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Louisville City FC | LouCity Poised For Another Historic Playoff Run

Can They Go One Better This Year?


screen-shot-2017-09-25-at-8-01-24-pmAs the calendar turns the page to October, Louisville City and the United Soccer League enter the home stretch of the regular season calendar, the most consequential time of the season for teams whose playoff destiny is in doubt. Luckily, the only thing Louisville City has to concern themselves with is securing top seed for the playoffs and home field advantage that comes with it.

The team has established itself as one of the most formidable outfits in the league, boasting a dangerous rotation of strikers, a flexible group of midfielders and a staunch cadre of defenders that together have given LouCity the tools they need to improve on their last two seasons’ playoff exits, both in the conference finals.

For a second division soccer team in America, success is hard to replicate and nearly impossible to maintain, especially for the almost three seasons that Louisville City has. This almost unparalleled success can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff and Coach James O’Connor, who is a great recruiter of players and an even better scout.

The team was lucky to hold onto as many players as they did over last offseason, and additions to the squad during that time have proven the difference in this regular season. Coach O’Connor looked to import players with USL experience, and guys like Brian Ownby, George Davis IV, and “Speedy” Williams have certainly contributed much to the teams continued success.

The addition of Ownby and Davis IV, in particular, as well as the adventurous play of outside defenders Kyle Smith and Oscar Jimenez, have yielded some exciting and expansive soccer, and the team has been more positive in their play because of it. All of this has taken some pressure off central midfielders and also gave the physically imposing Luke Spencer opportunities to outmuscle and outwork defenders to get on the end of crosses, something he does exceedingly well. LouCity hasn’t had a player quite as imposing as the 6’2” almost 200 pound forward, who has thrived after a move from his hometown club of FC Cincinnati.

After having a couple of offensive talismans in the first two years in League MVP and goal scoring record holder Matt Fondy and MLS-level proven Chandler Hoffman, the team has found a reliable replacement with Spencer. There’s also been more of a rotation in the strikers, Ilija Ilic got more starts in one month than he has in his first two years with the club, and Cameron Lancaster has also factored into a handful of goals himself, taking the load off the de facto single striker system that had developed with Fondy and Hoffman playing in attack.

The only real moments of doubt that have come up throughout the season have been associated with the goalkeeping. When Greg Ranjitsingh reinjured his groin in the season opener, Tim Dobrowolski took up the role of keeper for the duration of Ranjitsingh’s absence, playing well and maintained his spot for five games, even after the former’s return to health. A disappointing outing against Tampa Bay led to Greg reprising the spot between the sticks.

Ranjitsingh has had a few gaffes, which has led to a healthy competition for the spot, and there’s been a back and forth for selection by Coach O’Connor, where Ranjitsingh has edged Dobrowolski in appearances, but the spot is far from safe for the Canadian born Tobagonian.

On the whole, Louisville City experienced an upturn in performance from 2015 to the 2016 season, and the club is again on pace to edge their point total from last year, where they managed to lose just four times in the 30-game season. What caught up with the team last year, however, was not their four league defeats, but the nine draws they had, several of them in games against much weaker opponents, something that the squad has largely been able to avoid this season, even having lost a greater number of matches, they are now in a better position.

Not only has the team’s performance improved year to year, but there has been a marked uptick in attendance as well. Where the team saw an average of just over 6,700 at home in 2015’s regular season, and 7,200 in 2016, 2017 has averaged almost 9,000 through the turnstiles at Slugger, punctuated by the five-goal dismantling of FC Cincinnati in front of the club’s first ever sellout crowd of 13,812 on Aug. 12.

While all signs are pointed in the right direction, the real moment of reckoning for Louisville City has yet to come. They have a condensed schedule over the last few weeks of the season, including the recent road swing to Canada before playing out their final two games of the season at home, the penultimate contest against Charlotte, which may end up deciding who enters the playoffs in the top spot in the East, and a finale against a listless Richmond Kickers outfit, which could be an opportunity to rest some players before the start of the nearly month-long postseason.

The playoffs will begin a week after the final regular season matchday, and with the table as congested as it is, you can expect to see teams’ seeds change and if last year’s final weekend is any indication, some teams knock another out the playoffs on the final day.

For LouCity, attaining the top spot is important. They’ve gone to two straight conference championships, both on the road (Rochester in 2015 and New York Red Bulls II in 2016) and neither in front of very many people. The crowd at Louisville Slugger Field is great and to be able to play there as long as possible is a very worthwhile goal to see out the season with.

Having talked with Coach O’Connor after the heartbreaking penalty shootout loss at Red Bull Arena to end last season, I know that both he and the team expect more out of themselves, and as for qualifying the season as a success or failure, River Cities and Kings’ Cups aside, anything less than a USL finals appearance would be a disappointment.


LOUISVILLE CITY FC | Tom Farmer:  From Soccer Cynic to Coopers President


As throngs of new Louisville City fans have discovered, the atmosphere cultivated at Louisville Slugger Field when LouCity takes to the pitch is both captivating and infectious. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the case of the current president of the Louisville Coopers, Tom Farmer.

Farmer took office in January, but his route to the president of Louisville City’s largest supporters group began just a short 18 months before, when he attended his first Louisville City game with Elise, his wife of nine years, which he described doing “on a lark.”

Having grown up in Powell County, Ky., Tom – an IT professional for Humana and University of Louisville graduate – labeled himself as a baseball and basketball fan, and was less than interested in the sport of soccer. He went as far as to say that he had watched only a handful of soccer games, usually featuring either a U.S. national team or UofL.

screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-4-31-28-pmAll of that changed, though, after his first Louisville City match in 2015.

At that time, the Coopers themselves were only just getting acquainted with creating the colorful and exciting atmosphere that they have become known for, but Farmer knew he immediately wanted to be a part of the most vocal corner of the Louisville City game days.

At first Farmer was just another face in the crowd. Tthen starting by contributing to the organization through different odd jobs within the Coopers organization (like producing the Supporters Group’s own weekly podcast, Barrel Proof), he came to meet people he would come to know and consider his close friends. On one fateful night last season Tom quickly went from still relatively anonymous to famous (or perhaps infamous) among the Coopers’ loyal.

It was April 27, 2016, the “Rain Game,” as it has come to be known for the few Lou City faithful who stuck out the whole contest.

It was a Wednesday night, and the crowd was sparse for a mid-table opponent in the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and a foreboding forecast loomed. There were several weather delays, taking over 90 minutes in total. The match probably shouldn’t have gone ahead, and after the first stoppage late in the first half, the field was in poor shape.

Most fans, Cooper leadership included, felt the game would be suspended. As Farmer, Ken Luther, then president of the Coopers, and an “unnamed accomplice” went to stow some Coopers game-day supplies in the designated center-field shed, they noticed a ball had been left on the field and the goal in front of the Coopers section was sitting agape. screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-4-31-39-pm

After what some might describe as an “unfortunate” series of passes, Farmer, having slipped and fell, got the ball to Luther in front of the goal, who consequently poked it into the waiting net. The security assigned to the game took exception to this, and escorted the sitting Coopers president (Luther) and Farmer off of the premises. The pair of them also went on to receive a letter from the club itself stating in no uncertain terms that should either of them set foot on the field again, they could be banned for life.

After an amicable meeting with then-Louisville City president Amanda Duffy, the air was cleared, but that didn’t stop Farmer from getting the entire Louisville City FC squad to sign his “Yellow Card,” as he referred to it, and hanging it proudly in his home.

It was on that night that Tom Farmer became “Tom Foolery,” a name bestowed upon him by Ken Luther.

Tom Foolery himself described the events that transpired that night as also having set into motion his path to becoming president, but more immediately, he became a member-at-large on the Coopers board of directors for the second half of 2016.

Farmer would be the first to admit he didn’t run much of a campaign for the presidency, but his platforms and goals were concrete. He set out to mend relationships between fellow supporters groups of LouCity that had become eroded at that point, he wanted to increase the footprint of the Coopers in the community, and he desired to make it easy for casual fans to become supporters of their local soccer team.

Categorically, Farmer has been largely successful in these endeavors. While the Coopers are the biggest and most visible fans at Louisville City matches, they (specifically Farmer) interact with the soccer club with the interest of not only the Coopers, but all supporters’ interests in mind.

Perhaps the most successful collaboration between the different supporter’s groups was the block party held at Goodwood Brewing before the July 15 match against FC Cincinnati, a collaboration between the Coopers and “the Black Sheep.”

As for increasing the footprint of the Coopers, look no further than the July 20 rally for a bespoke soccer stadium at Copper & Kings in Butchertown that was organized and promoted by the Coopers, along with the Butchertown Neighborhood Association.

While the Coopers’ membership numbers have been hovering around 350 strong, the supporters section in the stadium is usually filled to the brim, and the attendance at Louisville City matches has seen a palpable increase from season to season, and the club had a record 11,632 on hand last month for the aforementioned FC Cincinnati match.

Farmer immediately strikes you as a genuine person, and even though he is the head of an organization that exists to create a good time, he does not take his post lightly.

In one of my several conversations with him, he commented, “Every day I count my blessings that I get to be president of the Coopers. It’s been extremely fulfilling for me. … I’m very happy to be doing what I’m doing, and I’m happy that what I’m doing brings enjoyment to others.”

As he gets into the middle of his term, he continues to appear on Barrel Proof – the popular podcast – albeit as a host rather than a producer. He offers his casual point of view from time to time, as his soccer acumen is still developing.

One thing is certain though, and that’s the power of the supporters’ culture here. “I went to one LouCity match,” Farmer said, “and two years later I’m the president of the Coopers because I am so dedicated to this sport and this team.”


–Tom Farmer, Louisville City Coopers President