Louisville City FC was defeated by FC Cincinnati 3-2 for the first time at Slugger Field this season Saturday night.
Ilija Ilic gave City (8-3-5) the lead in the 7th minute, but they were unable to keep the momentum as Cincinnati (7-6-6) scored three unanswered goals in front of a Slugger Field record 11,632 fans to take all three points.
The two teams met twice already this season with the first meeting ending in a thrilling 1-1 draw on April 22, then City falling 0-1 in the third round of the US Open Cup on May 31.
Louisville City head coach James O’Connor made a few changes for the River City derby, most notably Richard Ballard starting over Oscar Jimenez. Ballard had played a pivotal role off the bench in the past, but O’Connor looked to use his ability to get on the score sheet early.
City did get on the board early but by way of Brian Ownby. Ownby made his way deep into the box and centered the ball across goal. The ball hit Harrison Delbridge’s arm, and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Ilic stepped up and chipped the ball past Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt for his second goal of the season.
However, it didn’t take long before Cincinnati equalized. Greg Ranjitsingh is very aggressive as he comes out often to catch crosses. It also leads to errors because he doesn’t always catch them. Djiby Fall made him pay in the 14th minute. Ranjitsingh failed to claim Jimmy McLaughlin’s cross and left the goal wide open. The Senegalese pounced to score his 10th goal of the season.
Ownby should have put City back in front in the 33rd minute. A through ball over the top put Ownby in the clear. His toe shot went past Hildebrandt, but Josu, who came on for Tyler Polak in the 30th minute, ran down the ball and cleared it off the line.
City and Cincy traded chances to finish the first half. City had the shots advantage 8-2, but the threat of Djiby made it look much closer.
Delbridge redeemed himself for giving up the penalty earlier in the match. In the 54th minute, Josu curled in a corner kick near post. Delbridge’s header left Ranjisingh flat footed to give Cincinnati the 2-1 lead.
George Davis IV gave City two great chances to equalize, but clutch defending by Cincinnati kept the score in favor of the visitors.
Danni Konig, who came on for Djiby, made his presence felt no more than a minute after he came on when he gave Cincinnati insurance with a goal in the 77th minute. Josu’s cross set up a shot in the box. Ranjitsingh made a big diving save, but Konig was in position to tap in the rebound.
City grabbed a consolation goal in the waning stages of the game. Off the corner kick, Luke Spencer’s header made it past Cincinnati defenders and bounced past Hildebrandt to make it 2-3.
Louisville’s loss increases Charleston’s lead at the top of the Eastern Conference to now four points, and drops City to third place after Charlotte won their sixth in a row over New York Red Bulls II away earlier in the day. The battle for playoff seedings has tightened up as only four points separate second and sixth.
City will hit the road to take on King’s Cup rival St. Louis FC next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.