A mid-week day off had been planned for Louisville City FC’s players before their heated rivalry game last weekend at FC Cincinnati. But a Wednesday trip to Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse ultimately served another purpose.
There was opportunity to unwind and refocus between games. Fast approaching is a 7:30 p.m. Saturday matchup with Toronto FC II at Louisville Slugger Field, with LouCity looking to improve on an unbeaten start that has the club 3-0-2 after five games.
“John Neace, our owner, wanted to do something with the team, and that’s what he came up with,” said captain Paolo DelPiccolo, a University of Louisville graduate. “We just had a blast. We all went down there and it was a lot of the guys’ first times.”
Salmanazar, owned in part by LouCity board member Tom Mueller, made his career debut in Race 4. The team met famed trainer Todd Pletcher in the paddock and then watched the horse prevail.
Players shouted “olé” in the winner’s circle before lining up in the official post-race picture with the horse.
“It was great,” said coach James O’Connor. “A big thank you to John Neace — also for his support throughout the week. He’s been a pillar of support throughout the week.”
While LouCity was at the races, the United Soccer League’s discipline report was released including a five-game suspension for striker Djiby Fall “for biting an opponent” during the LouCity game. Niall McCabe received treatment in the aftermath.
“We try to do something every few weeks with the guys, but it was” a chance to get away from that, O’Connor said. “It was nice to be able to do that and just sit and let the lads go on and enjoy themselves.”
“It was a great team bonding sort of day,” added defender Paco Craig. “The weather was kind to us, and the horses were kind to me as well.”
The squad trained regularly on Monday and Tuesday, then returned to the pitch Thursday and Friday before its third game of the season at Slugger Field. Toronto FC II sits at 1-2-2 but has played to consecutive scoreless draws.
Entering the weekend, LouCity is the USL Eastern Conference’s lone unbeaten team left. San Antonio FC, on the Western Conference side, also hasn’t lost.