Tag Archives: Louisville City FC

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Louisville City FC | LouCity Poised For Another Historic Playoff Run

Can They Go One Better This Year?

BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS BY JONATHAN LINTNER FORMERLY OF LOUISVILLE CITY FC 

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.

Latest LouCity Happenings

“The 41 investors who started this team did it (for three) reasons: One, we all love soccer. Two, we thought professional sports would be great for the city, and we really do. And three, when we saw we needed a soccer specific stadium, we said, ‘Let’s find the best site for that stadium for everybody.’ … When you look at this stadium, we’re only building 10,000 seats today – but we’re going to have 20,000 seats here. We’re building this thing to get an MLS franchise.”  – John Neace, Louisville City FC Chairman

By Grant Vance | Courtesy Photos

Louisville’s premiere professional soccer team, despite its relative youth to the local sporting arena, is growing at an exponential rate. With a new stadium on the way in Butchertown, and no ceiling in sight for how far the success of this football club can reach, Louisville City FC has been bending it into the net and making a positive impact on the community in a number of different ways.

Here are some recent LCFC happenings to chant with the Coopers about:

Finally, a Stadium

As any game-attending fan of LCFC knows, the team does not quite have a home of its own. Currently, home games are held at the River Bats’ Louisville Slugger stadium. A shared space is better than none at all, of course, but the upcoming LCFC designated stadium will open up a world of opportunity for growth. The site of the stadium is located in Butchertown, carefully chosen to be a central, convenient route for fans from all around. Expect the stadium to be completed in 2020.

Go to extolsports.com to see the full press conference.

Pitching in with Falls City

Louisville City FC has partnered with Falls City Beer. This new partnership brought with it a new brew, taking fruition with the title LouCity IPA. Released at Boombazz in St. Matthews in Louisville, this is the first of many Falls City LouCity beers to come, each of which will support a new charity.

 

Taking pride in Playing for Pride

The Human Rights Campaign is currently hosting a fundraiser where registered athletes for the Playing for Pride campaign will donate money according to their games played and goals scored, among other qualifiers. LCFC players Niall McCabe and Tarek Morad are taking up the mantle, donating money throughout the season to help support the LGBTQ community.

We Are Birdgang now selling Louisville City Merch

Merchandise website We Are Birdgang has officially started selling Birdgang Brand Louisville City items, including tanks, hats and original T’s. This is just one among many outlets to purchase LCFC gear, and an exciting new outlet for more variety in supportive club threads. Check out the gear at www.wearebirdgang.com.

Coach O’Connor prepping for awards season

With a (thus far) winning season for LCFC under way, Coach James O’Connor is getting ready for another season entirely. The annual Courier-Journal Sports Award Ceremony awards the best male and female high school soccer stand out in the area, this year to be presented by Coach O’Connor. Mia Hamm will be the guest speaker for the event to be held June 12 at the Louisville Palace.

While these are some of the bigger events taking place for the club, news and updates are constantly evolving. Follow the team on any of their several social media outlets and at www. loucityfc.com.

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Kickin’ It With… Sean Russell

By Kevin Kernan | Photos Courtesy of Louisville City FC

Louisville may not seem like the obvious next step for a player who had just won the league in his home nation, but for one of Louisville City FC’s newest signings, the United Soccer League (USL) seems like the perfect fit. 

Sean Russell, a 23-year-old, left-footed Irish player, had been tracking the USL’s progressive improvements from across the pond for a few years. When LouCity’s head coach James O’Connor offered Russell a contract last December, he leapt at the chance. An obvious student of the game, Russell sought pastures anew after last season to forge a path where he would be given time to develop with, and for, a club.

For everything he is gaining by moving from the unsettled environment in Irish soccer that he described as a “merry-go-round,” Russell is also making a few sacrifices to establish his soccer career in the United States.

Back home, he was playing under his father, a former player himself whose journeyman career spanned eight teams and 20 years. He left behind a team in Limerick FC that he had fought with to earn promotion to Ireland’s top division after being relegated the season before, a feeling he described as “the worst in my career.” There is no doubt Russell is stepping out of what would be many players’ comfort zones to gain experience and skill in a country that he hadn’t set foot on previously.

Despite the lower division status of the USL, the move here was not random for the utility player. While Russell said many people in his home nation feel that if you don’t play in England or Europe, “there isn’t much else out there,” he saw beyond that.

“Recently, the USL has been growing at a really good rate, it’s been something that I was looking at and thinking that the level was quite good and (he wanted) to get an opportunity here and grasp it,” Russell said.

After expressing interest in the Russell for several weeks and tracking his play, Coach O’Connor extended a contract offer.

“He didn’t have to sell the club too much to me,” Russell said on their negotiations “I knew how srprofessional they went. The philosophy of the game that James (O’Connor) puts into the squad is exactly what any player would want to play for.”

Russell looks to fit well into the Louisville City team, too. His versatility and work rate will keep him in good stead with O’Connor. In Ireland, he spent time both playing left back in defense and also could take up a more advanced spot in the midfield. Sean’s experience on set pieces means that he could be the one tasked with taking over free kick and corner duties.

Arguably, the most valuable thing he brings to the team are his intangibles. Championship experience is something that characterized all of the team’s signing this offseason, and Russell is no different.

Back in Ireland he played more than 1,200 minutes over a 28-game season to earn his team’s promotion to the first division. It was immediately apparent in conversing with Russell that he shares both the appetite and acumen for the game with the rest of the team.

Off the pitch, Russell likes to keep a low profile. He enjoys his down time but is looking forward to exploring the locale with his girlfriend, Becky, who made the trip stateside with him.

He also is keen on procuring a PlayStation, as it’s something he left back home in Ireland. While he is a fan of FIFA (the go-to soccer video game), Russell said, with a chuckle, he has only played as Limerick FC a handful of times.

Louisville City FC is fresh off their trip to IMG Academy in Florida, where they built up both their fitness and esprit de corps before returning home to a slate of preseason friendlies. The season kicks off March 25 when they host regional rivals Saint Louis FC.