CRAWFORD | LouCity hanging tough before arrival of new coach
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The day James O’Connor announced that he was leaving town for Orlando and Major League Soccer, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine the wheels falling off for Louisville City FC.
Even with O’Conner, they had just one victory in his final six matches as coach, and the track record when naming interim coaches, let alone player-coaches, isn’t great. Still, the ownership at LouCity named a coaching triumvirate and moved forward.
And that’s the big story in the six games that Luke Spencer, Paolo Del Piccolo and George Davis IV have stood in as coaches: The team didn’t move backward. In fact, it has more than held its own.
Yes, it took an ugly 4-0 loss at the Chicago Fire in U.S. Open Cup play, but that was just a minor bruise. Otherwise, against USL competition they’ve won three, lost one and tied one. After a 2-2 draw against Indy Eleven on Sunday before a crowd of 8,437 at Louisville Slugger Field, they sit in fourth place in the USL Eastern Conference, one point behind the New York Red Bulls II, whom they’ll visit Wednesday.
You won’t hear many wistful tones when asking the current player coaches about handing the reins over to John Hackworth to focus on their playing duties.
“It’s a sigh of relief,” Spencer said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out on the field.”
Said Davis: “I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve tried to take as much out of the situation as I can. It’s been a lot to learn, but it’s also been heavy. I’m looking forward to the new coach getting here.”
The triumvirate of coaches can’t exhale too quickly. They’ve still got another week on the job before Hackworth gets to town on Aug. 13.
But if LouCity continues to create the kinds of offensive chances it has lately, it could improve its spot on the ladder.
On Sunday, it took LouCity only five minutes to create its first quality chance, with Ilija Ilic drawing hard contact in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. But Bryan Ownby’s try was blocked by the Indy goalkeeper, and a left-footed rebound shot from Devon Williams also was saved.
Indianapolis scored 11 minutes later, followed by an equalizer by Ilic just one minute after that. Indy took a 2-1 lead to the half, after Jack McInerney got his foot on a through pass and outran Paco Craig to the box for an easy score.
Louisville brought it even, however, when Ilic settled a pass into the box and left it behind him for Davis, who drove it home to tie the game at 2-2 with his 50th career goal – on his 31st birthday.
“I was trying to come underneath (Ilic) all game,” Davis said. “He laid a good ball back to me, and it was just try to keep it low and keep it on frame. (His 50th goal) was a long time coming. It was an honor to be able to score 50 goals, even to be able to play for as long as I have. I love the game. Goals are great, but we want to win.”
LouCity needed yet more heroics to hang onto a point. Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh provided them on an Indy penalty kick in the 75th minute. Ranjitsingh laid out to his right to stop a drive by Indy’s Eugene Starikov to keep the match even.
“To be honest, I knew he was going to save it before the guy took it,” Davis said. “That’s just how I feel about Greg and how confident I am in him.”
LouCity held 62 percent of possession but had 24 passes intercepted. They outshot Indy Eleven 14-9 and had 5 on goal to 3 for Indy. The home team was whistled for 17 fouls to 15 for Indy, something Spencer spent some time discussing with officials after the game.
Starting next week, that no longer will be a concern for him. But for two more games, the Louisville triumvirate of player-coaches will hope to finish their stint in charge on a positive note.
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