box, but a hapless Charleston defender deflected it in for an own goal. Brian Ownby, who came on for GD4 was sent off shortly after on a straight red for a high elbow, leaving both sides with ten men. A free kick just outside the box taken by Niall McCabe curled into the upper corner of the net to put us up 4-1 heading into the end of regulation time. As stoppage time trickled away, a simple foul was called against Louisville City. As the ball was placed, Paco tapped it away. He was shown a yellow for delay of game which matched a yellow he earned in the 67th to earn a red.
Next we had Loudoun United, hot off their midweek win against Swope Park Rangers. The visitors were instantly put on ice as Taylor Peay crossed to Magnus who slotted it through traffic and into the back post in under a minute of play. This was followed in the 39th as Sean Totsch received a corner and pocketed it in the tiniest hole on the near post to put us up for good. The bad guys get a goal back right after the half from a brilliant strike from outside the box that Lundt simply couldn’t stretch back to. The synopsis of the game was of us bullying an outmatched team and not capitalizing. Firing off a garish 28(!) shots, including 18(!!!) inside the eighteen, this game should have been a chance to work on our goal differential. Also: Taylor Peay put in the work and made his mark as an incredibly valuable member of the team.
We had a midweek game against a legendarily bad FC Cincinnati. Despite having millions more in roster money on the field, the teams were evenly matched. The game went to extra time, where we lost 2-1. We can rest easy now knowing that the reality of MLS for the FCC faithful has set in and a lucky win the Cup won’t quench the flames. The fire is on fire and it is just that bad. It’s not even fun to banter with them anymore as their fanbase no longer lives, nor are they dead, existing in a twilight deathless state where they say in a passionless groan to any statement “at least we’re in MLS…”
We returned to the USL Championship League play with three wins in a row and seven on the fly unbeaten as we traveled to scenic New Jersey to take on the euphemistically named New York Red Bulls II. I have to admit; I always look forward to playing the Baby Bulls. They tend to be knock-down drag-out goal fests. Unfortunately, this was not the case as we were handily outplayed. With Ownby still out on a red card suspension, Speedy Williams and Shaun Frances called up to the Jamaican national team, and Ben Lundt recalled to Cincinnati for surgery on his oft-injured ankle, we composed a team that did not look greater than the sum of its parts. The revelation that is Chris Hubbard was the only thing preserving our dignity as he went on to make NINE (!!!!!) saves and only let in one goal that came from a one-on-one on the counter. We lost 1-0, and it could have been so much worse. Let’s just move on from this one.
Coming back home, we next played Charlotte Independence. We continued the run of play where we left off in New Jersey, cracking the ball high and wide. Charlotte took the lead in the 12th minute on the counter and the rest of the half we struggled to put anything on frame. We equalized in the 77th minute from a moment of brilliance from Luke Spencer, but we endured another disappointing result as we left points on the table against a weaker team at home and had to squeak out a draw.
We closed out the month traveling to the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium for the Louisville Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest. I specifically chose the word “bowel” as Lucas Oil is a crap field. It’s an all-turf monstrosity with a spongy underlayment that makes the ball bounce abnormally and overlaid with “American Football” lines. The Indy Eleven are unapologetically an afterthought and there is a growing consensus among fans that it may be the worst field in the league. ANYWAYS…days before the match, proven goal-scorer and fan favorite Lucky Mkosana was traded to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in exchange for Antoine Hoppenot. Giving away the player responsible for 1/6th of the team’s goals with the 2nd highest conversion rate in a season where goals are unnecessarily rare is the first real trial on the road to “In Hackworth We Trust”.
Indy Eleven went up in the 9th minute when an unmarked attacker ran between our defenders for an open shot on goal. EXACTLY THE SAME AS HE DID FOR AN OPEN SHOT ON GOAL SIXTY SECONDS EARLIER, someone should have noticed how close he came and maybe thought to themselves “hmmm, I should not let him do that”. Indy continued to hold court in our defending half for the duration of the opening 45. Hackworth must have threatened people with walking home, as we took the fight to the Eleven in the second half, culminating with a Goal of the Week strike from Paolo Del Piccolo in the 55th minute. LCFC scored only the second goal of the season against Indy in Lucas Oil to walk away from the contenders for the regular season title, with a point. Hoppenot came on late, and his effect was immediate. I have hope that given time to find his place in the team, he will become a great contributor to the team.
We lost by a goal on the road to a top three team and drew on the road against another. We also had a couple of solid home wins. Hopefully with the return of Speedy and Franno from their CONCACAF Gold Cup duty, we can finish turning this corner of inconsistency and start grinding our way up the table.