Tag Archives: Soccer


Soccer 101 Lesson 2: Basic Rules

By Kevin Kernen

In the last edition of Extol Sports, we covered the

first 4 of the 17 rules of the game of soccer. In

this month’s issue, we continue.

Rule 5: The Referee

In any professional or international match in the world,

there will be a minimum of 4 referees on hand. They are

responsible for enforcing the laws of the game and act as

a team of their own, comprising of a Center Referee (the

main official with the whistle on the pitch), two Assistant

Referees (the ones running up and down half a sideline

with the flag, also called an “AR”), and the Fourth Official

(the referee on the sideline). The Center Referee bears

the responsibility of deciding if a pitch is game-worthy,

enforcing the laws of the game during a match, keeping

official time, taking disciplinary action against players,

as well as supervising most other procedures during a

match. To keep spectators abreast of Referees’ decisions,

they employ a series of hand signals (not to worry, their

meanings will become clear later on):

Rule 6: Other Officials

As mentioned previously, there are a minimum of 3 officials

apart from the Center Referee involved in any professional

match. Each of the Assistant Referees is in charge of a half

of the pitch, running up and down opposite sides, from one

goal line to the midfield line. The ARs’ job is to help the

Center Referee in making decisions, as well as identifying

incidents of offside, a somewhat nebulous rule that is a law

unto itself. Between the Center Referee and both of the ARs,

almost all of the 22 players are under constant supervision,

but a Fourth Official also serves to catch offenses away

from the ball, or to lend a different perspective to an offense

in question.

Usually a junior referee or a well-seasoned official, the

Fourth Official also deputizes as a Center- or Assistant-

Referee should they become injured or otherwise unable

to continue during a match. Beyond keeping an extra set of

eyeballs on play, the Fourth Official also serves as a verbal

abuse whipping boy for disgruntled managers in their

technical area, as well as conducting substitutions and

keeping track of added time. All referees are in constant

communication during play, and usually employ a radio

system to talk to one another during a match.

Rule 7: Duration of the Match

Universally, matches consist of two halves of 45

minutes. Regular season games can end in a tie

after 90 minutes, but in knockout competitions,

like the US Open Cup and the USL Playoffs a winner

must be decided. Overtime (called “Extra Time”

in soccer) consists of two 15 minute halves. If the

game is still tied, the game goes to Penalties, lined

out in Rules 10 and 14. Since the clock never stops

running in soccer, time is added at the end of each

half for stoppages for substitutions, time wasting

(a gamesmanship tactic), disciplinary sanctions or

other major stoppages.

Rule 8: Start and Restart of Play

Halves are commenced by a kick off from the center

spot of the match, and restarts after goals are taken

from the center spot as well, taken by the team that

just conceded.

Rule 9: The Ball in and Out of Play

In Soccer, the lines on the field are considered in

bounds for the area they demarcate. The ball has

to completely pass over the line to be out, either

on the ground or in the air, a decision chiefly made

by the ARs.

Rule 10: Determining the Outcome of the Match

Goals are awarded by the Center Referee after

the ball passes completely over the goal line, as

illustrated when the ref points to the center of

the pitch.

Regular season matches in any league are over

after 90 minutes, whether there is a winner or not.

For knockout games, the team with the most goals

at the end of Regulation or Extra Time wins, but if

the game is tied after 120 minutes, Penalties must

decide the game. Teams alternate shots from the

Penalty Mark (the spot 12 yards from the goal)

unless the competition has specified otherwise

(some competitions employ the A-B-B-A order

to negate any advantage that could be had by the

alternating nature of shots) and the best of five

shots, wins. Should the teams remain tied after five

shots, it goes to a round by round “sudden death”

format. The pressure is on the penalty taker to

convert the shot, as they require great anticipation

and a healthy dose of luck to save, and shootouts

rarely go beyond the first five rounds of shots.

Rule 11: Offside

Probably the single most difficult decision in the

game, offside offenses are almost exclusively

identified by an Assistant Referee. The rule was

installed to keep players in check and not “cherry

pick” in front of opponents goals, and has evolved to

both a lightning rod for video replay advocates and

excuse for beleaguered managers. In the simplest

terms, any attacking player between the second-tolast

defender and the goal is in an offside position.

For an advanced attacking player to legally receive

the ball, they must be either:

A. I n their own defensive half, or

B . E ither in front of, or in line with the secondto-

last member of the defending team at the

moment the ball is played

Essentially, a player cannot be passed the ball if

they are between last defender of the defending

team and the goal, BUT they can be level with the

second-to-last defender.

Additionally, if an attacking player is in an offside

position and doesn’t interfere with play and a

goal is scored, no rule has been infringed upon.

If an attacking player is in an offside position and

interferes with play (like screening the goalkeeper,

for instance), then they are offside, and the goal is


The signal for offside is given by the Assistant

Referee when they hold their flag straight up in

the air to alert the Center Referee, then holding

it in front of them. To restart play after an offside

offense, the referee awards an indirect free kick to

the defending team (that’s to come).

Rule 12: Fouls and Misconduct

The following is a list of fouls in the game. They are

interpreted differently by different referees, and

also their enforcement changes significantly from

league to league and country to country. England

has a history of a physical game, where the Spanish

appreciate more style over substance. As the law

goes, a Free Kick is awarded if an opponent commits

any of the following offenses:

A. Charges (running shoulder to shoulder in an

aggressive manner)

B . jumps at

C. kicks or attempts to kick

D . P ushes

E . strikes or attempts to strike

(including head-butt)

F. tackles or challenges

G . trips or attempts to trip

H. handles the ball deliberately (except for the

goalkeeper within their penalty area)

I . holds an opponent

J . impedes an opponent with contact

K . spits at an opponent

If you stand with a supporter during a match and

you see a referee whistle after a slide tackle, you

will hear some version of the refrain “they got the

ball!” While slide tackles and challenges are part of

the game, they must be going for the ball- not the

player. It is erroneously assumed that if a player

gets the ball, they have carte Blanche to take out the

player as well. This is simply not the case, as many

considerations are taken into account by the referee

around judging challenges, with speed, position,

where the challenging player made contact with the

player in possession, among other things.

In addition to awarding a Free Kick, a referee can

award a yellow card (a caution) for a foul judged

to be reckless in nature, and a red card (a sending

off) for fouls judged to be dangerous or employing

excessive use of force. Should a player earn two

yellows, they will then be shown a red after their

second yellow card offense. If a player is sent off,

they cannot be replaced and their team has to play

down a player for the duration of the match.

Cards will also be issued in the case of what are

informally referred to as “professional fouls,” or

fouls that deliberately break up an attacking team’s

forward play if the defending team are caught out

of position or undermanned. If there is a covering

player between a defender, an attacker, and the

goal, a foul only warrants a yellow card. If the fouling

defender is the last man before the goalie, however,

expect a straight red card to be shown.

As with Offside offenses, handling situations often

find themselves being a point of contention, as

it’s largely a judgement call from the Referee. It’s

a matter of identifying whether the ball is moving

toward the hand or arm, or if the player moves their

hand or arm to intercept the path of the ball, while

taking into account whether the player’s hand was

in a “natural position.” Depending on the situation, a

player may find themselves sent off for deliberately

handling the ball.

There are other procedural fouls, like time wasting

and illegal substitutions, which can also be awarded

with a yellow card.

Rule 13: Free Kicks

For all infringements listed in the law previous, a

Direct Free Kick is awarded, meaning that the ball

can directly be scored from the Free Kick. There are

also Indirect Free Kicks, meaning that the ball must

touch another player before it can be scored.

Indirect Free Kicks are awarded after an Offside

offense and for Playing in a Dangerous Manner,

which includes preventing nearby players from

playing the ball. An example of this is a “high kick,”

which is not an inherently illegal action, but becomes

illegal when it either causes a player to react to the

kick (an Indirect Free Kick) or if it makes contact

with an opponent (a Direct Free Kick).

Rule 14: The Penalty Kick

Penalties are taken from the penalty mark, which

is 12 yards from the center of the goal. During play,

they’re awarded for Direct Free Kick fouls within

the Penalty Area. We’ve already covered this pretty

comprehensively, but another detail is that during a

penalty kick, the goalkeeper must stay on the goal

line, and for penalties taken during regulation and

extra time, players can enter the box as soon as the

kick taker touches the ball.

Rule 15: The Throw-In

For restarting play after the ball goes out over a

sideline, the team opposite of the one that played it

out is awarded a throw-in. For the player throwing

the ball in, they must

A. K eep both feet on the ground outside

the touchline

B . T hrow the ball in with both hands, starting

behind the head

Players cannot be offside if they receive the ball

directly from a Throw-In, Goal Kick, or a Corner Kick.

Rule 16: The Goal Kick

For restarting play after an attacking team played

the ball over a defending team’s endline, the

goalkeeper plays it outside of the penalty area (18

yard box) from any point within their goal area (6

yard box)

Rule 17: The Corner Kick

After the defending team plays the ball over their

own endline, the attacking team is awarded a corner

kick, taken from the corner closest to the point

where the ball exited play. Although a goal can be

scored from a corner(called an “Olympico”), it’s

exceedingly rare and quite difficult.

That is the streamlined version of the rules of soccer,

as detailed by the International Football Association

Board. Rules and their interpretations are quite

nuanced and are tweaked from year to year, and

although the rules themselves do not change that

much, they will come under more scrutiny as the tide

of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) sweeps through the

world’s game in the very imminent future.


Pat McMahon Brings International Resume to LouCity Squad


screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-3-22-50-pmFor the Louisville City faithful, Pat McMahon sticks out as a foe from both the Rochester Rhinos and, more recently, FC Cincinnati. He also brings both a flowing head full of hair and an international resume to a LouCity squad in need of defensive reinforcements.

A native of Chicago suburb Bolingbrook, Illinois, Pat played for youth team Ajax FC Chicago before enrolling in the Horizon League’s University of Illinois at Chicago in 2005. He stood out as a strong defender while starting every single game in his four seasons there, collecting a pair of league titles as well as reaching as high as sixth in the national polls in 2006. As is customary with talented college players, McMahon played in the amateur Premier Development League (PDL) during the summer months in 2005, 2006 and 2008, joining the Chicago Fire’s youth team in his final foray into the League.

After leaving UIC, where he would later return to finish his finance degree, Pat ventured down to Puerto Rico to trial for an expansion USL team, but nothing came of it. Returning to the Chicago area, Pat enlisted in Bridges FC, a program for unsigned and out-of-contract players that gives them the connections and visibility to different clubs in hopes of signing a professional contract. After a year of hard training with Bridges FC and an international trial with Danish club HB Køge that ended with a fractured ankle and a long layoff for rehabilitation, Pat joined semi-pro Australian team Wynnum District Wolves FC in 2011, along with two other players from the program.

While gaining valuable game experience, Pat found himself working a litany of jobs – from cleaning the team’s clubhouse, to bartending, to pouring concrete foundations – in order to keep his prospects of playing professionally alive. He featured an impressive 55 times over a pair of seasons, winning the Brisbane-centric regular season league title in his first year and taking the playoff trophy the succeeding season, all while earning Player of the Year honors. Although Pat was a fan of the lifestyle and climate, he had outgrown the league, and yet the option of the A-League (Australia’s top division) was unlikely due to the gauntlet of paperwork and visas needed to become a full professional. On a trip abroad with Bridges FC to the quite literally polar opposite side of the globe, Pat earned his first professional contract.

Ljungskile, Sweden, is home to an eponymous club, which has been in the nation’s second division most of its existence. Ljungskile Sport Klub signed Pat ahead of their 2013 campaign, having previously penned Pat Hopkins, a teammate of Pat’s in Australia. Bringing his imposing presence in defense, Pat helped shore up the injury-blighted team’s defense, and the team maintained their second-division status despite having stared down the possibility of relegation.

Pat returned home after his contract wasn’t renewed for the following season. Having played abroad for the last three years, he sought something closer to home and an opportunity to trial with the Rochester Rhinos came up.

In Pat’s first season with the Rhinos in 2014, he took part in 26 contests en route to a sixth place regular season finish and an appearance in the playoff quarterfinals. Following a competition restructuring in the league for the 2015 season (largely due to an influx of expansion teams, including Louisville City), the Rhinos dominated in the newly formed Eastern Conference. In 28 regular season league games, the Rhinos conceded only 15 goals and lost just once before going on to top LouCity in the Conference Championship. Pat and company would then go on to edge Western Conference representatives LA Galaxy II in an extra time USL Final, thanks in large part to Pat’s presence in the back line, which ran to 27 starts, including going all 120 minutes in the Final, a record that Pat hangs his hat on.

Finding himself again out of contract after the 2015 Championship season, he joined upstarts FC Cincinnati for the following season, and again found himself well up the team sheet, netting 27 appearances in the league. After a big turnover in players between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Pat remained in the squad but found himself surplus to requirements with only 92 minutes of playing time on the 2017 season.

Following the path of his former teammate Luke Spencer, who switched the year previous, Pat swapped sides of the USL’s most exciting rivalry and is now a member of LouCity’s team, fortifying the already formidable defense that counts Sean Totsch (a former teammate in Rochester and his roommate for this season) and Paco Craig as centerpieces, as well as fellow signee and first-year pro Alexis Souahy.

Thanks in part to his being a native of the Chicago area, Pat enjoys listening to Motown and blues music, and collecting records in down time. Fueled by his years abroad, Pat also enjoys traveling in the offseason and seeing old friends. During the season, he likes to bond with teammates, something that will keep him in good stead with Coach O’Connor.

For what some may call a “journeyman career,” Pat has been successful most of the places he has played and presents an eminently likeable personality. He considers himself fortunate to have been on a number of strong sides, and on top of all of that, he will definitely move the needle when it comes to follicle excellence.




Debuting in this month’s edition, we’re going to take a look at the rules, history, culture and competitions among other facets of the worldwide soccer tapestry. For the uninitiated, consider this section a crash course in understanding the world’s most popular sport; for the indoctrinated, you’ll probably learn something new as well.

The rules for the game of soccer (referred to as some variation of football virtually everywhere else) are governed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), not FIFA. There are 17 rules that explicitly outline every aspect of the game, and as a certified referee, I can assure you it’s not an easy compendium to internalize. For your sanity, I will distill the first five rules for you here, along with some commentary.


Much like in baseball, parts of the dimensions of the field can vary. The length of the pitch (a term unique to soccer that we’ll explore in a future issue) can vary between 100 and 130 yards, while the width is somewhere between 50 and 100 yards. Yes, you can have a square pitch.

At the end of each half is the penalty area, also called the goalie box, 18-yard box, or simply the box. This is the area that the goalkeeper is allowed to handle the ball in. A foul committed inside this area results in a penalty kick (we’ll get to that next edition). The smaller box inside of the penalty area is called the goal area, and is sometimes referred to as the 6-yard box or the six.

Other than that, there is the penalty mark, measuring 12 yards from the center of the goal. This is where penalty kicks are taken from. If you’re wondering what the arc is at the top of the penalty area, that’s for during penalty kicks. Players must stay 10 yards away from the spot until the moment the ball is kicked, and that arc is the area of exclusion outside of the penalty area itself. For penalty decisions, this arc is not considered part of the penalty area.


Every team at LouCity’s level uses a size 5 soccer ball. Fun Tidbit: Colors of balls vary between manufacturers, but in case of snow, match officials will break out an orange neon or yellow ball. Let’s move on.


There are 11 players per team, including a goalkeeper. The 10 players that aren’t the goalie are often referred to as outfield players. In the United Soccer League, where LouCity plays, each team is permitted three substitutes, a convention the USL only adopted last season. Once a player is subbed off the field, they are not allowed to re-enter.


While policy on shirt sponsors varies from league to league, players are required to have:

1. Shirt with sleeves

2. Shorts

3. Socks

4. Shin Guards

5. Approved Cleats (sometimes called boots)

This ensemble is often called a kit.

Make sure to check back next time as I’ll be covering the contentious area of fouls, bookings, and sendings off.

For top teams in Europe, kit sponsorships are lucrative propositions that can yield eye-watering sums. For instance, in 2014, England’s Manchester United (one of the world’s most valuable sports team) signed a seven year, $559 Million deal with Chevrolet, per Forbes.com. On top of that, kit suppliers (Nike and Adidas being the most affluent) splash out even more ridiculous amounts for the right to manufacture and sell teams’ shirts. Another top European team, Spain’s Real Madrid penned a 10 year, $1.6 billion deal with Adidas to produce kits for Los Blancos.


Thabane Sutu’s Winding, Winning Path

The path to American second division soccer for players and coaches alike is usually a long and winding one. That goes tenfold for Thabane Sutu, the accomplished yet unassuming goalkeeper coach for Louisville City FC.


A native of Lesotho, a country of two million and about the size of Maryland, Thabane Sutu comes from modest South Africa beginnings.

One of two sons to a nurse and civil servant, he had his fair share of chores to do around the house before he could play soccer in the streets after school days, something that all boys would join in on. While he had a comparatively comfortable childhood, Sutu didn’t start playing organized soccer until he was spotted by South African coaching legend and then-Lesotho National coach April “Styles” Phumo at age 15, when the coach founded an amateur team, Arsenal FC, in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru.

After school they would train in the national stadium; it was a side project for Phumo. It was here Sutu cultivated a dream to go on and play professionally, not something many Lesotho players had the opportunity to do. His Arsenal team had to begin play at the third and bottom rung of the completely amateur soccer pyramid in Lesotho before quickly gaining promotion to the premier A Division in 1988.

While cutting a swath through the ranks of Mosotho soccer, Arsenal gained a reputation as a hard, grafting team and were disliked amongst the rest of the established soccer guard. Sutu was an important part of the team, although not usually the best or most physically gifted player on the pitch, he was a student of the game and always eager to learn, a trait he has yet to lose.

Sutu was part of the Arsenal team that ran roughshod over Lesotho soccer and won the Lesotho top flight in 1989, 1991 and 1993, and they claimed the domestic cup twice in his career there. With this success, came continental competition in the African Cup of Champions (equivalent to UEFA’s Champions League) and in the African Cup Winners’ Cup (comparable to the secondary UEFA Europa League). The 1993 Cup Winners’ Cup campaign would prove to be a turning point for Sutu.

Coming from such a small and unproven soccer playing nation, Arsenal had to win a qualifying home and away series in order to join the continents’ elite clubs in the competition proper. Their first matchup was against Mozambique title holders Clube de Gaza, in which Arsenal stole a 2-2 draw away from home and earned a 1-1 tie on home soil to advance on goal differential, a massive upset in the competition for an amateur team.

The result saw the Lesotho minnows drawn against Egyptian giants Al-Ahly in the succeeding round of 16, a gargantuan task. Arsenal were staring down an impossible game, but went out and still performed admirably, miraculously only conceding a single goal at home, largely thanks to what Sutu called one of his best performances as a player. At that moment, Al-Ahly was looking for a goalkeeper to backup club stalwart and national goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir, and after a yeoman’s effort in the first leg, Al-Ahly took a closer look at Sutu. during their reception for Arsenal in the run-up to the decisive second leg, they gauged his interest, something that took Sutu off guard.

“I didn’t know how to react (to) something that had never happened before. I was thinking ‘Wow, all the things that I had been dreaming about have literally just happened right here, right now.’ ”

He didn’t give them a commitment in Egypt that day, however, because he needed to speak with his coach and family back home.

Sutu signed with the 39-time league champs on June 23, 1993, realizing his childhood dream.

It was a big change for the young man from South Africa going from playing in front of a few thousand in his native land to training in front of 20,000 people and playing in front of attendances that regularly pushed six digits, not to mention adjusting to an entirely different culture and language. The biggest club in all of Africa and the Middle Eastern soccer world, Al-Ahly has no fewer than 100 trophies in their cabinet from domestic and continental competitions, and maintained a high level of excellence in part thanks to their manager, Englishman Allan Harris. Bringing his experience as a player with more than 300 games of experience in English football and also serving as an assistant under Terry Venables at league-winning Barcelona, Harris would influence Sutu’s coaching acumen more than any other figure. Although he never quite broke through to the first team, Sutu did gain dozens of starts for the Egyptian giants.

During this exciting time, Sutu captained the Lesotho national team as well, racking up nearly 30 caps between 1994 and 1997. Where the most senior player generally assumes the captaincy, Sutu gained the armband in a more unexpected way. In an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier 1994 against a Cameroon team fresh off a World Cup showing in the United States, and after a long flight from Cairo to Johannesburg, Sutu made his way back to Lesotho to find the national players in a dispute with the national association over unpaid stipends. Despite Cameroon already being in Lesotho, the game was at grave risk of being called off, something that wasn’t unheard of in the cobbled-together nature of soccer in the region at the time. Not one to waste his long journey home, Sutu brokered a deal between the association and the players to split the gate receipts, and as a result of his work between the players and the association, he was handed the captain’s armband, all of this before the match even transpired. The game was a shock 2-0 win for the hosts, a result that Sutu says was the proudest of his four-year tenure between the posts for his national team.

After a respectable excursion abroad, Thabane decided to hang up his gloves in 1998 and return to his roots at Arsenal to coach the nation’s top youth prospects, something he knew he wanted to do the duration of his career. The move meant he was closer to his eventual wife, Motselisi, whom he met the previous year. The daughter of a Presbyterian ministry director, Motselisi found herself back and forth between Lesotho and Louisville, Kentucky, where her father studied. After several month of coaching in 1998, and after long consideration, Sutu left his position in the Basotho national setup coaching youth prospects to move to the U.S. with his soon-to-be wife and to study exercise science at the University of Louisville, a move he would reflect on as a great decision.

Despite leaving all of his accomplishments and notoriety a continent behind, Sutu would return to the coaching ranks soon enough. He joined the Trinity High School coaching staff in 2000 after he was spotted playing pickup soccer one day in Seneca park and played briefly for a local team, the Cosmos. He moved on to local youth team United 1996 FC the following year, after he was brought on by Founder/Director Mohamed Fazlagic, where Sutu still holds the position of technical director.

Fast forward almost 15 years: Sutu was invited to talk to the representatives of the newest USL-Pro team, Louisville City FC, looking to start play in 2015. GM Bjorn Bucholtz and Head Coach James O’Connor were looking for a goalkeeping coach. The initial talks were more informal, with O’Connor and Sutu feeling out each other’s coaching philosophy. Sutu was asked back for a more formal interview along with a couple of other goalkeeping coaches, and Sutu won the job. He slotted into the coaching setup well, joining Daniel Byrd as the third member of the staff, satisfied with the established hierarchy.

In addition to being the goalkeeping coach for Louisville City FC and technical director at United 1996 FC, he also holds the position of co-head coach at Louisville Collegiate High School.

What a winding path indeed.


2017: The Year of the Champions


A little before midnight on Nov. 13, Louisville City captain Paolo del Piccolo and the rest of the 20-strong squad hoisted their third trophy of the season: the United Soccer League (USL) Cup.

Rewind back a long nine months to the day the club began their preseason regiment of strength training and conditioning at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. There, LouCity spent two weeks at the world-class 500-plus acre athletic facility, each day punctuated by two-a-day conditioning workouts, training, and injury prevention programs, an investment that held the squad in good stead throughout the campaign. It was here that team leader del Piccolo first noticed the squad had the potential to be contenders. On the team’s mindset in preseason training, he offered, “We were looking around and thinking ‘oh my goodness, we’ve got a team here.’ ” It’s a sentiment that most other players have echoed, not only in the immediate moments after the championship, but all season.

After falling short their first two seasons, the 2017 iteration of LouCity marched all the way to the top of the Eastern Conference, finishing the regular season 8 points above the second placed Charleston Battery, a team with whom they shared a couple of exciting draws and bested once in three regular season matchups. Everyone knew that it was important for this team to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, not only for a competitive advantage, but to build support for the team moving forward, as Coach O’Connor noted in the press conference leading up to the USL Cup Final. “It’s very important to be able to host the game. We’ve come pretty close the last couple of years and were able to get there this year… . When you look at the growth of Louisville City and you look at our attendance figures… it shows the passion the supporters have for Louisville City.”

Coming into the 2017 season, the team revamped the roster. Having lost keys like Kadeem Dacres and Aodhan Quinn to upriver rivals FC Cincinnati, the team signed strong players with USL experience in Brian Ownby, George Davis IV, Oscar Jiminez and Devon ‘Speedy’ Williams – all of whom have made an impact on the squad and in games. Coach O’Connor found an electrifying player in Louisville native and Indiana University product Richard Ballard, someone who has proven himself as an invaluable late-game substitute throughout the season.

Then there was Luke Spencer.

While there was much made, mainly on social media, of the swoop from FC Cincinnati to come in and snatch up Dacres and Quinn, LouCity quietly unearthed a gem in Luke Spencer. Having played his college ball at Xavier, Luke was drafted by the New England Revolution before he injured his knee prior to signing on with the MLS side. He returned to Cincy where he played in the amateur Premier Development League and coached at his alma mater. He signed on with FC Cincinatti ahead of the 2016 season, playing just 64 minutes and registering four shots in the entire season.

Fast forward to the end of this season, Spencer led the champions in goals scored, registered 19 league starts, five assists and was named USL Player of the Week after he tallied a goal and a pair of assists in the 5-0 thrashing of his former team. While Quinn and Dacres featured in more matches than Spencer, they share two goals and no assists between them.

As the team announce they’re returning an astounding 16 players from the championship squad, it seems as if this team has as much potential as ever. Among the departing are three-year starters Sean Reynolds, Tarek Morad, and Guy Abend, with Morad likely to move on and Abend possibly signing a new contract with the team for the 2018 campaign. For next season, O’Conner is likely to replace Morad and Reynolds – both defenders – with a strong, yet agile player. Returning players Sean Totsch and USL Team of the Year member Paco Craig both possess these characteristics, which lend themselves to a three-defender back line, something Coach experimented with and adopted during the season, thanks to a staunch pair of goalkeepers in Ranjitsingh and Dobrowolski. That transformation freed up wingbacks Oscar Jiminez and Kyle Smith to use their pace to get up and down the sides of the field, to great effect, netting nine assists between them.

With a change in ownership, club leadership and front office expansion, and a stadium change soon to come, one thing has remained the same – a stalwart manager in James O’Connor. He is extolled by players, supporters and owners alike. The pragmatic, stoic and determined Irishman has made Louisville home for his wife and children and earlier this season, much to the delight of the Purple faithful, signed a contract extension with his coaching staff Daniel Byrd and Thabane Sutu through 2020.

The team this year has looked a step better. In previous years, they could become frustrating to watch as they let wins slip to draws and draws slip to losses. Longtime fans will remember lackluster results like in 2016 when they drew 0-0 Bethlehem Steel, 2-2 against a Wilmington team that folded later on that year and a heart-wrenching loss to Orlando City B that many fans will still get upset about.

This year, the squad has minimized falling flat, even against a stronger Eastern Conference. The team learned from that frustrating draw at home to Toronto FC II, a lackluster performance at Tampa Bay, who’s wage bill dwarves LouCity’s. A fluke of a game was had in Charlotte on their second meeting of the season, when an Enzo Martinez hat trick sunk the Purples for their fourth of only six league losses. They rescued a 4-4 draw at Charleston, where they twice found themselves down by two goals. They also defeated the New York Red Bull II on all three occasions they met, including the Eastern Conference Final rematch from last year. Let’s also remember the soaring triumphs, the 4-0 win at Bethlehem Steel, the 5-0 trump of Harrisburg City, the 4-1 smashing of Saint Louis.

And the five-goal extermination of Cincinnati.

More remarkable than the team’s propensity to put up crooked numbers, was their ability to win narrowly. On 11 occasions this year, Louisville City won by a margin of one goal. Of course, that includes the most famous win of them all, the USL Cup Final.

It was an electric evening. Western Champions and 4th seeded Swope Park Rangers were in town, hungry after being on the receiving end of a 5-1 hiding at the hands of New York in the previous seasons final. A TV deal meant that the game started at 9 p.m., but that did nothing to dampen the spirits of the 14,456 on hand.
It was a tense game. Louisville City played remarkably sloppy in midfield; perhaps the occasion was getting to them. The first half saw a goal for each team ruled offside, but nobody really had the definitive edge.

A couple of untimely injuries meant Swope was forced to make a few substitutions before they wanted to. They grew shakier in defense as the second half wore on, but LouCity grew stronger, bolder. In the 88th minute, off of a Kyle Smith throw in, Speedy Williams lofted a cross into Cameron Lancaster from deep in the midfield.

If you ask any of the players what happened next, they’ll tell you it was a blur.

But it was a Louisville City goal.

The rest is Louisville sporting history.



New supporter volunteer group seeking people willing to assist.

Louisville City FC has launched a new volunteer group for supporters who wish to assist in the growth of the United Soccer League club and soccer throughout the region.

Christened the LouCity Bourbon Brigade in honor of the region’s rich bourbon heritage, this new supporter-led volunteer group will have the opportunity to work directly with the LouCity front office and team by helping grow the soccer club’s supporter base.

LouCity Bourbon Brigade members will be invited to:

• Become a Lou City ambassador and assist and help staff LCFC events

• Use their own contacts and networks in the community to help expand the LouCity season ticket base

• Use their experience to assist LouCity in generating new season ticket sales leads, season ticket renewals and assist with promotional events and campaigns throughout the year

• Support the club’s charitable and community-oriented efforts

• Assist in the club’s efforts to have a new stadium built in Butchertown

Fans who join the new volunteer group will be rewarded for their time and efforts with recognition, great rewards and prizes and unique money-can’t-buy LouCity experiences including:

• An opportunity to meet the team and coaching staff at an exclusive event

• Attend a closed-door team practice and a team talk from Coach James O’Connor

• Earn exclusive club merchandise

• Have their photo taken with their favorite LouCity player

• Earn a chance to travel with the club to a road game and be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a trip to an English Premiership match

• Help introduce the team as part of the Bourbon Brigade Tunnel on match day

Supporters interested in joining the new group can apply at the club’s website: www. louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade. Membership of the group is by application only and open to anyone 18 or over. Interviews for successful applicants will take place in November.

“This is a unique opportunity for our most dedicated fans to get even closer to the club by dedicating their time, effort and contacts in the community to help LouCity and soccer in general in our region grow and flourish,” said Louisville City FC Chief Operating Officer Steve Livingstone. “If you love Louisville City and soccer, and have some time to spare, we’d love to hear from you by applying at the LouCity website. There are some great rewards, experiences and recognition for those supporters who get involved.”

Supporters can apply to join the volunteer group at www.louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade or call Jon Davis at 502.384.8799, ext. 114 or email him at jdavis@louisvillecityfc.com.


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.


A Little Man’s Take On A Big Sports World | The Business of Rebuilding

Jim Biery


As the Purdue Boilermakers begin their 2017 football season Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they will be led out on the field by first-year head coach Jeff Brohm.

Coach Brohm has led teams into battle before, most recently at Western Kentucky University where he led the Hilltoppers to consecutive Conference USA championships in 2015 and 2016.

The big difference this year is that he will have a pretty large task ahead of him: trying to rebuild a program that has seen little success in recent years and, more importantly, has lost a large part of the fan base mainly because they haven’t posted a winning record since 2011.

When it comes to rebuilding a program, it helps to understand exactly what steps need to be taken and what direction you must lead not only the players on the team but the fan base as a whole. I sat down with Brohm to ask him exactly what the business of rebuilding entails.

Brohm played under Howard Schnellenberger at the University of Louisville from 1989 to 1993 and credits his former coach as being the master of rebuilding programs. Schnellenberger turned the University of Miami into a national championship winner and football powerhouse. He is perhaps best known in these parts for stating the Cardinals were “on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.” This seemed laughable at the time.

The key to the start of a rebuilding process is to get people interested and motivated while giving them a product on the field that is entertaining to watch. Another aspect is to create a brand for the program and also market it in the right way. “As far as getting the team to buy into the right philosophy, you need to get them to believe they are better than what they think they are,” said Brohm. “Create a sense of confidence and swagger as they take the field against any given opponent. The players need to know you are a genuine person and you’re in it for the right reasons, and if you surround yourself with the right people, anything can be achieved.”

For the fans, he said, you have to provide an exciting style of football that they want to come and watch, and know that the team is going to play to the very end with confidence, to see a team that plays hard and lays it all on the line.

Over the past three years, the Boilermakers have averaged 35,731 in attendance and have compiled an overall record of 8-26. This is the lowest three-year average since 1950-1952. That’s pretty dismal considering the seating capacity at Ross-Ade Stadium is 57,236. During this span, teams like Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame have had more fans in the stands for the game than the Boilermaker.

As far as the boosters of the program are concerned, Brohm said being open and honest with them and having an open-door policy is critical. Letting them know you are listening to them and willing to address any questions they may have is vital to building their support. “If you can get them to buy into what we’re trying to do and show the effort on the field, it helps to get them to trust in your beliefs for the team,” he said.


Photo of the author with Purdue football head coach Jeff Brohm.

When it comes to putting fans back in the seats, you have to play an exciting schedule with teams outside the Big Ten that people want to see, Brohm said. You need to show the fans that you are competing at a high level, and if you can’t win all the games, the fans need to see the effort. Eventually, you win a few games that you’re not “supposed” to and get better every year, which should bring more people to the games.

When asked what a successful first year would look like, Brohm said he wants a team that is competitive and fights to the very end. This competitiveness should be evident to the average fan. They should be able to walk away from the game and say, “These guys play hard and they competed.” Of course, trying to win six games and go to a bowl is the logical first step.

With such an impressive start to his head coaching career Brohm had several opportunities to choose from when it came to taking the next step. So, why Purdue? “The school has a great tradition, is part of a great conference, and people are hungry for success,” he said.

Is Purdue football on a collision course like Schnellenberger believed UofL was? Who knows. But I’ll tell you this, given Brohm’s track record so far in coaching, not to mention his legendary mentor, I can’t wait for the journey to begin. Boiler Up!


Grey Matter

acr907620400824322587647LouCity fan Joey Cecil is in the fight of his life with much support along the way.


For most 27-year-olds, life is relatively simple. It’s no different for Joey Cecil – a financial educator and Trinity-Bellarmine-Louisville grad – who also has a love for sports.

He also happens to have terminal brain cancer.

Back in late March, after experiencing recurring migraines followed by bouts of vomiting, Joey visited three different immediate care centers. They were ready to chalk his symptoms up to a simple sinus infection, but after a couple weeks of his symptoms not diminishing, he went to the emergency room. There, a CT scan was ordered and after medical professionals spotted a growth that was causing the pressure, Joey was immediately admitted, and neurosurgeon Dr. David Sun went to work removing the growth.

Dr. Sun was confident he removed the majority of the tumor in question, but it’s impossible to completely remove the affected area without risking loss of various functions of the brain, so there are inevitably a few cancerous cells remaining. So, a sample of the growth was sent for testing. Joey and his family faced a tense two-week period before the results came back: It was a Grade IV glioblastoma, the most advanced phase of the relatively uncommon disease.

The numbers associated with that prognosis do not make for light reading: While it generally affects older patients, most people survive somewhere between 14 months and 3 years, with just 10 percent of people affected living beyond five years, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

But Joey isn’t interested in the numbers.

He lives by a motto of “defying the stats” and he does something every day that puts himself a step ahead of the disease, be it improving his diet or taking a walk. He’s also an avid bowler (he has more than a dozen perfect games and a state championship to his name) and Louisville City FC fan.

Joey has taken a hiatus from his work at the Community Services department of Louisville Metro Government – where he served as a financial educator for low- and middle-income families – while he gets adjusted to his medication. He has used the time to both reconnect with friends and spread awareness about glioblastoma, but he is eager to return to his work, something he aims to do by October.

When you see Joey, the only indication he has a terminal disease would be the Optune device he wears around his head most days, a component of his treatment that’s used in concert with chemotherapy.

Battling any disease can be expensive. So, Joey’s friends made t-shirts bearing the words “Love My Joey” to sell with proceeds going toward medical costs. Additionally, the Louisville Coopers – LouCity’s supporters – have jumped on board showing support by way of banners, promotion of the t-shirts and much more.

“I love to see the shirts out there, but what I’m (most concerned with) is people learning about this disease,” Joey said.

Since glioblastoma is terminal, his student loan company has forgiven his loans from his history and political science bachelor degrees from Bellarmine and public administration master’s from the University of Louisville. He also has an open invitation to attend Louisville City training sessions, which was extended to him by Coach James O’Connor.

Joey’s relationship with the team started back in 2015, when he worked as a game-day intern to help his Trinity classmate and then-communication director Steve Peake. During Joey’s recovery at Norton Hospital, the team sent Joey a get-well-soon video, and he has had a personal relationship with many of the players since. acr907620400824321321249

“(I have been happy) to see everyone in my life who wants to step up and help out,” Joey said.

Despite facing a daunting outcome, “(I am) happy that it’s happened,” he admitted. “I wouldn’t change anything.”

Instead of looking down the road, Joey takes things a day at a time. He’s talked to other people with the same diagnosis and found that “a lot of people with these diagnoses get bogged down, looking too far down the road instead of just doing what they can control.”

Like most anyone, Joey has a bucket list of sports – he’d like to visit London to see Chelsea play and take in the Masters, among other goals – but he’s not allowing himself to consider “I might not be here next year. … You cannot live in fear of (cancer), you live in spite of it.”

For more information on Joey’s battle, visit www.LoveMyJoey.com.