Despite dominating nearly the entire match, Louisville City was held to a draw against FC Cincinnati on Saturday night. A Slugger Field record 10,062 fans saw Kadeem Dacres put on a master-class performance, and witnessed the defense put Sean Okoli in their pockets all night. Unfortunately, for all of their possession and their chances, the boys in purple were simply unable to find the back of the net and had to settle for a point against the third-place team in the East.
Neither team seemed to be satisfied with the draw, but in the end it is a key point for both sides in the standings, with Sugar Free Red Bulls putting pressure on both sides. Coach James O’Connor, while proud of the way his team played, was frustrated that three points were not the final outcome. “I felt the first half we played some really good football, and we needed to score,” he said after the match. “When you have a first half like that, you need to come in leading.”
Toyota John Harkes also admitted that it was a crucial point, even if it wasn’t the result they wanted. “At the end of the day, when you go and you play the top team in the Eastern Conference and you get a point on the road, you know, we’re not….happy, we’re never satisfied, but it’s something to build on.”
Louisville City made a few changes to the lineup, but none bigger than the introduction of Kadeem Dacres to the starting lineup after a month of being on the bench. Four minutes in, he nearly put LCFC in front, as he cut in from the wing and fired a shot right into the keeper’s hands. This became the theme of the first half. Dacres repeatedly beat his man, and despite seeing double teams much of the remainder of the half, he continually abused the Cincy back line. At one point, he even nutmegged a poor defender, whose health is unknown at the time of writing this article. Another period of the play saw him chip a sliding defender and leap over him before proceeding into the box.
While Kadeem was everywhere, it seemed like the rest of the attackers simply couldn’t figure out how to latch onto the end of his crosses. Dacres repeatedly searched out teammates in the box, and while a few times he was able to connect with them, most of the time his crosses were left untouched, or stopped by the FCC keeper. There were a few chances that could have resulted in goals, none bigger than the chance created by Kyle Smith, who overlapped with Kadeem and found himself racing into the area. FCC’s keeper charged out to get the ball and Smith played it around him into the box. A shot was fired on goal and it bounced around and looked destined for the back of the net, but Pat McMahon cleared it off the line to keep it scoreless.
Kadeem’s hard work also led to numerous free kicks in dangerous areas. Twice Aodhan Quinn whipped a perfect ball into the box, in a space where the keeper couldn’t come out to claim it….and both times, it went through the area and out of play, untouched by anybody’s head, friend of foe. City also had numerous corners that they played to the top of the area, often resulting in terrific scoring chances that simply couldn’t be converted. The wasted opportunities ended up costing the club two important points, but it was good to see the attack be as dangerous as it was. “For us it’s about playing where the space is, and you have to use your imagination, and I thought the guys did a great job with it,” O’Connor said of the short corner routines. “Our play was very good, especially in the first half. We dominated the half.”
The second half was the exact opposite of the first. Both sides struggled to create many chances, with FCC coming out and getting a bit of a foothold in the match, and then reverting to watching City dominate possession. LCFC got a pair of free kicks from thirty yards out in stoppage time, but the first from Cameron Lancaster was saved easily by the keeper, and the second from Quin went sailing into the right field stands. The second half saw more substitutions than actual chances, despite the crowd urging the boys in purple towards the finish line. In the end, a point apiece was all that resulted, as the fans saw the first 0-0 draw in Slugger’s history.
The players were very appreciative of the record atmosphere, and it played a role in their energy. “Coming out, we knew it was the biggest presale of tickets, we had a fair good idea it was going to be a big crowd,” Niall McCabe said after the match. “I hope they really enjoyed themselves, it’s a shame we didn’t get the win for them.” Kadeem agreed, saying, “Tonight was phenomenal. (The fans) definitely gave us the energy to keep going.”
Now, LCFC turns their attention to visiting Montreal on the 4th of July. “I know that’s a big day for you guys,” Niall said with a laugh. “I hope a lot of people come out and enjoy it.” He encouraged fans to come out and pack the house the same way they did on Saturday night. The match will also be Scott Goodwin’s final match with the club. For the players and the fans, it will be a big moment. “Scotty, he’s a true leader,” Kadeem said. “We’re definitely going to miss him.