CRAWFORD | Major effort: Louisville City pops MLS Orlando 3-1 be - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Major effort: Louisville City pops MLS Orlando 3-1 before record crowd

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Louisville’s minor league baseball stadium played host to a Major League Soccer team on Tuesday night.

But it was the home team that turned in a major effort.

No, this wasn’t the Orlando City side that suits up for MLS games. Top scorers Kaka and Cyle Larin weren’t here, and Brek Shea, who plays for the U.S. men’s national team, took the night off, too.

But nobody from Louisville City appeared to take the night off. The first-year USL club, an offshoot of the Orlando City club that began MLS play in 2014, was the dominant outfit in this friendly.

The game won’t count on anyone’s record, but it’s hard to walk out in front of a franchise-record crowd of 9,434 and not want to put your best foot, or feet, forward. And the intensity Tuesday night belonged to Louisville City.

Depleted or not, Orlando sent out a team of players who are on an MLS roster, while Louisville sent out a team of players who want to be. Tuesday night, you could be forgiven for believing it was the other way around.

“I think people need to realize we’ve got really good players,” Louisville City coach James O’Connor said. “I’ve been saying it all season. I get Orlando are an MLS team, I fully understand that. But at times, I’m looking at my team and thinking, ‘Do people realize how good our players are?’ I’m delighted because for me, we went out and showed just how good our players are. I thought they were very, very good tonight.”

Louisville didn’t allow a shot on goal in the first half, and appeared the better organized side throughout.

Its first goal came from leading scorer Matt Fondy, who found his way through three defenders on the left side before sending a low shot just inside the far post for a 1-0 lead, which is where things stood at halftime.

In the second half, O’Connor substituted heavily but Louisville still kept at the attack. Juan Guzman took advantage of some sloppy back line play by Orlando, and made them pay in the 50th minute to make the lead 2-0.

After an Orlando City goal, Louisville got some insurance from Charlie Adams. After a defender tripped Louisville’s Illija Illic, he got up quickly, sent the free kick over to Adams, who slipped a defender, nearly collided with the goalkeeper, then got to the ball after it was bobbled and sent it through to put Louisville City up 3-1.

“We watched them and we saw where we could dominate them, and I felt that’s what we did tonight,” said Adams, a native of England who came to Louisville from Brentford, looking to, as he said, “shake things up,” in his career.

It’s one of the more endearing aspects of soccer that teams aren’t locked in their own level of competition. The larger clubs will play the smaller from time to time, whether in a cup setting — as when Louisville paid a visit to the Chicago Fire earlier this season — or in a friendly like Tuesday night’s. Adams said from the previous game against MLS competition — in which Louisville City fought to a scoreless draw through 116 minutes before losing — the team has showed progress.

“From a training perspective, from me coming here at the start of the year to where we are now, we’ve come on leaps and bounds,” Adams said. “You can see that in our performances throughout the year, you can even see from our performance in Chicago to this game. At the end of the day, you have to beat what’s put in front of you. And although we didn’t get the result in Chicago, I felt we got the performance. Tonight, I feel we got both, the result and the performance, which we thoroughly deserved.”

He got no argument from Orlando coach Adrian Heath.

“We knew what it was like when you played a Major League Soccer team, and I thought (Louisville) played really well tonight,” he said. “We had maybe six young players in their early twenties in the game tonight, and thought they got quality minutes in a well-played game. Overall it was a good night with a fantastic crowd. I was impressed with what (Louisville) has done, and they obviously have a bright future for themselves here as a club.”

One person watching the stands perhaps more closely than most was Louisville City’s general manager, Amanda Duffy. Team officials wanted to get 10,000 fans to the game, and came close. Still, the final number was legitimate, and is impressive given that it came on a school night during the Kentucky State Fair.

“It was tremendous to set our attendance record against an MLS team,” Duffy said. “. . . We were really pushing to hit that 10,000 mark, it’s a hurdle we want to get past very soon. I feel like that’s on the immediate horizon for us. When you look out and see fans filling the seats and along the outfield wall, it’s a unique environment, and our players feed off it. . . . There were kids who had soccer practice who got here at halftime, just  so they could see the second half of the game. It’s just really incredible how committed everyone is to supporting this team. To say we’ve exceeded expectations doesn’t even seem fitting anymore.”

The stated goal of this franchise’s leadership is to get to MLS. Nights like Tuesday’s will play a part in that, in helping the team take the necessary steps.

For now, what’s happening in the Louisville Slugger Field stands for soccer is turning a few heads nationally. Among those was Tim Holt, Orlando’s VP for development who for six years was president of the USL. In attendance Tuesday, he took to Twitter after the game to write to Louisville City officials: “Fantastic job with tonight’s event. Packed stadium and the atmosphere here is electric. You have a really good thing going!”

For the players, the atmosphere just translates to fun. And lately, to victories.

“Obviously it’s fun for us to play in this environment,” said Guzman, a five-year USL veteran after playing in college at Liberty University. “Of all the places I’ve played, this is the most fun, the best atmosphere. It was a good night.”

Louisville City returns to action at home Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 7:30 p.m.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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