It was a mild, early November Saturday. One where normally the full focus of Louisville, Kentucky is on the gridiron. Thousands of fans would be filling Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium in their Red and Black to support the Cardinal football team. Thousands more would be glued to their TV sets or filling local establishments dawning their Blue and White of the University of Kentucky.
Instead, this Saturday afternoon had a different feel and look to it. The color choice for all was simple: Purple, White and Gold. For many, this was three to four years in the making. To many others, this was a way to spend a perfect November Saturday night.
On one end of the parking lot you had the LouCity Tailgaters joined by the Coopers and many other members of the Purple Family. On the other end you had Scouse’s House and the Black Sheep.
Both groups of supporters cracked open cold beverages, lit up their grills and feasted on their menu of choice for the tailgate. Soccer balls being kicked around replaced footballs thrown through the air. Stories were told, laughter was shared, and chants began as the tailgate went along.
As the parking lot began to fill in with more supporters, the time was coming. The Coopers along with their drum corps, The Groove Machine, gathered together and sang, danced, and marched in unison towards Slugger Field. They would find their way around the stadium passing by The Heretics at Against The Grain Brewery and eventually entered the stadium, making their presence known.
The fans filled Slugger Field for Louisville City FC’s third trip in three years of existence to the Eastern Conference Final. The first two years saw tough defeats on the road to Rochester and New York Red Bulls II. This year was different. This year the Final was to be played on City’s home turf.
The teams entered the pitch to the supporters singing “My Old Kentucky Home” in unison. Scarves in the air. A feeling of pride for the team, the city and the state.
Louisville City would jump out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal by Brian Ownby in the 12th minute. But just before the hour mark the Red Bulls would tie it up on a Junior Flemmings goal. Nothing would separate the teams in regulation, and to overtime they went. Greg Ranjitsingh came up with the save of the game on a free kick from 19 yards out to preserve the tie and eventually see the game into penalties.
For 120 minutes of game time and hours of pregame time, the two groups of supporters sections did their own things. Maybe a few handshakes and hellos were exchanged, but nothing like what came about for the final 12 minutes it took for the penalty shootout to happen.
New York chose to kick away from the Coopers and have the shootout take place in front of Scouse’s House. As the teams returned to the field for penalties, a mass exodus occurred at the far end of the stadium. The Coopers joined forces with Scouse’s House and in unison made as much noise as had ever been heard inside Slugger Field. They played the drums, they sang a few songs, but most importantly they willed their beloved Louisville City FC to victory in front of over ten thousand fans in attendance.
The party was just beginning. After the trophy presentation, fans of all ages joined the team on the field in celebration. This was years in the making.
From the small press conference over three years ago announcing that Louisville would have an USL team. To recreating the crest the way the fans wanted it to look. From a cold March day in front of 5,500 fans to see Louisville City defeat St. Louis FC in their first ever game. In three years, their team was Eastern Conference Champions.
And on a pleasant November evening there was a sight to behold at Slugger Field that extended beyond the Championship of their team. Fans of both the red and the blue would shed their differences and come together as one color, Purple.
Let’s Go City.