Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Louisville City dominates a match, holding the majority of possession, but has to settle for less than three points. Oh, you’ve already heard this story? Well….I’m going to tell it again. Especially because unlike times before, this one wasn’t the fault of the players, but the guys who wore red–and who won’t be welcomed back to Louisville anytime soon.
Louisville City, for the second time in the last five home matches, drops points in the final few minutes, as a highly controversial goal for Charleston forces the home side to settle for a 1-1 draw Saturday night at Slugger Field. The boos rang down from the crowd of just over 7,500 fans, as Greg Ranjitsingh was fouled by an attacker with the ball in his hands. The ball landed at the feet of striker Chris Tsonis, who poked it home past the diving keeper to prevent Louisville City from winning their third match in the four-match homestand.
After the match, Coach James O’Connor, on more than a half dozen occasions, stated his frustration that points were “taken” away from them. “We should’ve won the game,” he said, quite irritated. “It was quite controversial, Greg said he caught the ball so I will need to see it.” He went on to say that it was upsetting to drop points when they didn’t allow a shot on goal outside of that moment. “It stinks, that should be three points. The match was taken from us.”
The first half of the match was, in a word, boring. Utterly boring. Ridiculously boring. (Insert adjective of your choice here) boring. In fact, from my vantage point in the press box, the most exciting moment of the first half was when a bird flew into the netting behind home plate, spraying feathers everywhere and going into a tailspin into the seats. Charleston played a very tight 3-4-3 formation, and often times as the ball went to one side, the entire defense was within the far post, stretched out to the sideline with the ball. Louisville City did a poor job of moving the ball to the other wing, much to the visible disgust of O’Connor.
Louisville City did not have a shot in the first half. At all. After recording twenty-five of them last week, the smothering, compacted defense of the visitors absolutely stifled the attack. Corner kicks weren’t even in abundance, as LCFC did not get their first one until the 24th minute….and it bounced on the ground before it even got to the near post. To make matters worse, the team in red, the ones who are supposed to control the match, were allowing abnormally physical play to go unpunished from the visitors—so much so that in one instance, the referee watched from ten yards away as a Battery player stiff-armed Paolo DelPiccolo in the face, and turned to run the other way.
After the poor first half performance, Kadeem Dacres and Cameron Lancaster were introduced for Andrew Lubahn and Niall McCabe, and it made a difference. Both players were able to take people on and being to stretch the Battery defense, creating some gaps where there were none before. However, it still did not lead to any chances. That finally changed after a turnover set Lancaster free on a three-on-three counter. With Kadeem racing down to his right, Lancaster was able to get one-on-one with a defender, made a nice feint, and was able to create enough space to slip a beautiful pass into the box for Chandler Hoffman. The ball appeared to hit his knee, and redirected past the keeper to give City the 1-0 lead. It was later changed to an own goal, but upon further review of the further review, it was credited to Hoffman for his twelfth goal of the campaign, one behind league leader Kyle Grieg.
Paco Craig made a key play in the 75th minute to preserve the lead. Caught defending a two-on-one break, he raced back to cut off the passing lane to the other forward, and then made a terrific sliding tackle in the box, sending the ball out of play without fouling his man. However, it was all for naught. Just under ten minutes later, the clean sheet—and the win—were gone, in one controversial moment. Ranjitsingh rushed out to claim an aerial ball and clearly had the ball in his hands, with possession. He was plowed into mid-air by former New York Red Bull Jr. Chris Tsonis, jarring it loose from his grasp. Greg recovered but was unable to stop Tsonis’s shot that was poked past as he got back up, tying the score at 1-1. The referee and linesman got together to discuss it, and then he pointed to the center spot, much to the disgust of O’Connor, the players, and the home crowd.
Louisville City had one last chance in stoppage time, as Cameron Lancaster lined up for a free kick from thirty yards out. He played a beautiful ball into the top of the six yard area, but unfortunately nobody in purple was able to get onto the end of it. It bounced harmlessly into the arms of the keeper in the middle of the goal. A minute later, the final whistle was blown, and everyone other than the Charleston players and coaching staff walked out frustrated with the win being ripped away from them.
Louisville City now holds just a two point lead over Sugar Free Red Bulls, who hold two matches in hand. The teams are currently tied on goal differential, with both having scored seventeen more than their opposition. City will rest up before traveling to Wilmington for a match at 6:00 PM onSunday, July 17th, before traveling up I-71 for the final of three matches against Cincinnati the following weekend to decide the Dirty River Derby.