Louisville City FC put on a dominant display in their 4-0 thrashing of the Bethlehem Steel in the first round of the USL Playoffs at Slugger Field Friday night.
A first-half brace by Tarek Morad, followed by second-half goals from Luke Spencer and Brian Ownby gave the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed a resounding win.
Bethlehem, making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, had hopes of upsetting the Eastern Conference giant. However, visitors struggle at Slugger Field, and the Steel was put to the sword from the opening whistle.
City played direct going forward and repeatedly knocked on the door. Oscar Jimenez delivered dangerous balls into the box, but Bethlehem did well to resist the purple pressure.
Morad broke through notching his second goal in as many games in the 14th minute. Paolo DelPiccolo played his free-kick short to Jimenez, who sent a cross back into the box to Paco Craig. The Englishman headed to a wide open Morad who picked his spot and finished past Bethlehem goalkeeper Jake McGuire giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Morad doubled City’s advantage in the 31st minutes pouncing on a rebound. Jimenez’s cross on the corner was way over, but a purple shirt was able to retrieve and resend the ball back into danger. Sean Totsch struck the crossbar with his chip shot, but the ball fell right to the feet of the California native, who tapped the ball home.
Bethlehem was fortunate to have McGuire between the pipe in the first half. City bombarded the Steel with 11 shots, but McGuire made big saves to hold on to the slightest sliver of hope.
The Steel had a chance to get on the board in the 58th minute. Adam Najem went around a purple shirt and sent in a cross that was poorly cleared. The ball fell to the feet of James Chambers, who fired first time, but went just wide of the left post.
Spencer punished the Steel for not taking advantage ten minutes later, putting the game to rest in the 70th minute. After effective buildup, Jimenez delivered another great through ball to Spencer, splitting the center backs. Spencer chipped the charging McGuire for his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Spencer returned the favor, assisting Ownby for City’s fourth goal on the night in the 78th minute. Spencer created the offense all by himself, gathering the throw in, taking it to the flank and finding the streaking Ownby unmarked in the box. It was an easy finish to the back post for Ownby for his fifth goal of the season.
Greg Ranjitsingh will be buying bagels for his defenders after the goalkeeper recorded his ninth clean sheet of the year.
Louisville City awaits the winner of No. 4 seed Rochester and No. 5 seed Charlotte, who play tomorrow at 6 p.m. The schedule will be updated following tomorrow’s contest.