On a night when Louisville City honored the life of Muhammad Ali, the players and fans left the stadium feeling like they had been sucker-punched. Despite a brace from Chandler Hoffman, a stoppage time goal from Wilmington saw the home team surrender two points late, as LCFC endured a 2-2 draw. While their unbeaten streak in the USL was extended to 11 matches, you wouldn’t find anybody who was celebrating that fact.
“The goal we gave away at the end was really poor,” a visibly irritated James O’Connor said after the match. “It’s infuriating to give a goal away like that at the end…with a minute to goal, we can’t head the ball clear.” O’Connor did state that the team seemed to lose their energy in the final thirty minutes, as the heat drained the players.
Defender Sean Reynolds echoed those frustrations. “We weren’t ourselves at all,” he said. “The end was…frustrating, that’s the word I’ll use. I feel like we took our foot off the gas, especially at the very end.” He went on to mention that the multiple turnovers during the game were troublesome as well.
The match also marked the return of Magnus Rasmussen, seeing his first action in nearly seven months. While he was happy to get back on the pitch, he was also visibly upset after the match, stating that he felt he played very poorly and was frustrated with his effort.
The contest started well for Louisville City, as they had lots of possession and some great chances. It appeared that Hoffman had put LCFC ahead in the seventh minute, but the linesman correctly had the flag up for offside. Then, in the 17th minute, the home side fell behind against the run of play as Kyle Parker scored to make it 1-0.
After the goal, Wilmington appeared to be the side in control, as the Hammerheads kept control of the ball and prevented LCFC from gaining a foothold. The Kings began to finally get some possession, though, and it led to a terrific pair of chances. First, Aodhan Quinn whipped in a free kick from outside the box, sending it in from the right side where it glanced slightly off the head of Andrew Lubahn, and then slipped past the keeper’s fingers before hitting the post and staying out. After it was cleared out for a corner, LCFC played a short corner, Niall McCabe did a great job of getting to the endline and sending in a low cross, where it somehow avoided connecting with the foot of a sliding Hoffman and rolled through the area and out of play.
Finally, the Boys in Purple leveled, as Hoffman scored his first in the 41st minute to make it 1-1. A terrific cross from Mark-Anthony Kaye found Hoffman inside the area, where he was able to head it past the keeper from close range to level the match. He credited Kaye for a terrific ball and said their chemistry is really paying off. “He knows that when I point to the inside that’s where I want the ball,” Hoffman said, “and he delivered a great ball. It’s great when players find me in the box.”
Three minutes into the second half, Hoffman put the home side in front, as he was able to latch onto a cross from Kyle Smith and redirect it just enough to get it past the keeper inside the near post for his second goal of the night.
After that, the play seemed to die down quite a bit for LCFC. It was obvious that the heat was getting to the players, as the temperature on the field turf before the match reached temperatures over 160 degrees. Defending at that end of the pitch, there was sloppy play throughout the second half, as the turnovers continued to mount.
It eventually broke down in stoppage time, as Wilmington got a corner kick off of a ball that probably could have been cleared out for a throw, had the players not been so tired. The cross came down the line and ended up around the near post. It seemed to fall between two defenders and goalie Greg Ranjitsingh, but nobody was able to clear it, allowing Wilmington’s Doue to bundle it home and steal a point. It was their second straight match stealing points in stoppage time, as they won their previous match on a late goal.
LCFC still had time, and nearly scored seconds later, but a cross into the box saw an unmarked Paolo DelPiccolo saw him head over and wide of the far post. They also got a final chance on a corner kick to end the match, but were simply unable to get the ball on target, and the clearance was followed by the final whistle, to the heartbreak of everyone in purple.
Prior to the match, the club held a tribute for The Greatest, the day after he was laid to rest. They aired a tribute video and held a moment of silence prior to kickoff, with the Coopers displaying their Ali tifo. The players also wore black armbands in remembrance of Muhammed Ali.
Louisville City will travel to Rochester on Saturday night, before returning home next Monday night to host Toron-two. That will be the first of four matches at home in a stretch of twenty-six days, which should be great fun for everyone involved….except the visiting teams.
That said, it is unlikely that practice will be fun for the players this week. However, if the players’ body language after the match is anything to go by, the dropping of points could very well be a catalyst for a renewed focus for the team.