Kadeem Dacres scored the first regulation playoff goal in Louisville City’s history and Charleston’s O’Brian Woodbine saw red in stoppage time as the boys in purple clinched a second straight appearance in the Eastern Conference finals. City defeated the Battery 1-0 in front of 6,581 fans on Saturday night.
Dacres’s goal early in the second half off a beautiful assist from Sean Reynolds was enough for the home team to defeat the Battery in the conference semifinals for the second straight year. The win sets up a final against the Sugar Free Red Bulls, who have never lost to Louisville City.
“It’s fantastic,” James O’Connor said after the match about it being Number 1 versus Number 2 in the conference final. “We’re certainly looking forward to the game, as I’m sure New York are.”
Louisville City made two changes in the starting lineup, bringing in Chandler Hoffman and George Davis IV to replace Cameron Lancaster and Mark-Anthony Kaye. Cuatro had a great chance early, as his 9th minute free kick was saved following a foul on Magnus Rasmussen outside the area. A few minutes later, a Charleston attacker got behind the defense, but Greg Ranjitsingh rushed out, cut off his angle, and then took the ball off his feet as the forward hesitated.
Much of the first half was rather familiar from Louisville City, with great buildup but the final ball just not being there. Often, it seemed like they wanted to walk it into the goal, as they often have.
LouCity had a great chance in the 41st minute, when they put together a slick passing move. Dacres backheeled to Rasmussen, who slid a through ball into the path of Guy Abend, but his shot went over the bar and out.
The second half nearly started in horrible fashion for LouCity, as a headed long-ball found its way to a Battery forward. Luckily, the shot was slightly deflected by Paco Craig, and Ranjitsingh was left helpless as he watched the ball trickle just wide of the far post.
However, Louisville City finally got their first playoff goal in regulation after over 320 minutes of trying. A terrific lobbed pass from Reynolds over the top of the defense found Dacres in the area, and his first-time shot from a very acute angle somehow beat the keeper, who was hugging the post, and slid into the far bottom corner, putting City ahead 1-0.
“I had a tough angle, and I didn’t really see anyone in the middle,” Dacres said about the play, “so my whole thought process behind it was to strike it on target. Luckily, it went in.”
“It felt real good,” Reynolds said with a chuckle when asked about his pass. “I don’t really get to assist or score goals that much, so it feels good to have a point on the season.”
The rest of the half didn’t see any real clear-cut chances, despite both teams began going end-to-end, each searching for that next goal. However, things began to slow down late, as City began to bleed the clock.
Things exploded in stoppage time, however. Andrew Lubahn was pulled back on the wing, and the referee blew the whistle for a free kick. He continued on towards goal, jogging with the ball and eventually slowing down in the box. Woodbine chased him down and upon catching him, he swung his arm and hit Lubahn, bloodying his lip. This led to both teams coming together, with Reynolds getting physical and earning a yellow card of his own. Woodbine was rightly sent off, and once the referee finally had all the details of the incident, he blew the final whistle, sending the fans into a frenzy.
“Everybody on this team, we’re all family,” Reynolds said about his getting the yellow card. “I’ve seen my teammate get punched in the face, and I’m going to support him. It was stupid of me to run in there like that, but where I’m from, if you hit one of my friends in the face, you stand up for him.” Reynolds said that he already apologized to O’Connor and his teammates for getting involved, and the incident is over, as far as he is concerned.
“I think it was a lot of frustration on Charleston’s part,” O’Connor said of the ruckus at the end of the match. “I think it was a lot of handbags and people jumping around, but I think it showed to me how much it meant to both teams.” He went on to praise the referees, though, for how well they controlled the match.
Louisville City will now travel to New York to take on a terrible two. The Red Bulls II equalized late in their semifinal match against Rochester after a questionable penalty awarded (again) allowed them to eventually win in PKs on Friday night over the Rhinos. O’Connor wants to have one more home match this season, and that will require a win over New York to earn a spot in the USL Cup Final, which Louisville City could host if involved. It will be easier said than done, however. In four matches against the Sugar Frees over two seasons, Louisville City has failed to take a point, being outscored 8-2 and shut out three times. They have also failed to ever score a goal on the road against NYRBII. It will take a reversal of fortunes, but hopefully this is not the last time we get to watch our boys play at home this season.