Hey! It’s Tuesday night! You’ve probably been wondering where the on-point, on-time content that generally graces this page has been since Saturday!
Well, I was out of town, and I left my laptop at home on purpose. Not so I couldn’t regale you with my witty #takes on Louisville City soccer and the USL playoffs, but so I would avoid answering work-related emails, something I think many of you can empathize with.
But now I’m back! So what we’ll do here is first talk about the greatest Louisville City victory EVER, a true statement, then the rest of the USL playoff games. I’ll make this a brief as I can because most people glaze into TL;DR mode after about a half a page of words. Society these days, right? ON TO THE SOCCER:
Louisville City FC 2-0 Charleston Battery
By now you know the numbers. Over 8,500 fans. 120 minutes of soccer. Two goals for our guys in purple, both courtesy of your Golden Boot winner, Matt Fondy. And our reward, a trip to Rochester, which isn’t really an award but more of a trial. Whatever.
James O’Connor didn’t send out what many would consider to be a first choice lineup, but it turned out to be a very smart stroke of decisionmaking putting Sean Reynolds in as the right centerback, with Adam West again at left back and Ilija Ilic at the top of a flat 4-4-2 with Matt Fondy. McCabe, Quinn, Guzman and the return of Kadeem Dacres on the right rounded out the midfield.
I say the squad choice was smart because Reynolds and Tarek Morad kept Dane Kelly quiet for most of the evening. Aside from the always-aggressive Bryan Burke runs up the right, the defense stayed calm and compact for most of regular time. West was almost never challenged by the Battery attack, and did very well to calmly win balls and make smart passes to the City central midfield when called upon. This, of course, was a bit of a contrast to what we’re used to with City fullbacks getting forward and exposing Goodwin and the centerbacks to counter-attacks, which is what hurt them in the losing streak to end the season.
Reynolds, though, probably made the play of the game in the first half when he slide-tackled the ball away from Charleston’s Kevin Prince in the penalty area, saving what I have to believe was going to be a certain goal. That play in the 39th minute, combined with a blistering shot from Dane Kelly about ten minutes prior that Goodwin just tipped over the crossbar, accounted for the most dangerous chances the Battery would have for the entire game. Reynolds’s recovery run and tackle totally changed the complexion of the match.
The second half saw City with most of the ball and a ton more shots – 13 for the half compared to Charleston’s five. While the game opened up a bit more, neither team could put the ball in the net. Charleston’s Odnisel Cooper had to make five saves to keep the Royals out. The first overtime frankly featured more of the same, but you could feel a City goal was coming. In the second, it did.
City won a corner kick in the 105th minute and, despite Enrique Montano subbed on earlier for West, Aodhan Quinn took the kick. It was a sizzling ball to the back post, and Matt Fondy leapt up near the back post and crushed it into the net with his forehead. After the score, O’Connor quickly put Shanosky in for Guzman to add to the defense.
By that point Charleston similarly had added more attacking players which City quickly exploited. In the 116th minute, Nate Polak, who had subbed on for Dacres, made a driving run from the left side of Charleston’s penalty area to the right, sucking two Battery defenders with him. He laid the ball off to a wide open Magnus Rasmussen (on for Ilic in the 63rd minute). MAG RAM’s one time shot was expertly saved by Cooper, but the keeper couldn’t control the rebound and an unmarked Fondy poached the ball over the line for City’s second goal.
After that it was hold on and wait for the whistle, and then the game was over.
I said this recap would be short. Sorry, I lied.
Rochester Rhinos 2-0 New York Red Bulls II
The Sugar Free Red Bulls sealed their own fate when Konrad Plewa got a straight red card in the 22nd minute. Rochester thoroughly dominated the ball, the game, and the shots, 13-5. Plus, Duba Dos Santos did this:
Yikes. See you next week, Raging Rhinos.
LA Galaxy II 2-0 Orange County Blues
The Blues have reason to gripe about this game before you even talk about the score line. Unable to play at their usual home, Anteater Stadium at UC Irvine, and their request to USL to play at an alternate venue nearby, the Blues were forced to play as the road team at the StubHub Center against Los Dos. Keep in mind Orange County won the Western Conference this year. Not a great set of circumstances, and sure to cause some consternation with the league office in the offseason.
All that said, there was still a game to be played, and OC had beaten Los Dos twice earlier in the regular season. However, Ariel Lassiter scored in the first fifteen minutes of both halves, the Blues missed a second half penalty kick, and the Blues’ hopes of earning another trophy were dashed.
Oklahoma City Energy FC 2-2 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Don’t be confused by the title, Oklahoma City won on penalties in the first match of the 2015 playoffs to go to spot kicks. This was kind of a crazy game as the Switchbacks nearly doubled OKC in shots with little to show for it, and the ‘Backs had four guys pick up yellow cards in the process. Colorado Springs’ Luke Vercollone opened the scoring just six minutes in off a Chandler Hoffman assist. Chuy Sanchez equalized for the Energy just after the second half kicked, and regular time ended at ones.
Substitute Peabo Doue put the Energy ahead eight minutes into extra time, but Aaron King equalized before the first overtime period was over, and that rounded out the scoring. Oklahoma City’s keeper saved two penalty kicks to send the Energy to the conference finals, where they’ll host LA II.