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FRIENDLY RECAP: University of Louisville

Lots of rain. Poor officiating. The Coopers making lots of noise. A wonderful goal from a fan favorite.
Last night had all the ingredients of a typical Louisville City match, but we should remember it was just a preseason match against a collegiate squad. That said, it was the purple and gold playing soccer, and there aren’t many things better than seeing our boys back on the pitch.
Louisville City traveled to Lynn Stadium last night and in front of a crowd of just over 1,100 fans–most of which were decked out in purple and ponchos–they defeated the University of Louisville by a score of 1-0. The lone goal in the match came on a terrific strike from winger Kadeem Dacres in the 79th minute. After a few step-overs on the right edge of the penalty area, he cut inside along the top of the box and unleashed a screamer with the left foot into the far corner. It was reminiscent of his goal last season against Pittsburgh, except that it was a match-winner this time.
For the most part, the match was what you would expect from a preseason friendly–it was quite sloppy. The weather didn’t help at all, as it was pouring rain much of the match with swirling winds causing clearances to sometimes go almost straight up in the air. UofL players were often losing their footing on the slick surface, while the boys in purple seemed to struggle at times to link up and string together passes. While the weather played a part, it also showed that this team, much like last season’s, may take a little time to gel with all the new pieces added since October.
Louisville City, with six new players in the starting eleven, had multiple chances in the first half, but it was UofL who possibly should have gotten on the board first. A free kick in the 25th minute was saved by Scott Goodwin, but the slippery ball fell for a fat rebound opportunity. Had this been a USL match (or not raining) this likely would have been a tap-in goal, but the UofL attacker mis-hit the ball and Scotty was able to collect it to keep it scoreless.
A few minutes later, a cross was sent in after a cleared corner kick, and it sailed just inches over the heads of two Cardinal players with Goodwin unable to reach it at all. A minute later, Mark-Anthony Kaye nearly put LCFC on top, as he hammered a shot that was blocked by a UofL defender, sending it the opposite direction and just inches past the post with the keeper helpless. Later in the half, somehow the Cardinals escaped a series of shots that were unable to find the mark, ending with the ball ricocheting off of the crossbar. It would head to the half scoreless.
Coach James O’Connor, to the surprise of absolutely nobody in attendance, made wholesale changes at halftime, introducing Dacres, Aodhan Quinn, and a host of other players. Quinn would quickly get booked for a challenge, and then began to cause problems for the Cardinals. He nearly found Chandler Hoffman on a cross but it was just out of his reach for the header. Then a few minutes later, Quinn sent a free kick on goal and it was palmed over the bar by the UofL keeper to deny him another terrific set-piece strike.
Then the drama started. The referee was struggling to control the match as the two teams started going at it, and he began handing out yellow cards to the USL players like candy on Halloween. Seemingly innocuous challenges had him reaching for his pocket before he had even blown the whistle, and he put the names of three Elsie players in the book in less than ten minutes. Meanwhile, the UofL players were shoving the opposing players in the aftermath of some of these challenges, but no punishment was meted out.
Despite all that, it was a dominant second half performance from Louisville City, as the defense clamped down on the Cardinals. They denied them so much as a shot in the second half, dominated possession, and kept piling on the pressure. That pressure paid off with Dacres scoring his wonderful goal and sent the fans in purple home happy.
While the team clearly has some work to do in terms of building chemistry (and replacing a certain player with flowing locks who is no longer with us), there were plenty of positives to take from the evening. Defender Sean Reynolds was very impressive in the first half, pairing with Conor Shanosky and making a pair of very well-timed tackles to prevent players from getting on goal. In the second half, we got to see new signing Jonghyun Son, and he was quite a workhorse. Arguably the Man of the Match, Son played at left back and showed pace and desire, often winning the ball back and playing 1-2 combos with the midfielders. He was able to get behind the Cardinal fullbacks multiple times, getting dangerous crosses into the box and winning quite a few corners. If he can continue that type of play, not only will it allow Enrique Montano some more rest than he received last season, it could well lead to the reigning USL Fan-Favorite Player a chance to play in the midfield, which is a more natural role for him.
All in all, the match was fun for the fans, it gave the players a chance to play in front of the Coopers, and it allowed the fire for soccer in the community to be stoked once again in preparation for the upcoming season. Next up for the team is a trip to play the University of Kentucky on Wednesday night, another “pros versus unpaid players” matchup. That will be followed by a trip to face Indy Eleven next Saturday, and then the season will kick off onMarch 26th, when the team travels to Charlotte for the season opener.