It took one hundred and twenty minutes, but Louisville City managed to win their opening round playoff match.
George Davis IV and Chandler Hoffman each scored in the first half of extra time, as Louisville City needed an extra half hour to defeat ten-man Richmond 2-0 at Slugger Field on Sunday night. The win sets up a semifinal rematch against Charleston on Saturday night, after the Battery went into Nippert Stadium and quieted the FCC fans with a 2-1 defeat earlier on Sunday.
The Kickers took their nickname literally, as Samuel Asante was sent off four minutes into the match following a kick to Magnus Rasmussen’s chest, and played 116 minutes down a man. However, Richmond goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, on loan from DC United, did everything he could to keep them in the match, stopping ten of twelve shots on target and making some spectacular saves.
“When they went down a man, sometimes you think it’s a little added pressure,” Cuatro said after the match. “You just have to keep doing the things we always do, and find the breakthrough, even if it’s in overtime.”
“He’s a good player, he’s an MLS goalkeeper,” Davis added, in regards to seeing Dykstra save so many shots. “But at the same time, you gotta keep banging, keep banging, knocking at the door.”
“Richmond made it really, really difficult to play that long with ten men,” Coach James O’Connor said after the match. “They made it really really hard for us to break them down tonight.” While he was happy to have the victory, the manager added, “It would have been nicer to have scored two minutes sooner, for everyone.”
Whatever the gameplans would have been for the match, they went right out the window with the red card. Both teams had scoring chances early on, with each keeper having to make a huge save. LCFC began to dominate posession with the man advantage, and had a few great chances simply go begging.
Richmond continued to find their names in the books, as a total of four Kickers were shown yellow in the first half, not counting the red shown to Asante. Louisville City made an early substitution, as Rasmussen was taken off after 34 minutes for Chandler Hoffman, and it wasn’t a decision that the midfielder agreed with. However, O’Connor said after the match that he did it to get a second striker on the pitch. “Magnus was playing really well, it had nothing to do with Magnus” the manager said, “it was the fact that I wanted a second striker on the pitch and I wanted to make them defend.” While he said he possibly could have waited until later to make that change, he stated that is not his style. “When I see something that needs to happen to help us win the game, I’m going to do it.”
After the break Louisville City continued to employ the same tactic over and over, with the same result. They would play the ball around, send it wide to an open player, cross it into the area, and watch Richmond head it clear. Louisville City had a few good chances, but they simply could not break down a Kickers’ defense that was content to park the bus and play for extra time.
Richmond’s plan succeeded, as the two sides went to thirty minutes of added time. However, Louisville City would only need two minutes. A wonderful ball from Quinn found its way to George Davis IV, and his shot across the face of goal hit Dykstra’s hand, bounced over, and nestled into the back of the net to put City ahead 1-0.
Ten minutes later, the match was all but decided when a Dacres pass found Chandler Hoffman at the edge of the six yard area. Hoffman made no mistake, burying it past Dykstra to make it 2-0 and end the match as a contest.
The second half of extra time saw Louisville City continue to just control the ball, and if not for a terrific diving save from Dykstra, they would have had a third goal. However, in the 118th minute, they should have had that third goal. Hoffman got behind the defense, ran 20 yards, then tried to round the keeper. Instead of scoring, he took a heavy touch and kicked the ball out for a goal kick.
In the end, the two goals were more than enough to beat a Richmond team that simply had nothing left in the tank, and when the final whistle blew, Louisville City was into the Eastern Conference semifinals. This will be a rematch of last year’s semifinals, when Louisville City once again saw a 0-0 draw in regulation lead to a pair of goals in extra time, as Matt Fondy scored twice to send LCFC into the conference finals against Rochester. The winner will face the victor of the Sugar Free Red Bulls match against the Rhinos the following weekend.