If you check out the Twitter feeds of FC Cincinnati fans today, you’re going to find one of two things: Morton’s level saltiness or dead silence. At the moment, Louisville is the King of the Dirty River Derby, so both are fine with us.
Louisville City went into enemy territory last night and silenced the upstart fans from up I-71, as a Chandler Hoffman first-half hat-trick was enough for the boys to secure a 3-2 win at Nippert Stadium. A USL regular season record crowd of 20,497 saw an exciting match that featured five goals, a penalty, a red card, and some controversial decisions from the officials. (And to be fair, it wouldn’t be a USL match without that last part, now would it?)
The atmosphere was everything that both fanbases expected, especially after months of trash talking online and the proximity of the cities. The Dirty River Derby absolutely delivered. For the first ten minutes or so, however, it looked like it would be Cincinnati’s night. They pressured Louisville City into multiple turnovers and won multiple free kicks and corners. Seven minutes in, that pressure paid off. A somewhat poor decision gave the hosts a free kick on the right, and Tyler Polak whipped in a free kick that Austin Berry, a former UofL player, headed home to put FCC ahead 1-0.
The supporters section began to celebrate and taunt the visiting fans a bit too early, however—and they were silenced after a handball in the box saw a penalty awarded to LCFC in the 17th minute. Hoffman stepped up and buried it just past the diving keeper into the bottom left corner, equalizing the match at 1-1. Hoffman raced over to celebrate the goal with fellow players Magnus Rasmussen, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Kenny Doublette, who made the trip up from Louisville and watched the match with the Coopers.
The home fans got even quieter when, just seven minutes later, Hoffman was left wide open at the far post to hammer home a cross from Kyle Smith to make it 2-1. The goal was set up by a brilliant bit of interchanging play on the right side between Kadeem Dacres and Aodhan Quinn, who floated a perfectly-weighted ball down the right wing and set Smith off into acres of space. His cross eluded everyone in the box, and Hoffman calmly slotted it home for the goal.
A bit later, Hoffman completed his hat-trick in the 34th minute, this time on a cross from Ben Newnam which he took down, turned, and slipped past the keeper with his left foot. The Coopers serenaded The Pride and Die Innenstadt with songs of “You’re not singing over there!” as Hoffman again came to celebrate the goal with the visiting fans. It seemed like, as with the Orlando City match, an early mistake had fired the team up and they were going to roll to a victory.
Then the match turned on its head. Sean Reynolds, who had been booked earlier for a foul on Cincinnati forward Sean Okoli, got tangled up with the forward as the two fought for a ball. Reynolds put his hand on Okoli’s shoulder but let go, and then tumbled over as Okoli held onto the LCFC defender’s shirt. Okoli immediately sat up and began signaling for a card, and he was rewarded as Reynolds was shown his second yellow and sent to the locker room. Suddenly, what felt like it would be an easy win became a nervy affair.
For the next fifty minutes, Louisville City had to defend with ten men—and defend they did. Cincinnati bombarded the box, often leaving only one or two men back, and the defense of LCFC did a terrific job of holding off the attack. Substitute Conor Shanosky did a terrific job controlling the aerial traffic, and Paolo DelPiccolo once again was a monster in the midfield, winning the ball back and protecting the back line.
Both teams had chances to get goals in the second half. There was an incident where Dacres was taken down just outside the box with no call. A few other close calls simply couldn’t be converted, including a brilliant dribble by Dacres in the 64th minute, where he dribbled through three defenders and got into the box, where he whipped a half-cross, half-shot that went just past the post. Then in the 68th minute, Cameron Lancaster used his pace to get behind the defense after an FCC corner kick, with Dacres launching a long ball clearance to him as he raced into the box. However, the FCC keeper forced him into a difficult left-footed shot that went just wide.
On the other side, FCC cries for a handball were ignored about six minutes into the half, when a shot hit Quinn in the arm, but his arm was tucked into his body and the player who took the shot was offside. They cried for another one in the 72nd minute, when Scott Goodwin went to claim a ball and ran into Okoli, but given how easily Okoli continually went down, the referee did not give him anything. This came just a few minutes after Okoli rattled the crossbar with a brilliantly placed looping header that caught Goodwin flat-footed.
In the 93rd minute, Cincinnati finally pulled one back, as they were able to head in off of a corner, with Pat McMahon rising to head it into the far corner past Goodwin. However, it was too little too late, as Louisville City would see out the final minute of the match to win 3-2. The players came over to celebrate with the Coopers, and everyone in purple embarked on an enjoyable trip home back to Louisville. The Cincinnati fans, on the other hand, went home with their salty tears staining their cheeks, blaming the referees for the loss and wondering when their supporters’ section will come up with a third chant.
Louisville City now holds a 3-0 lead in the Dirty River Derby, with the next match taking place in Louisville on June 25th, and the final leg back at Nippert Stadium on July 23rd. The club’s next league match will be next Friday night, as they travel to Harrisburg City to face the Islanders. After that, they return home for a Wednesday night match against Pittsburgh on the 27th.