After not scoring a goal from the run of play in their first two matches, Coach James O’Connor made four changes to the starting lineup on Saturday night. Those worked out pretty well.
Despite giving up a goal inside the first five minutes of the match, Louisville City FC scored four goals–three from the run of play–and came close numerous other times, routing Orlando City B on a frigid night at Slugger Field. The team easily played their best football of the season, and it was in large part to the changes that were made in the lineup.
Kadeem Dacres, Niall McCabe, Paolo DelPiccolo, and Tarek Morad were all handed their first starts of the season, and all played important roles on the night. Dacres’ energy and pace on the right wing caused OCB problems all night long, and his goal from the top of the box in the 65th minute is an early candidate for goal of the year.
“Quinny played me a really good ball in a really good spot, so my main focus was just getting the ball on target.” That is exactly what he did, shifting the ball from his right to left foot, and curling a beautiful strike into the upper right corner of the goal. Despite being a right-footed player, Kadeem continues to score terrific goals for the club with the weaker foot, which makes him even tougher to defend. “It’s actually not my dominant leg but it just happens. I shoot better with my left, it’s kind of crazy.”
Falling behind early after the rough match last week was not an ideal situation, but it’s the one LCFC faced just five minutes in. Richie Laryea of OCB played a beautiful back-heel to forward Michael Cox, and there was little that goalkeeper Scott Goodwin could do to keep it out. However, defender Sean Reynolds said the goal actually fired them up. “We started off a little slow and they scored that goal. That kind of just turned us on, sparked a little something in us.” Dacres agreed with him. “The support from the crowd was phenomenal,” the forward said in regards to falling behind early, “so they definitely gave us some energy going forward.”
The team began pressing and piled pressure on the visitors for long stretches, with three terrific scoring chances in the first ten minutes. Eventually the hard work paid off, as Jonghyun Son made a great run down the left, got to the endline, and crossed into the six yard box, where striker Chandler Hoffman was waiting to poke home for his first goal with the club. The team became even more energized, but despite multiple chances, LCFC were unable to take the lead and were level at 1-1 come halftime.
“After that first goal, we kind of jumped on them,” said Reynolds. “We tried not to let them leave their half. The front four did a really good job of pressing who they needed to press.”
Shortly after halftime, the rout was on. A great set piece routine saw Aodhan Quinn dummy a free kick, and DelPiccolo whipped in a dangerous curling free kick from the right side. He placed it perfectly, allowing midfielder Andrew Luhban to beat the goalkeeper to the ball and head it inside the near post to give the hosts the lead. “I was just trying to put it in a dangerous spot,” the University of Louisville product said, “and Luhban did a great job getting in front of the keeper and getting his head on it. It was a great goal by him.”
Dacres’ goal in the 65th minute made it 3-1 and then it was time for the super-sub Ilija Ilic to get in on the party. The forward, on for Luhban, worked a great one-two with McCabe in the box and slotted past the keeper to make it 4-1 in stoppage time. The Serbian Sniper then went over to celebrate with the Coopers and the Teletubbies. They almost added a fifth goal in the final seconds, but it would end 4-1.
Coach James O’Connor was thrilled with the result. “I thought tonight we played some lovely football,” he said after the match. “I thought the work ethic tonight from all the players was terrific.” He also felt they should have scored more goals, and was surprised they did not lead at the half. “I thought our interplay and exchanges were good.” He also praised the performance of DelPiccolo. Paolo’s partnership with Aodhan was vital on the night, as he did much of the dirty work in midfield to win back possession and allowing the captain to spray the ball around from the midfield pivot. “I think Paolo is someone who, in a lot of games, people won’t notice his work ethic and the job he does.” O’Connor went on to further praise PDP, saying, “He deserved his opportunity tonight and played well.”
Once again, Reynolds was rock solid in defense, and Goodwin did a great job commanding the defense. But it was the work of DelPiccolo, Dacres, and McCabe that made the difference. The play in the wide areas by the latter two opened up multiple opportunities, with the well-timed runs and pace from Kadeem causing the defense problems, and the energy and physical play from McCabe making the defense very uncomfortable on the ball. DelPiccolo’s motor in the midfield allowed Quinn plenty of time to pick out players wide and switch the play when needed, picking out players and building an attack that produced fifteen shots on the night.
Now, the team will face a lengthy stretch on the road, playing seven of their last nine matches away from home. It begins next week with a trip up I-71 to face Toyota John and FC Cincinnati. (This mention is sponsored by insert one of fifty companies, we take checks and money orders). Plenty of Louisville City fans are planning to make the trip, and that will be needed, as they had a crowd last night of over 14,000 fans. The next home match will be Wednesday, April 27th when they host Pittsburgh at 7:30 pm.