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2016 Louisville City Season: It’s a Rap!*

*Don’t get the reference? You poor thing. Here you go.

For the second year running, Louisville City’s season ended a week too early. It seems like years ago when the season kicked off back in March. Anyone who listens to me on Barrel Proof knows perspective is not my thing, but I’ll try to exercise some here:

Louisville City exceeded expectations on the field.

Going into this season, this was a team that lost its two best players, Matt Fondy and Bryan Burke. One led the league in assists and was the league defensive player of the year. The other banged in about half the team’s goals in 2015 and was USL MVP. Then, just before preseason began, City lost its midfield engine Juan Guzman to Patriotas of the Colombian first division.

We were replacing Fondy and Burke with a proven goalscorer in Chandler Hoffman and some depth, sure. But we couldn’t have known that City would again be at or near the top of the Eastern Conference table the entire season. That LC would go 17 matches without dropping a game. That they’d beat sudden behemoth FC Cincinnati despite being down a man for 50+ minutes in front of the biggest crowd to ever watch a USL game (at that point). That they’d emerge from a bad five game stretch to go seven more unbeaten before falling in the Conference finals to the USL Champions again.

We didn’t know Magnus Rasmussen would barely see the field until 2/3 of the season was gone. We didn’t know we’d lose Scotty Goodwin to Harvard Medical School in July. We didn’t know we’d lose Niall McCabe for the last six weeks of the regular season.

We also didn’t know Sean Reynolds would be one of the best defenders in the league. Well, I did, but a lot of people didn’t. We didn’t know Paco Craig would be awesome. No one, and I mean no one, saw Kyle Smith coming. I don’t think Kyle Smith saw Kyle Smith coming. That was awesome.

This team showed resolve this season. They showed they were mentally tough, even after some disappointing and frustrating results against Charleston, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Orlando City B at home. They absolutely menaced when they were on the road. They were good, and beat the previous season’s points total by twelve despite just playing two more games. This season was a success on the field.

The atmosphere in the stands got better every game.

There were some bumps to start the season. The “Code of Conduct.” The “official” supporters group thing. The slightly less fun security personnel. Weird media and communications-related stuff. Tension between supporters groups in general.

I think by the end of the season, most of us forgot all of that. The final two home games were some of the best I’ve heard from the Rickhouse/Preston Street End/Third Base Line/whatever. Scouse got a lot more people on the terrace/right field wall/whatever. People all over were singing the songs. It was just…good. The longer Louisville City sticks around, and as long as people are willing to try and get along, the sky’s the limit for what we as supporters can do in the stands, wherever they are.

My hat is off to Ken Luther, Alex Miner and the rest of the Coopers leadership. Same to everyone else that makes game days what they are, be it the new and great tailgating tradition started in the Preston Street parking lot, the froth coming from Jordan Cooper and Jay Kirkman on the Final Judgment, everything Purple Kingdom does, and countless other things that made this season fun.

The front office made changes.

We don’t really know what impact the change in the club’s ownership group’s leader had/has had/will have. What we do know is that their number one priority is getting this club into a soccer stadium. That’s a good thing; reports all season indicated how dire the club’s finances are in their present confines. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing some movement on that front in the off-season. I think, given the club’s goal, that John Neace is a good person to head up the club for the task they’ve set for themselves. I also again think the club owes Wayne Estopinal enormous thanks for getting us this far.

Amanda Duffy did another bang-up job this year, and made some tough but very good decisions as the season wore on.  I personally couldn’t be happier that Jonathan Lintner became Director of Communications for the club. Media strategies changed shortly after he joined the fold, and I look forward to seeing how those change or develop going into 2017.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bad feeling that City lost in the Conference finals. It’s easy to ask what might have been if some decisions were different. But be honest: no one thought this season would turn out like it did, and we can be glad knowing the next step is within reach. NEXT SEASON IS GONNA BE SO EXCITING, Y’ALL!